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Government Privacy United States Your Rights Online

DHS Detains Mayor of Stockton, CA, Forces Him To Hand Over His Passwords 399

schwit1 writes: Anthony Silva, the mayor of Stockton, California, recently went to China for a mayor's conference. On his return to San Francisco airport he was detained by Homeland Security, and then had his two laptops and his mobile phone confiscated. They refused to show him any sort of warrant (of course) and then refused to let him leave until he agreed to hand over his password.
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DHS Detains Mayor of Stockton, CA, Forces Him To Hand Over His Passwords

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  • America (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 03, 2015 @09:32AM (#50650745)

    still has not won the *real* war on terror. The terror on 9/11 still inspires fear on the mind of Americans. So the real war is yet to be won.

    • Re:America (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Saturday October 03, 2015 @09:41AM (#50650785)

      the real war of terror is waged by the United States Government, against the citizens. It is a success, fear being the motivator for giving up rights, privacy, freedom.

    • Hearts and minds, baby - that's where you win a war. And they've got us right where they want us.

    • Re:America (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Stormwatch ( 703920 ) <rodrigogirao@@@hotmail...com> on Saturday October 03, 2015 @11:07AM (#50651177) Homepage

      The war is over. The terrorists won.

    • by Jawnn ( 445279 )

      still has not won the *real* war on terror. The terror on 9/11 still inspires fear on the mind of Americans. So the real war is yet to be won.

      Whoever modded parent off-topic is an idiot and has completely failed to grasp why this is such a huge issue. To AC, well said sir. You have summed it up nicely. We have allowed the actions of a few thugs, fourteen years ago, to change our way of life and compromise some of our nation's core principles. The terrorists are winning.

      • Re:America (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 03, 2015 @12:26PM (#50651583)

        Posting as an AC here, because I know some will view this as troll bait, but it is relevant:

        With $100,000 in costs, a few men willing to lose their lives, and some planning, bin Laden managed to bring down the most successful and respected nation on the planet. Self-hatred, fear, paranoid, witch hunts, and general lunacy have taken the US from its pinnacle to a country that is a laughingstock among nations.

        With this in mind, as a general, bin Laden can be argued to be the best general in two centuries. Russia couldn't drive wedges between the US and Europe, even when the Bear had troops on every continent. Germany couldn't do this during WWII, even though for a few years, they actually brought peace to the Middle East. bin Laden broke the spirit of the US people, and now they are cowed and bickering with politicians taking advantage of their fears.

        The sad thing? Now, because the paths are in place to disseminate propaganda of fear, this mechanism is still in place. Bad guys are after you, the US people suck and don't deserve jobs, day after day. In reality, we have a impotent President, a Congress that needs the pope to not just give a blessing, but an exorcism, and absolutely no solutions for any issues other than "blame the left/right, blame the gun-grabbers/ammosexuals, vote dem/rep next time." Blame doesn't solve jack shit, and pissing contests like this only leave both sides smelling horrifically.

        I pray that the US gets a Churchill next election and not another Chamberlain.

        • Re:America (Score:5, Insightful)

          by houstonbofh ( 602064 ) on Saturday October 03, 2015 @02:48PM (#50652345)
          What is the point of very good karma, if you do not risk it occasionally saying what needs to be said? I do that often. I have a few -1s, and if you read them, thay are just against the popular view. But sometimes, it actually makes it through like your post did. Well said.
        • Re:America (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 03, 2015 @05:09PM (#50653015)

          Nice try. No cigar.

          The elites, formerly known in Europe as the Aristocracy, are reasserting their dominance over society. Your Bin Laden story is but a diversion, one of many, the story is Globilization. The American, Russian, South American, European and Asian elites are becoming one World elite. Nations, like religions, have become only useful for controlling little people. Free trade agreements have removed borders for money. TTIP is supposed to be the next step in putting the nation states out of power, and corporate tribunals (and their overlords) into power.

          You're focusing on the wrong game.

  • by fisted ( 2295862 ) on Saturday October 03, 2015 @09:33AM (#50650749)

    Way to go, murica.

  • Good! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 03, 2015 @09:37AM (#50650773)

    I think that this is a good thing. Not the idea of people being searched without warrants. I think it's good that a government official, even a lowly one like the mayor of Stockton, suffered this. It is only when government officials are subjected to this outrageous breach of The Constitution, that there is any real hope of it being changed.

    So long as it's only the sheeple complaining, illegal searches will continue to be "permissible". When congress critters start getting inconvenienced and their predilection for gay porn starts being made public, then things will change, for our safety.

    I hope that many more government officials will be forced to endure these absurd detainments and searches.

  • by redmid17 ( 1217076 ) on Saturday October 03, 2015 @09:42AM (#50650791)
    I'm not a huge fan of the border search exception. Technically DHS and CBP can demand access to laptops or cell phones as part of entry into the country. They don't have the right to detain for passwords. They can hold the equipment and return it later.

    A US citizen has an absolute right to re-enter the country.
    • by v1 ( 525388 ) on Saturday October 03, 2015 @09:56AM (#50650859) Homepage Journal

      A US citizen has an absolute right to re-enter the country.

      A sovereign country has an absolute right to defend its borders. I'm pretty sure the contradiction that arises from these two conflicting statements ends up in a loss for the citizen.

      Them: "You're not leaving here until you give us your passwords."

      Me: "go to hell. and while you're there, tell my lawyer to get over here pronto."

      • by redmid17 ( 1217076 ) on Saturday October 03, 2015 @11:21AM (#50651245)
        You'd be wrong, unless you're suspected of a crime or something similar. Court cases have already ruled that a US citizen has absolute right to re-enter the country, sans criminal charges pending, even without a passport.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 03, 2015 @11:53AM (#50651397)

          Silva was under separate investigations in 2012 and 2013 for sexual battery. He was also alleged to have secretly taped female juveniles changing clothes at his residence. However, no charges were brought due to the prosecutor's decision that there wasn't hard evidence of the allege crimes. My guess is that the authorities are looking for evidence of those crimes as well as any crimes committed while in China.

          • Silva was under separate investigations in 2012 and 2013 for sexual battery. He was also alleged to have secretly taped female juveniles changing clothes at his residence. However, no charges were brought due to the prosecutor's decision that there wasn't hard evidence of the allege crimes. My guess is that the authorities are looking for evidence of those crimes as well as any crimes committed while in China.

            What is the point of looking for evidence on a crime which has already been tried? They can't put him on trial again. That would be illegal. So the search for evidence was "because we can".

            • He was never on trial. But even if he had been, that would only apply to the specific crime he was tried for: They might hope to find recording of another female juvenile changing, not the specific individual he was charged over.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The only three lines you need to learn:

    "Am I being detained?"

    "I would like my lawyer present."

    "No comment."

  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Saturday October 03, 2015 @09:43AM (#50650799)
    Isn't their some law that gives border agents essentially unlimited rights to search and confiscate (no warrant required) so long as they are within 100 miles of any US border? I remember seeing something like that a few years ago and thought, gee, I wonder how many people live in houses that are within 100 miles of the border....
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 03, 2015 @09:52AM (#50650829)

      Ask and you shall receive, about 200 Million people, including several entire states.

      https://www.aclu.org/know-your... [aclu.org]

    • by sribe ( 304414 )

      Isn't their some law that gives border agents essentially unlimited rights to search and confiscate (no warrant required) so long as they are within 100 miles of any US border?

      Founding legal theory is that as long as you're on the other side of the line, "outside" the USA, normal restrictions on government agents do not apply wrt to searches and so on.

      BUT, my understanding is also that NO ONE, not any agent of any law enforcement branch, ever, under any circumstances, can deny entry to a US citizen. They may be able to legally (in theory at least) tell you that if you don't hand over your passwords you cannot enter with your stuff, but if you're willing to tell them, "yeah, OK, h

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Saturday October 03, 2015 @09:52AM (#50650831) Journal
    Despite my general distaste for the tactics of the TSA, I understand; I find politicians suspicious, too.
  • I find politicians suspicious, too
  • people would have missed a mayor. job blow of course not but when a day or 2 passes and the mayor hasnt made contact people will start searching. FBI most likely would have been called. Fox"News" would have reported it and it would have shed some light on the practice. he should have just sit still.

  • If the phone was encrypted, I can see why they might need a password for it. But PCs aren't difficult to access without the password, for example, by using the built-in administrator account (which by default has no password), or by physically removing the hard drive.

    Constitutional issues aside, this seems pretty inept. to me.

    • by ruir ( 2709173 ) on Saturday October 03, 2015 @10:29AM (#50650957)
      Try to yank a drive from any recent macbook pro....
      • by guruevi ( 827432 )

        Relatively easy although encryption isn't that hard on Mac's either.

      • Apple products are used by government agencies only on TV. In real life, it's all Windows, mostly Windows XP.

        • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

          Apple products are used by government agencies only on TV. In real life, it's all Windows, mostly Windows XP.

          Really? They say otherwise. [macworld.com]

          • Your article explains that Macs are only used at FBI headquarters.

            In the field, however, they don't have as much money to spend, so they have to stretch their dollars by buying WinTel-based hardware.

            • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

              Your article explains that Macs are only used at FBI headquarters.

              You post claimed that only the fictionalized G-men used Macs, my reply disputes that. Try again on your goal-post moving.

    • Neither my desktop PC nor my laptop has an Administrator account, and if they did, I'd have given them a password. They do, however, have root accounts and part of the installation is setting a root password. Hint: not everybody who uses a PC uses Windows; some of us install an OS that isn't designed to be as insecure as possible.
    • Several of the things you said there were incorrect.
      We don't know what that mayor was using, so we can't really say. Of course, he could have an encrypted HD, and a bios password. That'll make most would be digital intruders go home, including the NSA, because unless that sucker has nuclear codes or something super important like that on it, it's just not worth the time, money, and hassle to try and crack it.
    • Come on. Even Windows does not have a default admin account with no password.
  • meanwhile (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Saturday October 03, 2015 @10:23AM (#50650947)

    The rest of us keep being treated routinely like criminals without the media getting interested, because we aren't the mayor of Stockton.

    Why should this guy get special treatment (by the TSA or by the press) just because he's a minor elected politico?

    • You're looking at this the wrong way. When lawyers think about litigating (say: civil-rights or class-action cases), they know it's strategic to look for a good "test case", that is, someone who short-cuts people's biases and generally looks above approach. This is your leverage to get the law changed for everyone; basically shaming the offenders with the most absurd abuse of their power. We should be thankful when there's a case that allows us to get any media attention to these issues.

    • by guises ( 2423402 )
      This kind of jealous attitude is destructive.

      Yes, he's getting special treatment. Yes, that's bad. Responding with the suggestion that he should be brought down to your level makes the problem worse, not better. The constructive response is: "They should not have done that to him, or to anyone else."
  • by Legal.Troll ( 2002574 ) on Saturday October 03, 2015 @10:29AM (#50650953) Journal
    surrenders them to Chinese authorities without a peep of complaint, and brings them back to the US and is surprised when federal spooks demand to have a look at the physical and software surveillance devices that have been installed into it, isn't paying any attention to the world and has zero grounds to complain TLDR if you're important or powerful, don't willingly allow yourself to become an espionage attack vector for our first or second most powerful enemy
    • If they had probable cause that he was working with or spying for China, they should have arrested and charged him openly; not detained him without telling him what he is suspected of and denying him access to legal council. If they didn't have probable cause, they should fuck off and leave him alone.

      That goes for everyone, not just mayors of third-tier cities.

    • surrenders them to Chinese authorities without a peep of complaint, and brings them back to the US and is surprised when federal spooks ....

      None of which has anything to do with border security and customs. Do you really think that anyone cares enough to spy on the mayor of a small town in rural California?

  • by mikein08 ( 1722754 ) on Saturday October 03, 2015 @10:36AM (#50650987)
    was politely decline to give passwords without a warrant. Then, if he was not released in a timely manner, make life as difficult as possible for the bureaucrats in question. And if his devices are not returned in a timely manner, make life even more difficult for them. There are devious and not so devious ways to do this, and mostly it isn't difficult. Bureaucrats rely on cooperation from the sheep, and the sheep need to stop being cooperative.
    • What most people are missing is that they don't need a warrant because you're outside the U.S. wanting in. Supreme Court cases have established that U.S. Constitutional protections apply only to people (both citizens and non-citizens, including illegal immigrants) on U.S. soil. Once you're outside the U.S., all bets are off even if you're a U.S. citizen. That's why Bush built a prison in Guantanamo Bay - that's Cuban soil, not U.S., so prisoners there wouldn't be protected by that pesky Constitution. (T
      • What most people are missing is that they don't need a warrant because you're outside the U.S. wanting in. Supreme Court cases have established that U.S. Constitutional protections apply only to people (both citizens and non-citizens, including illegal immigrants) on U.S. soil.

        If he surrenders the laptop, what right does immigration have to prevent a US citizen from entering the country? Surely, he has a presumtive right to entry when he is at the border.

        That's why Bush built a prison in Guantanamo Bay

    • I'm very disappointed that he capitulated. What about the privacy of everyone who's corresponded with him? Business plans for land use? Negotiations on zoning or leniency granted to companies for failure to comply with ordinances? Political strategies and information on opponents? Resumes, performance reviews, salary information of staff?

      On the other hand, it looks bad if a politician can't be "clean enough" to hand over his computers to authorities. Even if those authorities are underpaid, undertr

      • They put him in a very, very awkward position.

        He can do a lot more from his office than he can from an interrogation room, so he surely made the right decision. It's disappointing, but fairly logical.

    • > There are devious and not so devious
      > ways to do this, and mostly it isn't difficult.

      So how do you do it?

  • Good, kinda. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frobnicator ( 565869 ) on Saturday October 03, 2015 @10:42AM (#50651013) Journal

    It is a good thing when high profile and medium profile people get caught in these stupid things.

    When celebrities, including political celebrities, get caught by government aggression it draws a spotlight on the programs that are harassing millions. With the spotlight on them, they tend to withdraw or become legally curtailed.

    Sadly many of the abuses committed by government are against the dregs of society, the people already in trouble with the law, the despicable criminals, drug dealers, child abusers, rapists, murderers, and more. Most of society doesn't care when government abuses these people, which is why so many lawsuits are filed against agencies and officers that people dismiss as just another attempt to get out of being caught. If those same abuses were publicly made against people of celebrity status the programs would be quickly curtailed, or pushed further into the darkness of secrecy.

    Good job DHS, keep targeting popular people. Best thing you can do for the country.

  • Coercing passwords where the law says you can't require the person to give up the passwords is un-American and may even be illegal (I am not a lawyer).

    Coercing them instead of getting a court order requiring the owner to divulge the password when the law says you can get a court order is also un-American - use the courts, that's what they are there for (recent court rulings make me wonder if this sentence even applies anymore if the owner is an US citizen and the request is on US soil or made by US official

  • Welcome to the Stazi States of America. All your possessions are belong to us.

  • Sad... we have become what we fought against...

    This is no longer the land of the free, home of the brave...

    R.I.P USA

  • from SFGate article:

    Silva was also told he had “no right for a lawyer to be present” and that being a U.S. citizen did not “entitle me to rights that I probably thought.”

  • "Unfortunately, they were not willing or able to produce a search warrant or any court documents suggesting they had a legal right to take my property. In addition, they were persistent about requiring my passwords for all devices,” Silva said.

    I always get a big kick out of hearing the reactions of middle-class people when they run into law enforcement, and aren't treated like middle-class people. They're never prepared for the reality, because they were taught in school that they had "rights", and all that other baloney.

    "Silva was also told he had “no right for a lawyer to be present” and that being a U.S. citizen did not “entitle me to rights that I probably thought.”

    Yep. I tell ya, if middle-class people always got the same treatment as poor folk, it'd be a different country pretty quickly.

  • By giving up his password, he is in violation of his city's computer security protocols. The same is true for probably just about everybody on slashdot. We have no right or authority to give over our passwords to anyone. We also have no right to allow anyone to view any information on our company's computer equipment. In some cases, anyone viewing that information may be in violation of state or federal laws. At my previous position, anyone viewing that information would first have to take an approved HIPAA
  • by tompaulco ( 629533 ) on Saturday October 03, 2015 @01:59PM (#50652141) Homepage Journal
    As long as they make Obama drag out his laptops and his Blackberry every time he re-enters the country, then I am fine with them doing that to mayors and to us, too. After all, a leader must lead by example, or he is no leader at all.

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