Monday, August 4, 2008

Homeland Security May Seize Your Electronics At The Border

United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, Fourth Amendment:
"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."

Huey Long apparently was correct when he said: "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in an American flag."

Here are Department of Homeland Security policies regarding the seizure of electronic equipment, etc.:
Policy 1
Policy 2

The Department of Homeland Security has set up policies to "keep us safe" - this trampling of our 4th Amendment Constitutional Right is because they say that the border search and seizure of electronic equipment containing information may be useful to detect terrorists, drug smugglers, and people violating "copyright or trademark laws."

These warrantless searches of laptops and other electronic devices at U.S. borders highlights an issue that all travelers, U.S. citizens and others, need to be aware of when entering or leaving the United States.

It has been written about in PC World Magazine and other places like Yahoo news and .
Recently released information reveals that the Department of Homeland Security has been granted the power to without any suspicion of wrongdoing seize travelers’ "device(s) capable of storing information in digital or analog form," including “hard drives, flash drives, cell phones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes" as well as "all papers and other written documentation." After seizure, the materials may be taken off site. The contents of the laptops can then be shared with other agencies and/or private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons.

The policies were apparently put in place July 16 by two DHS agencies: U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They have existed in a similar, but undocumented form previously. Interestingly, while the policy contains provisions to protect business information and attorney-client privileged material, they have no provisions to protect personal medical records or other personal data like financial records.

Privacy advocacy groups are outraged and considering legal action. "They're saying they can rifle through all the information in a traveler's laptop without having a smidgen of evidence that the traveler is breaking the law," said Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology.
So while they are looking for terrorists, they are also searching for kiddie porn and pirated music and drugs, and who knows what else. Anyone can be under suspicion. They say this doesn't infringe on American's privacy and helps to catch the bad guys.
On the other side of the fence is the Department of Homeland Security which argues that the measures are necessary to protect against terrorism. Customs Deputy Commissioner Jayson P. Ahern stated that the policies "do not infringe on Americans' privacy." He argues that the policy predates the war on terror, stating that the government has long had "plenary authority to conduct routine searches and seizures at the border without probable cause or a warrant" to prevent drug traffic and transportation of other contraband.
and thanks to judges who have not yet read and understood our 4th Amendment Rights...
Those looking to challenge the policies in court will have a tough road ahead. The seizures without suspicion were upheld in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco, setting a legal precedent.
Looks like that ruling will have to be overturned.
Electronic Frontier Foundation has more on this.