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New Bill To Rein In DHS Laptop Seizures 311

twigles writes with news of a new proposed bill that seeks to curtail DHS's power to search and seize laptops at the border without suspicion of wrongdoing. Here is Sen. Feingold's press release on the bill. The new bill has more privacy-protecting safeguards than the previous one, which we discussed last month. "The Travelers Privacy Protection Act, a bill written by US Senators Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., would allow border agents to search electronic devices only if they had reasonable suspicions of wrongdoing. In addition, the legislation would limit the length of time that a device could be out of its owner's possession to 24 hours, after which the search becomes a seizure, requiring probable cause."
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New Bill To Rein In DHS Laptop Seizures

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  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @10:46PM (#25295139) Homepage

    Probable cause required after 24 hours? No. Probable cause must be required before search.

  • Mod parent up. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <> on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @10:49PM (#25295175) Journal

    It's a bit like saying the police can break down my door and search my apartment for 24 hours before I can complain.

    I think I speak for all of us when I say: FUCK NO.

  • by Kamokazi ( 1080091 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @10:56PM (#25295221)

    If they have probably cause, they can do a hell of a lot more than search your laptop anyway. Very, very few cases would exist where they have probable cause before crossing the border.

    Think in computer terms. You can't block spam, spam, and only spam. Sometimes you have to block non-spam to catch most of the spam, or you block nothing but the most obvious spam, and still have a trashed inbox.

    Yes, there is an order of magnitude of difference between a penis pill e-mail and a terrorist, but the general principle is the same. It's a pain in the ass to sort through your junk mail box to get that legitimate message, just like it would be a royal pain in the ass to have your laptop siezed for a day.

    I think this is a fairly reasonable compromise, assuming the terms for the laptop return (expedited shipping to whever you are going to be) are favorable and reasonable suspicion is truly reasonable.

  • by Celarnor ( 835542 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:10PM (#25295353)

    Think in computer terms. You can't block spam, spam, and only spam. Sometimes you have to block non-spam to catch most of the spam, or you block nothing but the most obvious spam, and still have a trashed inbox.

    The two are nothing alike.

    When you're filtering spam, you aren't dealing with a person's personal belongings worth at the very least a few dollars plus the contents of the hard drive, which is priceless.

    You aren't dealing with something that makes or breaks someones livelihood, you're dealing with something with an email. The two are absolutely nothing alike,and while I'll accept a high false positive rate and a high success rate with spam filtering, I'm not going to accept a high false positive rate with a system that deprives me of physical property and my livelihood for at least 24 hours without any reason.

  • by pete-classic ( 75983 ) <> on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:12PM (#25295363) Homepage Journal

    Why on Earth isn't this bill co-sponsored by a Republican? Have they stopped even paying lip-service to freedom?

    Ten years ago the Republican party had two things going for it, fiscal conservatism and a strong stance on freedom. What happened? (It would be easy to say, "George Bush", but I refuse to believe that he could have done it single handedly.)


  • by Phantom of the Opera ( 1867 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:36PM (#25295537) Homepage

    government sponsored theft of your property. fuck that.


    No Highway for you!

  • by lwsimon ( 724555 ) <> on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:38PM (#25295551) Homepage Journal
    Didn't you hear? The Communists are now Democrats, the Democrats are now Republicans, and the Republicans are now Libertarians, and the Libertarians are shit out of luck.
  • Re:Mod parent up. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by davester666 ( 731373 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:46PM (#25295595) Journal

    This is funny.

    Didn't FISA get revised just this year (combined with giving immunity to the telephone companies involved with illegal wiretapping), so that the NSA can wait up to two weeks AFTER beginning to wiretap a phone line, to apply for the warrant to do the wiretapping? Even though there are rubber-stamp FISA judges available on speed-dial 24/7/365. All you need to do is make a long-distance phone call to a person and/or a phone number that somebody thinks is associated with terrorism (no evidence required for this belief!).

  • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:52PM (#25295631) Journal

    Just wanted to say I think that there are a couple of problems with what you have said. First, spam filtering is the equivalent of 'racial profiling' and that is simply not allowed... right? What you suggest is tantamount to giving the green light to racial profiling.

    Don't believe me? Try it for yourself. You are arguing from a naive logic point of view. You seem to believe that those on the working end of this process have no reason to be mean or would never abuse their authority based on their own tepid personal morals?

    Indeed, there should be very very few cases of probable cause, and thus very very very few cases of search/seizure of papers(data).

    Sometimes you have to block non-spam to catch most of the spam, or you block nothing but the most obvious spam, and still have a trashed inbox.

    This is what we call a 'FAIL' in the bizz. Yes, there is no perfect world, but the last thing you want to do is block a valid email. The effects become chilling when you consider that what you are talking about is 'blocking' humans.

    Lets put some theoretical numbers in here: How many terrorists are there in the world? 500? 5000? How many people fly through airports every day? What is that, like 0.000001% of possible passenger traffic? So, you think it is ok to inconvenience grandmas and 4 year olds for the sake of finding a needle in a haystack that has exactly zero probability of actually existing.

    Yes, for you statisticians, that was awful, but it does illustrate my point. This is NOT like blocking spam. Spam is certain. Terrorists are not. Any inconvenience to normal passenger traffic is tantamount to the terrorists winning. game. set. match.


  • by kaos07 ( 1113443 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:53PM (#25295643)

    This is particularly relevant to me as I'm travelling to the US next month. I'll be there for a couple of months so taking my laptop is kind of a necessity but really don't know what the hassle's going to be like at the border and whether it's worth it. I'm not particularly worried about them spying on my files since there isn't anything sensitive there and if there was, I could upload it onto a secure server and then download it once in the States but even that is a somewhat depressing course of action to take when entering the "land of the free".

    It's almost as if they don't want visitors, tourists, skilled workers?

  • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:20AM (#25295841)
    How about probable cause after 3 minutes? Most people don't need more than that...
  • by Kamokazi ( 1080091 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:22AM (#25296201)

    Unless you're hiking in the wilderness (in which case you probably didn't need it too badly), you will have a hotel address your laptop can be shipped to rather easily.

    IANAL, but probable cause is much more than just reasonable suspicion. Soemthing along the lines of having other evidence against the person than what you gathered simply by noticing something at customs.

  • Re:Not necessarily (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:28AM (#25296227)

    I'm such a leech.

    I mean.. i ate right, have never been overweight, got plenty of exercise, and was diagnosed with crohns at age 17.

    Now im out of college, unable to get insurance of any kind, and suffering from excruciating pain, chronic diarrhea, and lethargy approaching narcolepsy, all because I can't get 2 perscriptions which would make it all go away

    This is because of authoritarians like you who believe in "guilty until proven innocent"

  • Re:Mod parent up. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ian Alexander ( 997430 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:49AM (#25296325)
    Consider that, as it stands, they're under no requirement to give you anything back at the border, ever, and I'd say a 24-hour cutoff before they needed a warrant to seize your stuff would be better than nothing.
  • Re:Mod parent up. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by davester666 ( 731373 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @02:04AM (#25296377) Journal

    Yes, that is true. But they also altered the law for calls entirely within the US. That long distance call you made, that somebody decided, entirely without any actual evidence, that was to a phone number similar to somebody that is suspected of being linked to a terrorist (which pretty much covers EVERYBODY), that they started wiretapping your phone for, without a warrant. They can share ALL the calls you make (including entirely within the US) with local and state police and the FBI. Without a warrant.

    And once they finally have to apply for the warrant, if the rubber stamp FISA court somehow decides not to authorize it, the NSA can appeal, and keep wiretapping your line for another 30 days, still without a warrant, until another FISA court has to hear the appeal and may finally deny the warrant, and they have to take the wiretap off.

    But then the President just hands out a letter (do we even know if the gov't is keeping records of their secret wiretapping?) or just indicates in some way to keep wiretapping you anyway, in the name of national security. Like he has already been doing for years.

  • Re:Mod parent up. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <> on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @02:51AM (#25296557) Journal

    I realize this.

    I also think it's a blatant violation of the Bill of Rights.

    I realize said Bill of Rights is often trashed by our government. Is there something else I don't know about the rationale for treating me as anything other than a citizen at the border?

    To draw a completely inappropriate analogy, it's like Spore's DRM. Sure, five activations is better than three. I still say any game telling me how many times I can install it on my own computer should not be allowed, and I'm quite offended at the attempt to throw me a bone.

  • Re:Question here (Score:3, Insightful)

    by el_munkie ( 145510 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @03:15AM (#25296675)

    Good point. I was kind of a dick to them when I realized that my car was getting searched regardless of what I did or said, but I guess they could have fucked up my car if they wanted to.

  • by LuYu ( 519260 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @03:46AM (#25296811) Homepage Journal

    Maybe it is just me, but I do not see how Congress is supposed to be passing bills or laws that give people back their Constitutionally guaranteed Rights . The Fourth Amendment protections are above the law, and the DHS is violating the Constitution -- the origin of all law in the US -- by practising these seizures. Why is a law necessary to prevent the DHS from violating the Father of All Law, the fundamental document without which the US could not claim to be a "Free Country"?

  • Re:Not necessarily (Score:3, Insightful)

    by compro01 ( 777531 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @04:05AM (#25296889)

    As opposed to profit-motivated corporations deciding what healthcare you can and can't have?

  • by adolf ( 21054 ) <> on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @04:06AM (#25296895) Journal


    I'm in the US, so my various random travels aren't affected much by this bill, but:

    Suppose someone is travelling to the US to do the equivalent of a typical budget USian European vacation: Arrive, go somewhere, sleep on the train to somewhere else, see what's there, stay at a random hostel if the things are particularly interesting there, or sleep on a train to somewhere else, visit that place, rinse, repeat . . .

    There isn't any address that might be valid for more than about 10 hours, and most of those hours will be at night when the mail isn't arriving.

    In this instance, I can't trust DHS to not seize my laptop -- how on Earth could trust them to get it back to me before I've moved on?

    And, let us not forget: There's absolutely fucking nothing that can be transferred on a mobile laptop, that could not be transferred over the Intar-web at large in the form of a Truecrypt image. The whole idea is laptop seizures is totally fucked to begin with.

  • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @04:24AM (#25296973)
    You really want to know?

    It's because your Bill of Rights has been re-tasked. []
  • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @04:52AM (#25297083)
    Sweet Jesus on a flying carpet, "non-citizens have basically no rights and if they want in they have to do what we tell them"?!

    How's your sister / wife, Dwayne? Feel free to come past the 19th Century any time. You do realise Apartheid is over, and you can no longer buy slaves? Your Constitution protects PEOPLE, not citizens. THIS IS THE CRUX OF THE MATTER.

    I have never seen a more ignorant response on /. in my life.

    If you're trolling, I applaud you. You are extremely good at being a dick.
  • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @04:59AM (#25297115)
    Why the fuck are you carrying medical records with you? Shouldn't they be with your wife? At home? LOCKED AWAY?

    If my doctor was carrying my personal details around when travelling with his laptop, i'd have him fired. Those kind of records should be at the place of work, and stored off-site for archiving / backup. Carrying them on a trip is borderline negligence.
  • It's a sale! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DeadDecoy ( 877617 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @05:17AM (#25297191)
    It's kinda like going into Walmart and seeing a marked-up (made-for-low-wages) item marked-down. This increases sales because customers feel like they're saving money by spending money. And, since America is made up of stupid consumers, we'll think this is a deal and buy it.
  • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @05:34AM (#25297275) Homepage Journal

    they are not passing a bill to give us our rights back. They are using "code" words in a pretty phrase to convince they are.

    This is very typical of Congress. Label something "bill of X rights" "for the children" etc and the media and ignorant lap it up.

    No, what they really have done is to create a law to protect DHS and give DHS the right to seize your equipment for 24 hours.

    The simply codified what they have been doing to protect another Federal Agency. Par for the course with this Congress

  • by codepunk ( 167897 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @07:42AM (#25297823)

    You almost have to ask yourself, why do we need a bill to fix a problem that is against the
    constitution anyhow.

  • Re:Mod parent up. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @08:14AM (#25297985)

    I also think it's a blatant violation of the Bill of Rights.

    It's a violation of the principle of innocent before proven guilty, which is a fundamental principle of human rights. We're looking at yet another a violation of human rights, plain and simple.

    If you stop and think about it, the principle of innocent before proven guilty is violated on a regular basis in the US. How about DUI checkpoints? Bank account monitoring? Spying on innocents? All of these assume you are guilty until proven innocent, which is exactly the opposite of how a free country (i.e. a non-tyrannical government) would operate.

  • Re:Not necessarily (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Tangwei ( 704210 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @08:15AM (#25297991)
    Start smoking pot, the pain and lethargy go away, and you are able to eat a bit more.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @08:49AM (#25298251)

    For starters, non-citizens have basically no rights and if they want in they have to do what we tell them.

    And, this is why the rest of the world is increasingly saying "fuck you America". Fuck you and your arrogance.

    You expect the whole rest of the world to make sure that your interests are being protected while not giving a shit about the interests of anyone else. And, you have the nerve to act like the rest of the world owes it to you and should smile and accept it.

    Fuck you.

  • by YttriumOxide ( 837412 ) <yttriumox@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @08:56AM (#25298313) Homepage Journal

    The problem with travelling to the US is that they don't even let you past the gates without a valid address. I discovered this on my first visit there several years ago. I was staying in a hotel in Connecticut, but didn't know the address (my colleagues would pick me up from the airport and take me there), but I flew in to Los Angeles and was to transfer to a domestic flight to get to CT. I was tied up at the checkpoint for about 4 hours while they tried (and tried and tried and tried) to call the CT office to make sure I was "legit" and to get the address of the hotel. It didn't occur to them that due to the timezone difference, everyone had already gone home for the day and the cleaning staff generally don't answer people's office phones. All this time, they just left me waiting around, not allowed through.
    Eventually, they came to me and asked for an number back in my home country (Australia at the time) and after waiting another hour for someone to get in to the office there (don't forget the joy of timezones), they finally got through to someone, got the cell number of a guy in CT, woke him up (it was pretty late by that point), got the address and then let me through. NEVER again will I travel to the US without having an address written down somewhere!

    Actually, thinking about it, never again will I travel to the US unless COMPLETELY necessary. If I need to have a meeting with my colleagues from the US again, they can bloody well fly over here to Germany (where I now live/work).

  • Re:Not necessarily (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Some guy named Chris ( 9720 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @08:59AM (#25298349) Journal

    Ok. So, you lost the genetic lottery. That really sucks for you, I'll admit. You have my sympathy.

    Still, please explain why just because you got unlucky in life, I (or anyone else) should be forced to pay to take care of you? I know that sounds cold, but the nature of reality is that life is not fair and you only deserve what you can earn by the sweat of your brow.

    Authoritarians did not invent Crohns disease. If you cannot get the drugs in this country, move to one where you can. If you cannot afford the drugs, either work harder or ask the people who know and care about you to help pay for them.

    Ultimately only you are responsible for your own health and happiness. If you're not willing to do whatever it takes to secure those things for yourself, do not blame others. It's your choice not to act.

  • Re:Not necessarily (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jedi Alec ( 258881 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @09:28AM (#25298599)

    Ultimately only you are responsible for your own health and happiness. If you're not willing to do whatever it takes to secure those things for yourself, do not blame others. It's your choice not to act.

    And that, in a nutshell, is why a lot of people can't stop scratching their heads about the way things are done in the good ol' US of A.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's immoral or wrong in any way, just that a good chunk of the rest of the western world feels there's such a thing as the common good which supercedes the individual.

    And to put this in economical terms, what's the cost/benefit of providing the GGP with socially funded medicine, which most likely means he'll be able to function as a tax-paying, consuming, creditcard-using citizen instead of having to sit at home being a drain on society through other channels? In many cases a short-term investment in people that have fallen "through the system", so to speak, can make a huge difference both to their own welfare as well as their ability to contribute to society as opposed to having to depend on it.

  • Re:Mod parent up. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mr3vil ( 1268850 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @11:19AM (#25300069)
    I sincerely hope you're being sarcastic. However really, the terrorists have no way of directly destroying our freedom. All they can do is kill us, that's it. We are the ones destroying our own freedom. Destroying your own freedom to preserve it is like killing your kids so they don't get molested. Personally, I'd rather run the risk of being killed in a terrorist attack than be alive in the safety of tyrrany. It is true, freedom isn't free, however the price is more than just the blood of soldiers. The price is also the risk that those jealous of your freedom will try to kill you.
  • Re:Not necessarily (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dyslexicbunny ( 940925 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:12PM (#25300941)
    GP's point was that they are refused coverage based on a preexisting condition. They clearly want to play fair and pay for insurance such that they receive treatment. How is that fair to person who is refused health insurance simply because the insurance company views them a bad investment?

    Your solution of "Sucks for you." doesn't balance the fact that insurance companies are fucking people over. So the GP should have the right to hold you at gun point and take everything on you? Perhaps that is whatever it takes to secure things for them. Same goes for people trying to score drugs and those who steal. Whatever it takes isn't going to be the best solution.

    As for being able to afford drugs, have you seen the price of drugs without health insurance? One of my brother's bipolar meds is $300 a refill. It's only $200 if you have a AAA card (WTF??). And $100 with insurance. These are drugs required to make sure he functions versus being in a manic depressive state.

    Being in a manic depressive state will not allow him to work harder. GP's symptoms do not seem to allow for him to work harder. Suck it up champ and work through isn't a reasonable solution here. Neither is medical costs driving people to bankruptcy. Something has to be done about the exploding cost of healthcare or no one but the rich will be able to afford it.
  • Re:Mod parent up. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Insanity Defense ( 1232008 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @02:40PM (#25303539)

    Your using all this kneejerk idiocy, makes me wonder if it is on purpose. I suspect that it is.

    1. If you've got nothing to hide you've got nothing to fear. What have you got to hide? Terrorism maybe?

    B.S.. I may not have anything I need to hide but I may just prefer that my private things be private and not have some uniformed person able to arbitrarily search them. Others may be traveling with things to hide, legitimate things such as industrial secrets.

    2. Terrorists are trying to destroy our freedom. We have to fight the terrorists no matter what cost!! If even one life is saved, it'll all be worth it! Can you deny it?

    So in the name of saving your freedom you want to give it up? It sounds like you are surrendering to the terrorists.

    3. George Bush said that if you're not with us you're against us. Obviously you've chosen to be against us! What's it like being on the same side as Obama sin Laden and all those other terrorists?

    One might approve of your goals and still find your methods unacceptable and reprehensible.

    4. Why do you hate America?

    One may oppose what the government does in a given instance while not being against the country and the ideals it was founded upon.

    5. So America did some things wrong a couple of times. America is still the best country in the world! USA! USA! USA! Why don't you go back to Terrorististan if you hate America so much?

    "I vas yust following orders" was not acceptable at Nuremberg why should it be acceptable now? Those who violated the principles and laws of the country should be tried and punished under those laws no matter how well meaning they might have been.

    6. Terrorist attacks have already killed thousands of people in the last few years in USA! Everybody knows that it's worth it to spend any amount to stop it happening again! If even one life is saved, it will be worth it. But you don't agree?

    A quote from a novel by James P.Hogan "I believe truth and principle do matter. If you have to sacrifice them to get the results you want, then the results aren't worth it." If you have to sacrifice that which you are trying to save haven't you been defeated already?

    7. Nothing is as anywhere near as dangerous as terrorist attacks. The government has to "take away your rights" to stop "terrorists blowing you up". Would you prefer to get blown up?

    An example of why I think you are probably just What famous American is reputed to have said "Give me Liberty or give me Death"? Do Americans really choose to give up their freedoms now out of fear of death? What would the founders think of you?

    8. The Founding Fathers didn't intend that the Constitution would never get changed. They proved this by changing the Constitution when the ink was hardly even dry. (Ever heard of the Bill or Rights? Why are they called "Amendments"?) If the Constitution was perfect, it wouldn't straightaway need amending, would it?

    What Constitutional amendments have been made in the last 20 years? I don't seem to recall any?

    9. Were the Founding Fathers getting blowed up by suicide bombers when they were writing the Constitution? (Hint: NO they weren't! DUh! Muslims wasn't even invented back then! Osama wasn't even born!)

    Another example of why I think you know this is B.S.. The U.S. goes back to the 18th century. Islam goes back to the 7th century, more than a millennium earlier.

    10. If the Founding Fathers thought it was a good idea to change the Constitution, why are you pretending like it's a bad idea and they would want it unchanged?

    Repeat of answer to #8 What Co

1 Mole = 007 Secret Agents