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Bill To Add Accountability To Border Laptop Search 495

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) has introduced a bill that would add accountability to the DHS searches conducted upon the laptops of those crossing the border. Specifically, it would require the issue of receipts to those who had their property confiscated so that it could later be returned, would limit how long the DHS can keep laptops, would require them to keep the laptop's information secure, and would create a way to complain about abuse. Finally, the DHS would be required to keep track of how many searches were done and report the details to Congress. Rep. Sanchez also has also issued a statement about the proposed bill."
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Bill To Add Accountability To Border Laptop Search

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  • Woohoo (Score:4, Insightful)

    by db32 ( 862117 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:16AM (#25037019) Journal
    Thankfully, it will be tagged with all kinds of obscure spending bullshit so that the Dems can posture about freedom and liberty while still stealing our money. The Republicans of course will either try to tack on their own spending or stand up and blather about security while pointing out how noble they are for voting it down because of all the Democrat spending bills attached.

    Either way, we can be pretty much assured that things like this that take power away from the government will never really see the light of day and both parties will get their "cater to the base" points in for bringing it up and bickering about it.
  • by AvitarX ( 172628 ) <> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:19AM (#25037035) Journal

    Don't visit.

    Our government is sending a clear message that we don't want you, can't you take the hint.

    Our government has made it clear, non citizens are not humans, and therefor cannot expect human rights. Is it really so hard to understand?

  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:19AM (#25037041) Homepage Journal

    Her suggestion only applies to US citizens, though. What about the rest of us?

    Well, you're all terrorists, right? :-/


    Why does government have to be so clueless?

  • no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:20AM (#25037047) Homepage Journal
    sucks to be them.

    you think that businessmen, travelers will still maintain u.s. as a destination of choice, if this shit of a practice stays the same ? hell, or even just stays though changed ?

    there are heaploads of countries in the world to travel to and do business with.
  • Good Lord! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MistaE ( 776169 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:22AM (#25037061) Homepage
    Are you telling me that currently, the DHS doesn't have to do any of these simple things that should have been required of them in the first place? This is just a pathetic showing of how out of touch Americans are with their privacy rights and how stupid we are for keeping the regime responsible for this in as long as they have been.

    Man, I got into the wrong field, I should have become a border agent so I could my hands on free laptops every day.
  • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:23AM (#25037069)
    Non-citizens in the US don't have anywhere the same legal protections as citizens. This is to be expected in ANY country that you visit where you are not a citizen.

    So why do you expect that this proposed legislation should be any different?

  • Good to know. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Deus.1.01 ( 946808 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:23AM (#25037077) Journal

    That people will be more secure when they search laptops for.....ehm...terrorists?

  • by Reality Master 201 ( 578873 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:23AM (#25037079) Journal

    Cause there's no legitimate reason to do so.

    What happened to reasonable search and seizure again? And don't gimmie the bullshit about this being the border, and thus completely outside the scope of normal legal protections. It's one thing to look for smuggled goods or potentially disease carrying goods, etc. But nothing you can carry on a laptop can't just be transmitted past customs over the internet. There's no actual reason to search peoples electronics at the border.

  • its start (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hesaigo999ca ( 786966 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:25AM (#25037093) Homepage Journal

    Finally , someone that sees something wrong with present day situation for abuse of power at border crossings.

  • by quadrox ( 1174915 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:26AM (#25037111)
    This is not suddenoutbreakofcommonsense. The original bill should never have passed in the first place, and common sense would be to remove it again.

    While this bill is a step in the right direction it also indirectly legitimates the original bill by not outright removing it. They have no business to search my laptop should I come to the US, not in any way, and not in a limited way either. Period. :)
  • by TheSpoom ( 715771 ) * <> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:27AM (#25037121) Homepage Journal

    Read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Almost everything applies to persons, not citizens.

    And yes, I know border searches are thought to be an exception to the fourth amendment.

    Anyway, I think the Congresswoman's statement was a misstatement (or at least hope it is)... I doubt they'll actually say "Well, normally I'd give you a receipt, but you're an alien so fuck you," even given the interactions I've had with CBP staff.

  • I understand... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:29AM (#25037131) Homepage

    I understand why they have to do searches pre-flight. You certainly don't want people sneaking dangerous materials, weapons, etc. on a plane flying at high speed miles above the ground.

    And I can understand why they would want to check the hardware of laptops to ensure that they're really laptops and not disguised bombs or weapons of some sort.

    But what I cannot fricken understand is why they check data on laptops. Is someone really going to drop a plane out of the air because a laptop has porn on it?! Is someone really going to high-jack a plane because he has a hard drive full of copyright infringing MP3s?!

    Searching data on a laptop has absolutely no relationship to the reason for pre-flight searches. It will not protect anyone and is done solely as a fishing expedition get around the US Constitution. You'd think conservatives would want to protect our Constitution. But you'd be completely wrong.

  • Thumbdrives (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ThatsNotFunny ( 775189 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:30AM (#25037149)
    Meanwhile, terrorists will just encrypt their data on thumbdrives and shove 'em up their ass.
  • Re:I understand... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:42AM (#25037245)

    And you can even transport data over the internet without being checked. Funny.

  • by GaryOlson ( 737642 ) <[slashdot] [at] []> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:46AM (#25037297) Journal
    This solution only makes sense to a bureaucrat. This is not accountability; this is just another set of hurdles.
    1)How will the laptop be returned? Who will pay the shipping charges?
    2)Will the government pay for damage during confiscation and/or return shipping?
    3)What kind of receipt? Will I have to hand over personal information to identify myself -- which is put in a database and probably not encrypted? What data retention rules will be applied to that database?
    4)Complaints -- another black hole into which citizens communicate and no response is ever received. I suggest the bill require the DHS to pay all damage/theft claims first; then try to obtain a refund if the claim is found false.
    5)Report to Congress? What a waste of time. I want all that information on a GAO audited web page: how many items confiscated, how many were actually forensically investigated, how many returned to the owners, process time from confiscation to return, how many damage claims and how much it cost, how many arrests as a result of confiscation.

    And while they are creating the web page, I want that receipt to provide access to a web page where I and my companies lawyers can track the process of my confiscated equipment. When the item is returned, it will link to the UPS/FedEx tracking number so I can track the return of my item.
  • by Reality Master 201 ( 578873 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:56AM (#25037393) Journal

    Well duh. It's cheaper and easier, and there's far less chance of getting caught, and you can do it in such a way as to hide who's dropping off the information and who's collecting it.

    This is just about getting people to buckle under to arbitrary authority.

  • Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kidde_valind ( 1060754 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:57AM (#25037401)
    Why is this tagged suddenoutbreakofcommonsense? A sudden outbreak of common sense would be if the DHS simply stopped searching peoples laptops. It's not like the border is in any way impermeable to unauthorized and unsnooped data anyway. In a way this is just like DRM. It doesn't affect those who know how to get around it, and the rest aren't worth bothering about.
  • Re:no (Score:3, Insightful)

    by poetmatt ( 793785 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:06AM (#25037517) Journal

    Have you looked at our country lately (US)? There's worse problems than racial profiling to deal with right now. I am insulted that this law suddenly enables laptop searches where right now it's a violation of the 4th amendment. People are forgetting that aspect.

  • Re:no (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:06AM (#25037537) Homepage

    It's because we put sociopaths into those jobs.

    Hey we dont want them working with the rest of us, so we put them on the borders and airports, as far away as we can from the rest of the population.

    Sorry about that. We cant figure out what else to do with our insane other than jobs at DHS and as Border Guards.

    Plus they work cheap!

  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) * on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:06AM (#25037547) Journal
    WHY are they confiscating the computers in the first place? Anyone with even the slightest bit of sense could move huge amounts of data through the interweb, encrypted to and from one anonymous point to another. and if it's encrypted more than once, it's nearly impossible to decrypt. and if you then take that and turn it into a .bmp file, then it just seems to be a collection of static-like images with precious little info. And all you have to do is dump the data to a CDR or DVDR and stick with the rest of your music collection.

    This bill is NOT a sudden outbreak of common sense. A sudden outbreak of common sense would be to abandon this idiotic practice for the security theatre it is.

    And people wonder why I left and don't like returning to the USA. California uber alles.


  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:09AM (#25037577)
    Balderdash! The only way to stop terrorists who hate your freedom is to give up your freedom. Then the terrorists won't hate you anymore.
  • by Koiu Lpoi ( 632570 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {iopluiok}> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:12AM (#25037607)
    I've traveled recently, and maybe it's different for different ports (I flew out of GRR), but I had zero hassle. I just put my laptop in the bin; didn't even have to turn it on, like I was expecting. They even forgave me when I forgot to take off my shoes. Honestly, if this is the way that border searches are normally done, I see absolutely no reason we're even talking about this. I know we hear about people's laptops being confiscated, etc, but there are also times you have to remember that those who've been wronged speak the loudest. People travel over the US border every day without hassle, but we never hear about it - only the one or two cases where something goes wrong, and you usually don't even get the full story when it does hit the news.
  • Re:I understand... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:15AM (#25037635)

    You're right. Searching data on laptops has no relationship to pre-flight searches. They're totally unrelated.

    Customs/DHS is probably not looking for MP3's as much as they're looking for evidence of other crime: child pornography, corporate espionage, plans to blow up the next whatever.

    They search your luggage to ensure you're not smuggling items into the country -- committing a crime. For the same reason, they want the ability to search your data to ensure you're not committing a crime.

    While it's still smoke and mirrors in my opinion, the fact is that if (and this is a big if) they did discover this incriminating data (child porn, corporate espionage, plans to blow something up, etc.), their actions would protect the United States and its citizens.

  • by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:33AM (#25037827)

    You joke about this, but it's deadly serious. I think one of the most damaging long-term effects of the current situation is that a lot of the worlds elite used to want to go live in the USA. Now many don't. The effect of that is that the USAs status in the world in multiple fields will gradually decline.

  • by gothzilla ( 676407 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:51AM (#25038111)

    It will only die if you let it. That's the way this country works, if something doesn't have much support it will die. It's a government of the people and if the people are silent or if only a few speak up then that means maybe the bill should be left to die.

    Oh, and griping on slashdot doesn't count either, though I know there are a huge number of people who think it does (or worse, should). Sites like this are great at creating an illusion of support.

    If this is important to you then start a public awareness campaign and get out there and let people know how important this bill is. If you and everyone else doesn't then this bill might die.

  • Re:I understand... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @10:02AM (#25038293) Journal

    But what I cannot fricken understand is why they check data on laptops....

    It will not protect anyone and is done solely as a fishing expedition get around the US Constitution. You'd think conservatives would want to protect our Constitution.

    Sounds like you understand just fine.

  • by RecycledElectrons ( 695206 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @10:04AM (#25038329)

    We lost our rights when they said they could search our cars without a warrant and we did not shoot the bastards.

    Welcome to slavery.

    Andy Out!

  • Re:Yes you are (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CaptainZapp ( 182233 ) * on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @10:08AM (#25038405) Homepage
    Your correction is wrong.

    Neither in Mexico, nor in Canada did I ever experience such abyssimal treatment by border officials then in the US. Last I read, both are part of America.

    Thus USians is valid in this context.

  • by Duradin ( 1261418 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @10:42AM (#25038905)

    Child porn is not a legitimate reason to have our rights taken away.

    First of all, the damage has already been done. Once it's on media of some sort, the 'child' has already been abused. Destroying copies won't undo the event.

    Secondly, are you *sure* it's actually CHILD porn? Are the guards going to verify the identity and age of all the participants? No, they will not. CG, drawn, ageplay all equal child porn to them. Plus it gives them a great excuse to confiscate any device or media and detain any person they want. Good luck trying to prove it was the DHS that loaded some kiddy porn on your device after they had confiscated it and sent you off to an all expenses paid vacation in Cuba.

    If you really cared about those harmed by child porn you'd be more concerned with preventing the creation of it, not hindering after-the-fact distribution. But continue on with your doubleplus good bellyfeel campaign. It's probably too scary for you to have any rights (and the commensurate responsibilities) but it's not your call to diminish my rights just so you can _feel_ secure.

  • Re:no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dog-Cow ( 21281 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @10:43AM (#25038935)

    I've said many times since 9/11/01 that Bush is the greatest terrorist the world has ever known. No one in recorded history has managed to terrify upwards of millions of people in such a short amount of time.

  • Re:no (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @11:20AM (#25039479)

    Had I my way, Unionization of ANY government employees would be strictly outlawed.

    Banning Unions is a typical attribute of dictatorships in recent history. Union membership in most democracies is regarded as a basic human right.
    You voice concerns about loss of freedoms in the US, but you want to take yet another freedom away. Unbelievable.

    Oh, and BTW it's ultimately not the Unions that stop incompetants being fired. If the managers actually managed they would fire anyone incompentant and to hell with it. If they don't, they've abdicated their responsibilities. The Unions are bound to take up the slack if management won't manage.

  • Re:no (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Five Bucks! ( 769277 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:12PM (#25040273)

    Because when I leave my fingerprints on my drinking cup, they're not being entered into a searchable database in an attempt to link me with criminal activity.

    Thin edge of the wedge, my friend. Oh sure, you can say, "What have I to hide?" Well, when body cavity searches become routine (some may say they are) will you say, "I don't have anything to hide in my colon anyway; Have a gander!"?

  • by TheMCP ( 121589 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:15PM (#25040319) Homepage

    This proposed law, in the guise of restricting the practice of confiscating and/or searching travelers laptops, actually legalizes it. Think about it a moment: by saying "here are the requirements for doing this," implicitly it also says "you can legally do this."

    I want it banned. My laptop contains the keys to my life: my bank account, my credit cards, all of my online shopping accounts, everything. It also contains all of my employer's trade secrets. No government staff should have access to that data without court order under any circumstances.

    If I have to leave the country, either my laptop won't be coming with me, or I'll be encrypting the contents of its hard drive and shipping it home by UPS. (Or I suppose I could leave a backup at home, transmit any new files to my server from wherever I went, and wipe the hard disk before returning to the US.)

  • Re:no (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SpiderClan ( 1195655 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:45PM (#25040819) Journal

    Because most countries you visit don't assume they'll have to track you down using them by virtue of you being a "foreigner".

  • by tiananmen tank man ( 979067 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:50PM (#25040899)

    "They even forgave me when I forgot to take off my shoes."

    It is unbelievable that you think this is even sane.

  • Re:no (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Free the Cowards ( 1280296 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @01:50PM (#25042027)

    Sorry non-US citizens, the Constitution and it's amendments only apply to US Citizens, no matter how much some people may want them to apply to the world.

    Got a cite for this? Like, say, the passage in that document where it says that it only applies to citizens?

What is research but a blind date with knowledge? -- Will Harvey