Tuesday, July 1, 2008

THE FASCIOCRACY: CUSTOMS OFFICIALS ROUTINELY SEIZING 5-10% OF LAPTOPS

OHM PROJECT The Baltimore Sun reports that U. S. Customs officials are routinely seizing 5-10% of the laptop s brought back in to the country by U. S. citizens returning home after international travel. There's no warrant or reasonable cause, just a program to randomly expropriate laptops and keep them for 2 weeks or longer for "random inspection of electronic media." The "program," in effect for the last few years, is also being applied to digital cameras, cell phones and PDAs.

Don't expect the courts to step in and stop the intrusion. In United States v. Arnold, the U. S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Constitution afforded no protection against random searches of laptops and other personal electronic equipment when citizens bring it back in to the U. S. Under this ruling, customs agents can seize a laptop, require you to open its files for their inspection, or download all your data to their computers. . .

Senate hearings last week revealed a pattern of overreaching and abuse by federal border officials. Senators Feingold and Leahy urged customs officials to back off. Feingold said the searches and seizures were out of keeping with Americans' understanding of their Constitutional rights:

"If you asked [U.S. residents] whether the government has a right to open their laptops, read their documents and e-mails, look at their photographs, and examine the Web sites they have visited, all without any suspicion of wrongdoing, I think those same Americans would say that the government has absolutely no right to do that," said Feingold, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights. "And if you asked him whether that actually happens, they would say, 'not in the United States of America.'"

4 Comments:

At July 1, 2008 1:59 PM, Anonymous m said...

5-10% of the laptops passing through customs presumably amounts to a large number of laptops, and 1 to 2 orders of magnitude more GB. I assume the disks are at the least being data mined, and potentially copied.

Because the more uncontrolled and ill defined data that you have, the more difficult it becomes to do anything with it, the only possible reason for this is "because we can."

 
At July 1, 2008 2:14 PM, Blogger Lars said...

How long before people start loading malicious code (viruses etc.) to nail the government? I can't imagine the government would have much recourse against such attacks as they're the ones downloading the code without much cause in the first place.

 
At July 1, 2008 3:36 PM, Blogger xilii said...

They're swiping laptops because all the best porn comes from abroad, anyhow.

Seriously, one way around this problem would be to purchase a spare hard drive for your laptop, leave it blank or with a minimal operating system and swap out your "real" drive before heading through customs.

 
At July 1, 2008 3:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re:"In United States v. Arnold, the U. S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Constitution afforded no protection against random searches of laptops and other personal electronic equipment when citizens bring it back in to the U. S."
“ The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. "
How is it that computer data in a personal laptop is not the modern day equivalent of "persons, houses, papers, and effects", particularly "papers"?? It would seem obvious unless one were trying to circumvent the law, which is what the courts have come to.

 

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