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If you've read aerojad's disquieting diary about border crossing in the Surveillance Society, you might be wondering just what to do about the fact that what's left of the 4th Amendment is in pretty serious tatters. Probable cause is so 20th Century.

Just a reminder, the Washington Post highlighted the latest news on the surveillance front on Friday in a front page article.

Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop computer or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed.

Also, officials may share copies of the laptop's contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement....

Civil liberties and business travel groups have pressed the government to disclose its procedures as an increasing number of international travelers have reported that their laptops, cellphones and other digital devices had been taken -- for months, in at least one case -- and their contents examined.

The policies state that officers may "detain" laptops "for a reasonable period of time" to "review and analyze information." This may take place "absent individualized suspicion."

It's of course not just laptops, but any electronic device that can store information (pretty much any popular electronic device these days--transistor radios might just make a big come-back), and "all papers and other written documentation," including those little scraps of paper at the bottom of your pocket or bag. Maybe the latest terrorist code takes the disguise of grocery lists. As Ryan Singel points out, though, your first class mail is safe. Agents still can't open sealed first class mail.

Now how to do something about it, Think Progress guest blogger Peter Swire (senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the Clinton administration’s Chief Counselor for Privacy)
has a suggestion.

...The Post reports that Senator Russ Feingold, who called the recent hearing, intends to introduce legislation to require reasonable suspicion and bar racial profiling for laptop searches. In addition, join the "Hands Off My Laptop" online campaign, which has already sent over 20,000 messages to CBP about the need for privacy protections for laptops.

We can rally support around Feingold's upcoming legislation, and signing onto the "Hands Off My Laptop" campaign is a good way to start.

Update: in the comments, Lisa Lockwood points to EFF's action page on this issue. Go help them.

Update II: Rep. Eliot Engel has introduced H.R. 6702, the Securing our Borders and our Data Act. Contact your representative, and ask them to cosponsor.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:35 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  In addition (20+ / 0-)

    This should get some support from conservative business travelers, who really hate to be bothered when going through customs and for whom their laptop is their life...

    "Polls are like crack, political activists know they're bad for them but they read them anyways."-Unknown

    by skywaker9 on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:36:31 PM PDT

  •  re (9+ / 0-)

    Thank you once again Senator.

    You know, there's a VP slot opening up. Might want to mention to the person choosing him/her that you are available...

    "Steve Holt is now iSteve Holt 3G." - Steve Holt

    by cookiesandmilk on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:40:59 PM PDT

  •  This happened last month (14+ / 0-)

    ...to a friend at the San Antonio airport who had a ticket to fly to Mexico.

    Fortunately for him, Homeland Security wanted his laptop before he got on the plane, and he was able to choose not to fly and walked away with his laptop intact.

    It sounds like if one were arriving in the US from abroad there wouldn't be any such option, though.

    In addition to the 4th amendment issues there are 1st Amendment violations in the case journalists and bloggers, who purportedly have a right to protect our sources barring a specific court order to reveal them. It's probably only a matter of time until we have a test case we'll have to rally around.

    The Field has moved. Please bookmark the new location: http://narconews.com/thefield

    by The Field on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:40:59 PM PDT

  •  I'm still partial to (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, Cyber Kat, America, earicicle

    a little protective monkeywrenching in my own software; if they want my files so badly, they'll have to accept the bugs that come with them.

  •  there is no such thing as "conservative" anymore (5+ / 0-)

    anyone who has supported bush is no longer "conservative"

    IS IT JAN. 20th 2009? Yet?

    by surfdog on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:41:06 PM PDT

  •  I wonder how much money this drains from (13+ / 0-)

    the economy if one can't hold onto the laptop one used for a foreign business trip.

    Attorneys at my firm carried laptops across the border all time time -- the notion that the government can thus get access to private legal communications and work product is amazing.  Professional associations should be up in arms over this.

    John McCain's Court will overturn Roe; don't kid yourself.

    by Seneca Doane on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:41:12 PM PDT

  •  Note to Mccain: (6+ / 0-)

    Laptop:  That's a little computer John and just ask Cindy all about it...

  •  A work around? (4+ / 0-)

    Well, before you travel, just seal your laptop/documents/etc in a large envelope, place proper postage on it, and address it to yourself.

    Viola! First class mail that cannot be opened!

  •  use disposalable laptops (8+ / 0-)

    when crossing the border.

    I visit from Canada on business and I use a cheap (and was free) laptop to check my email and surf at the hotel.

    If you are traveling in or out of the US, simply use a barebones laptop that you can afford to loses.  Do not carry any private/personal information with or on you.  Have it encrypted and store in a safe site on the internet for access (pgp works good).

    "The only person sure of himself is the man who wishes to leave things as they are, and he dreams of an impossibility" -George M. Wrong.

    by statsone on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:42:09 PM PDT

    •  I do that in the US (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wishingwell, AnnCetera, statsone

      I store everything on a password protected server except that stuff which I could care less about (seriously if someone wants to read my grad school papers they're welcome).

      "Polls are like crack, political activists know they're bad for them but they read them anyways."-Unknown

      by skywaker9 on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:43:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Get a netbook (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      statsone

      The asus eee, msi windbook, cloudbook, Hp mini-note, etc. A bunch of manufacturers are getting into the netbook game.

      They're great for travel and if they get taken away, no big deal. You can encypt your stuff and put it online.

      The problem I have is that sometime I go to remote places with no internet access. Lot's of computers have a built in SD slot. Just put your stuff in on the SD card and carry it on your person, hide it in your luggage, put it in your camera, etc.

      Yes, they can confiscate that if they wanted, but its more likely they'll just go after your laptop as it appears to be the biggest target.

      BTW- I work with confidential information all the time and it's sad that we have to talk about how to get around security or else we violate our company's policies, attorney client privilege, doctor patient privilege, etc.

  •  If you're tech savvy enough Yank your (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skywaker9, Cyber Kat, Pluto, earicicle

    Hard disk and fed-ex it across the border.

    Saying the Iraq "Surge" worked is like saying Thelma & Louise had a flying car.

    by JML9999 on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:42:37 PM PDT

  •  So they cant open first class mail (3+ / 0-)

    I guess the solution is to buy enough first class stamps and plaster them all over your laptop.

    That should teach 'em.

    Be careful around Bill O cuz he'll pop a loofah in yo ass.

    by calipygian on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:42:39 PM PDT

  •  Put your laptop in a Priority Mail envelope. (5+ / 0-)

    Add stamps, and seal it.

    I'd love to see the legalities of that one play out in an airport.

    They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. - Benjamin Franklin, Feb 17, 1755.

    by Wayward Son on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:43:13 PM PDT

    •  Only in USPS Hands (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AnnCetera

      It's safe from opening only while in custody of the USPS, which includes your mailbox - at which point they need a warrant to search your house. Until you give it to the USPS to be postmarked, it's as searchable as your carryon bag.

      But you could actually overnight mail just your hard drive. Most notebook hard drives are removable. Most let you use a separate external/USB drive for all your data. You could unplug the external data drive the day before and overnight mail it to your destination. Use a little USB "thumbdrive" ($20) instead during your trip, and just copy the thumbdrive to your external drive when it catches up with you on arrival.

      It's what any terrorist worth their salt would do.

      "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

      by DocGonzo on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:02:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  They can open anything if it's a (0+ / 0-)

      routine border search.

  •  How can that possibly be good for business? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    scribeboy, skywaker9, earicicle

    Isn't that a GOP talking point, anyway?

    ::::

  •  Russ rules (7+ / 0-)

    I am proud to have him as my Senator.

    In April, Sen. Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, asked DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to provide the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution with the department's written policies concerning laptop searches at the border.

    "His response references at least one undisclosed policy, so it is clear that DHS is continuing to withhold full information about its policies and practices," Feingold said Thursday. "And the policies that have been disclosed are truly alarming."

    Feingold: On What Basis Are Laptops Searched?

  •  EFF (13+ / 0-)

    Electronic Frontier Foundation has a "Take Action" page.

    They've filed an amicus brief (pdf file here)and statement:

    arguing that laptop searches are so revealing and invasive that the Fourth Amendment requires agents to have some reasonable suspicion to justify the intrusion. Not only are laptops capable of storing vast amounts of information, the information tends to be of the most personal sort, including letters, finances, diaries, photos, and web surfing histories. Prior border search cases distinguished between "routine" suspicionless searches and invasive "non-routine" searches that require reasonable suspicion. Our amicus brief and the lower court opinion relied on these cases to say that the government must also have some cause to search laptops. The Ninth Circuit panel rejected our argument that the privacy invasion resulting from searching computers is qualitatively different from, and requires higher suspicion than, searching luggage or other physical items.

    The opinion is almost certainly wrong to classify laptop searches as no different from other property searches. Fourth Amendment law constrains police from conducting arbitrary searches, implements respect for social privacy norms, and seeks to maintain traditional privacy rights in the face of technological changes. This Arnold opinion fails to protect travelers in these traditional Fourth Amendment ways.

    The new U.S. Customs policy declaring their intent to violate the 4th ammendment can be read here.

    Searching for corrupt, lobbyist loving John McCain?

    by Lisa Lockwood on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:44:24 PM PDT

  •  That's what the cop who arrested Sen. Craig said! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skywaker9, crose, ClapClapSnap

    That's it for me, folks. I'll be here all week. Drive safely, and don't forget to tip your server.

  •  First class mail (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Melanchthon, crose

    Agents still can't open sealed first class mail.

    When I read that, the ending of "The Lives of Others" with the room full of Stasi agents opening everyone's mail immediately popped into my mind.  How do we know that no such thing is going on?

  •  These Pathetic Fuckers - (7+ / 0-)

    Apparently cannot read the Bill of Rights.

    We have far more to fear from "Homeland Security" than bomb-carrying radicals.

  •  They are going to be so bored (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pluto, AnnCetera, brein, earicicle, llamaRCA

    and will fall asleep reading the stuff on my computer.

    The one thing we know about the McCain campaign...is that they're very good at negative campaigns, they're not so good at governing- Barack Obama

    by wishingwell on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:47:13 PM PDT

  •  Mailing your date/ laptop won't work (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skywaker9, earicicle

    I have seen many posts about mailing/ couriering your laptop / harddrive.  Even using first class mail.

    THIS WILL NOT WORK.

    Only first class letters can't be opened.  But if you have any goods in a package, then it is subject to inspections as it may have value.  If you use a letter to send something big - like a usb storage key - then you may be asked to come down and open the letter in front of customs officials to inspect the non - letter parts.

    I know Canadian officials do this on letters containing suspect leaves ( illegal one).

    You may also be subject to some stupid tax or fine is the officials consider the data to have some value to it.

    This will not work.

    "The only person sure of himself is the man who wishes to leave things as they are, and he dreams of an impossibility" -George M. Wrong.

    by statsone on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:47:27 PM PDT

    •  Also to be clear (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AnnCetera, earicicle

      The chance they'll actually confiscate your computer is low.  Still, this is why I'm glad my new laptop has a finger scanner on it, meaning you need my fingerprint to get onto the really sensitive files...

      "Polls are like crack, political activists know they're bad for them but they read them anyways."-Unknown

      by skywaker9 on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:48:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Soon they'll have (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        skywaker9

        either your prints or your actual fingers. Do you think these people will stop for that?

        Mal: "This is the captain. We have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then explode."

        by crose on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:35:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  This is quite a problem (11+ / 0-)

    for anyone, but for attorneys, therapists, doctors or anyone who has a professional duty to keep communications with their client/patient private, the government is essentially requiring the professional to betray their private communications.

    Assuming one needs to travel with a laptop, a professional is given the choice of violating either their duty of professional responsibility, or they could refuse to cooperate.  Neither one is a good option in my view.

    I'm going to look to see what the ABA has to say about this.

    ...someday - the armies of bitterness will all be going the same way. And they'll all walk together, and there'll be a dead terror from it. --Steinbeck

    by Seldom Seen on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:49:14 PM PDT

  •  How about this... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skywaker9, earicicle

    Place any 'electronic device' in a manila envelope, seal it, place some stamps on the front -- voile, first class mail! (?)

    From simple minds come simple solutions.

    Either you're wit' us or a Guinness -- Brilliant!

    by Unforgiven on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:49:36 PM PDT

    •  Yeah, but... (0+ / 0-)

      Would you trust the USPS with your $1000-2000 laptop, not to mention all your valuable data?

      Sweet are the uses of adversity...[Find] tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in everything. -Shakespeare, As You Like It

      by earicicle on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:56:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I wouldn't trust (0+ / 0-)

        any entity with "U.S." in their name.

        U.S. and foreign business interests will lobby this shit into oblivion or at least get counter-measures going whether legal or technical. Secure internet storage will be cracked and then someone will figure something else out. The fact that even the lawmakers themselves will not be exempt from this stuff will change some things. The battle will rage on. Just keep resisting. And don't go out of the country with a laptop without insuring it and backing it up before you leave so that when the goons do confiscate it you won't lose everything. Internet data storage, backing up, insurance. I,B.I.

        Mal: "This is the captain. We have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then explode."

        by crose on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:33:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Son of a bitch! (0+ / 0-)

      Did everyone have the same idea as me? I know I type slow, but damn, there was only one comment when I started mine!

      A reply to above - yea, just Fed-Ex it? Un-huh, just what they're thinking. What a pain in the ass that will be.

      Either you're wit' us or a Guinness -- Brilliant!

      by Unforgiven on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:58:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Teacherken's usage of the Phil Ochs lyrics... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, skywaker9, brein, earicicle

    ....in a recent diary is still with me.

    "But somehow it is strange to hear the State Department say,
      You are living in the free world, in the free world you must stay."
                             - Phil Ochs

  •  Get Brazil to Seize All US Laptops (11+ / 0-)

    When the US started fingerprinting every foreigner entering our country, Brazil countered by fingerprinting every American entering Brazil. I don't think it stopped Bush from fingerprinting foreigners. But if Brazil started seizing every American's laptop for the same flimsy "reasons" America is seizing everyone's laptop, the rich American businesspeople who travelt to Brazil might just start making a big stink about their "rights".

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:53:54 PM PDT

  •  insofar as air travel is concerned, the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ClapClapSnap

    only way i can think of why the 4th amendment doesn't apply is because airplanes, like, go in the air and don't touch the ground too much.

    "The most common form of terrorism in the U.S.A. is that carried on by bulldozers and chain saws." Edward Abbey

    by timbuck on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:55:13 PM PDT

  •  Before I sign onto the "Hands Off" petition, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brein

    I wonder whether my personal information (name, address, etc.) will then become part of CPB's database of subversives, as my opposition to their policy of confiscating laptops with reasonable suspicion could be considered anti-US government sentiment.

    We're living in really frightening times.  And I don't mean from terrorists, I mean from fear of our own government, vis a vis Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Safety Administration, the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, the FISA cave-in, etc.

    If we're not willing to boldly refute the lies, the lies will stand as truth. (-6.75, -6.72)

    by cn4st4datrees on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:58:04 PM PDT

    •  Uh, that's "CBP". n/t (0+ / 0-)

      If we're not willing to boldly refute the lies, the lies will stand as truth. (-6.75, -6.72)

      by cn4st4datrees on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:59:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Exactly and you know it is when those (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      earicicle, cn4st4datrees

      living in other countries feel sorry for us as they see us losing our freedoms and moving further and further away from the country we once were.

      The one thing we know about the McCain campaign...is that they're very good at negative campaigns, they're not so good at governing- Barack Obama

      by wishingwell on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:59:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's already happened. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tmo

      I'm sure your presence on DK and any other progressive site has been recorded and noted. Our biggest hope is that these buffoons don't know what to do with all of this data.

      Mal: "This is the captain. We have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then explode."

      by crose on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:25:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I've been signing Constitutional rights (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tmo, brein

      petitions for some time now.  I've marched in Peace protests and posted my opinion on the Bush Administration all over the internet.  I haven't flown since 9/11, and I was convinced that I was on the no-fly or some other list of suspicious characters.

      My husband and I flew to Bermuda for vacation last month, and I fully expected to be run through a ringer.  Didn't happen.  

      I approached the security check point apprehensively.  To my great surprise, no one looked at me twice.  They hand checked a camera with unexposed film without question.  They didn't even blink at my zip lock bag full of 3 oz containers and my shoes passed unscathed through the scanner, and I did as well.

      I didn't have a laptop, but I did have a cell phone, Ipod and 2 cameras.

      My husband had a corkscrew confiscated because it had a tiny (1/2in or less) blade on it to cut the seal on the wine bottle.  The TSA site said corkscrews were allowed, but made no mention of the seal cutter.  Of, course, one look at the corkscrew would tell you that it was a far worse risk as a weapon than the minuscule blade, but this comes from the same people who saw nail clippers as a threat.

      The return trip from Bermuda was even less eventful, and the people down there were quite pleasant.  I have to give kudos to the agent who was extremely patient and pleasant to a rather nasty woman trying to carry on a shopping bag filled with perfumes and skin care products that were all much larger than 3oz, and not even in a zip lock bag.

      I write all of this because, while I'm very concerned about where we are headed as far as rights go, it doesn't happen to everyone - at least not yet.

      Other than the woman in Bermuda with the shopping bag, I didn't see anyone being hassled.  I'm quite sure it happens and happens far too often. I also think something needs to be done before security check points are set up at every toll booth and we have far more to worry about than laptops.

      OWW4O
      (Old White Woman 4 Obama)
      OWW40's Unite!

      by Cyber Kat on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:42:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Why Does the Internet Hate America? (6+ / 0-)

    Any jihadist who could pull off an attack against the US of any significance (no, fizzling shoebombs and fake bi-liquid bombs don't count) will not keep any sensitive or incriminating data on their laptop.

    They will leave it all on the Internet. Probably on something like Google Docs, which won't set off alarms just because they hit the site, since tens of millions of people around the world do so every day.

    So their data is already inside the US, since most data storage accessed over the Internet is (still) inside US companies like Google, AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft.

    This new stunt is just more arbitrary control. "Simcurity": simulated security that fakes protections and so makes us more endangered, because we all distrust the protectors.

    Feel safer? Thank a Bush!

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:58:10 PM PDT

  •  I'm a lawyer and am at a complete loss (12+ / 0-)

    to understand how the 4th Amendment does not apply to electronic devices carried by citizens or legal residents into the country.

    "Terror is nothing other than justice...; it is ... the general principle of democracy applied to our country's most urgent needs." M. Robespierre

    by Bartimaeus Blue on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:59:41 PM PDT

    •  I'm no lawyer, but John Yoo and (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cyber Kat, AnnCetera, crose, brein

      Alberto Gonzales are.

      The answer is simple.  The phrase "...person, houses, papers and effects..." has become "quaint and obsolete".  By fiat.

      If we're not willing to boldly refute the lies, the lies will stand as truth. (-6.75, -6.72)

      by cn4st4datrees on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:03:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ok. I understand now. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brooke In Seattle, AnnCetera, crose, brein

      The 9th Circuit opinion was written by Judge O'Scainlain -- a completely unprincipled conservative.

      Since the Circuit now has a majority of conservative judges, no one took the case en banc to correct it.

      Here's the Opinion, as corrected.

      "Terror is nothing other than justice...; it is ... the general principle of democracy applied to our country's most urgent needs." M. Robespierre

      by Bartimaeus Blue on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:05:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Presumption of Guilt at the Border (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      brein

      AFAICT, the border is an exception to many government protections of our rights. Especially the "presumed innocent until proven guilty" and probable cause standards.

      I can't tell you how that's justified as a legal theory. But the practical matter is that the person entering presents a Catch-22 for examination. Without any access to that person's state prior to approaching the border, how would any existing evidence of guilt ever be found, if they just kept a straight face when stepping across the line for a moment?

      "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

      by DocGonzo on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:06:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I understand that the border is "different" (0+ / 0-)

        But it seems like a qualitatively different kind of search than one for things that might be physically dangerous or contraband.  

        Why not merely declare that no one has a cognizable interest in privacy for cross border communications --- ooops.  They just did.  It's called FISA.

        "Terror is nothing other than justice...; it is ... the general principle of democracy applied to our country's most urgent needs." M. Robespierre

        by Bartimaeus Blue on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:13:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Data can be contraband. (0+ / 0-)

          Most obviously child porn, more arguably copyright infringing files.

          Running against Herb "WIRETAP" Kohl in 2012. $1/year. Cash preferred.
          Masel4Senate 1214 E. Mifflin, Madison, WI 53703

          by ben masel on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 02:11:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Sure. But I would hope that you (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            zett, brein

            would need a reasonable basis to look for it, especially since the intrusion is so great.  That is, unlike looking for physical objects the search here muct by its nature center on the media for conveying ideas and thoughts.  It's one thing to look for a dangerous object, quite another to declare no limits to searching for "dangerous" ideas.

            "Terror is nothing other than justice...; it is ... the general principle of democracy applied to our country's most urgent needs." M. Robespierre

            by Bartimaeus Blue on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 03:29:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Alas, our opinions are not Opinions. (0+ / 0-)

              Since this is settled caselaw, any remedy will have to come from the Congress.

              Running against Herb "WIRETAP" Kohl in 2012. $1/year. Cash preferred.
              Masel4Senate 1214 E. Mifflin, Madison, WI 53703

              by ben masel on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 03:44:00 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Oh, the en banc court could correct it in the 9th (0+ / 0-)

                as this precise question has not been litigated before.  Or the Supremes could take it.  But I'm not bullish on any result from that Court, given its composition.

                "Terror is nothing other than justice...; it is ... the general principle of democracy applied to our country's most urgent needs." M. Robespierre

                by Bartimaeus Blue on Tue Aug 05, 2008 at 06:58:52 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  Reasonable suspicion is not required (0+ / 0-)

      for a routine search of someone applying to enter the United States-- a "border search." I cited some cases upthread.

  •  US Customs/CBP has always had this power (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, Cyber Kat, NoMoJoe, brein

    CBP doesn't need probably cause for any of their inspections. The limited window they have to stop criminals and illicit goods necessitates that.

    What seems to have changed is that they're exercising this power far more often.

    I actually think it's a rational policy to let CBP search wherever the feel they need to at the border. But seizing laptops is just way too much of an impediment to free movement and trade to be sustainable imho. Also I wonder what they do with defense lawyers, aren't lawyers forbidden from turning over confidential info on their clients. I mean if your client is being tried by the Feds you could be disbarred if you hand over their interview notes to the Feds, no?

    "If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers." - Thomas Pynchon

    by Windowdog on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:00:20 PM PDT

    •  What about medical records... and HIPAA? (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, Cyber Kat, AnnCetera, NoMoJoe, brein

      Nobody's allowed to see my medical records unless I give them permission or they have a warrant.  That's my understanding, but I could be wrong.

      Take another look: McCain is not a flip-flopper -- he's a pathological liar. Either that, or he's playing Jon Lovitz, Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket.

      by gooderservice on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:03:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I repeat, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        brein

        they can open whatever they want to open. If you think the goons haven't seen your medical files and shared them out amongst the bureaus, you're nuts. If you think that, as an attorney of physician you files are protected, think again.

        Mal: "This is the captain. We have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then explode."

        by crose on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:21:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not nuts. (0+ / 0-)

          I don't think they're not shared.  

          I just thought that was a good point in the comment above mine that maybe the attorneys could have used in the appeal and didn't.

          What does this mean?

          as an attorney of physician you files are protected

          Take another look: McCain is not a flip-flopper -- he's a pathological liar. Either that, or he's playing Jon Lovitz, Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket.

          by gooderservice on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 02:39:06 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  "CBP has always had this power" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cyber Kat, crose

      And it sure is effective, isn't it?  No drugs coming in from Mexico.

      If we're not willing to boldly refute the lies, the lies will stand as truth. (-6.75, -6.72)

      by cn4st4datrees on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:11:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Learn about TrueCrypt (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AnnCetera, NoMoJoe, juancito, brein

    Unless and until there is legislation preventing random searches and seizures, this might be a good alternative for some folks.  And it's free.

    Free open-source diskencryption software for Windows Vista/XP, Mac OS X, and Linux
    Main Features:

       * Creates a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk.

       * Encrypts an entire partition or storage device such as USB flash drive or hard drive.

       * Encrypts a partition or drive where Windows is installed (pre-boot authentication).

       * Encryption is automatic, real-time (on-the-fly) and transparent.

       * Provides two levels of plausible deniability, in case an adversary forces you to reveal the password:

         1) Hidden volume (steganography) and hidden operating system.

         2) No TrueCrypt volume can be identified (volumes cannot be distinguished from random data).

    Take another look: McCain is not a flip-flopper -- he's a pathological liar. Either that, or he's playing Jon Lovitz, Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket.

    by gooderservice on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:01:34 PM PDT

    •  TrueCrypt Has Been Cracked (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AnnCetera, crose, juancito, brein

      Last month, the "dean of cryptanalysis" Bruce Schneier and his team reported that they'd cracked TrueCrypt. At the very least, they proved that TrueCrypt cannot claim that it is foolproof. And since the NSA has a much higher budget, and much deeper pools of specialists than Schneier, as well as much longer to work on such matters, with other higher motivations, it's safe to assume that TrueCrypt is even less safe against government probes than against even Schneier's.

      The best defense is to cross borders with no sensitive data at all. Either use Internet storage with passwords stored only in your head, or an external drive that you overnight mail before you leave.

      Encryption is never better than "pretty good", and government spies are usually better.

      "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

      by DocGonzo on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:15:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's not exactly a crack --- (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gooderservice, NoMoJoe, brein

        which usually implies that the encryption itself has been broken. It's that the deniability is very difficult -- any scrap of data left outside the encrypted data might point back to the existence of data in the encrypted area, thus destroying deniability, or might have a copy of some bit.

        Then there's the memory itself -- if the machine hasn't been turned off, you can freeze the memory (literally) and use that.

        Of course, that matters primarily for people who are up against serious intelligence services.

        You just need to know exactly who you're up against. Is it the NSA, or just want to keep the customs guys from poking around in your business records?

        •  Are there not programs that can wash the memory? (0+ / 0-)

          Are you talking about the page file?

          And can't that be "shredded" when it's washed?

          Take another look: McCain is not a flip-flopper -- he's a pathological liar. Either that, or he's playing Jon Lovitz, Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket.

          by gooderservice on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 02:41:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It's numerous files. (0+ / 0-)

            Yes, in windows the pages file has a copy of (almost) everything in memory, so if you're encrypting and want to be safe, it needs to be encrypted as well. But there are lots of shadow copies (such as file backups) that are made, configuration details that would point to a hidden encrypted partition (was it mounted as a drive? Did that leave a name in any configuration file? Were links into the partition made by the os --- broken but identifying some of it's structure? ...)

            It's almost impossible to fully erase the past. I don't know much Windows, so I have no idea what "shredding" algorithm it uses, whether it's a 7-pass random number overwrite, or whether it just puts zero over the file.

        •  Exactly (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RandomSequence

          You just need to know exactly who you're up against. Is it the NSA, or just want to keep the customs guys from poking around in your business records?

          Just how much time and money and personnel does the NSA have to comb through laptops of everyone?  

          I would think, although I could be very wrong, that random searches of the overzealous and power-hungry young custom agents aren't going to even know how to locate hidden drives and folders.

          Take another look: McCain is not a flip-flopper -- he's a pathological liar. Either that, or he's playing Jon Lovitz, Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket.

          by gooderservice on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 03:07:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Automated Invasion (0+ / 0-)

            All the Customs and Immigration agents can be assumed to have a program that the NSA or some other contractor has written to exploit the vulnerability that Schneier published. Or that they already knew about on their own initiative.

            Then the agents run the software and bust you.

            The younger ones are more likely to know how to use software. Though I guess you could count on Bush's reputation for incompetence in everything he's instituted, including these "cyberinvasions" ("iInvasions"?). Pretty dicey to take that risk. Since Bush's "incompetence" has seen him win personally at everything he's "screwed up".

            "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

            by DocGonzo on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 03:44:50 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  That's what I'm betting on. (0+ / 0-)

              Though I guess you could count on Bush's reputation for incompetence

              Based on current knowledge.

              Take another look: McCain is not a flip-flopper -- he's a pathological liar. Either that, or he's playing Jon Lovitz, Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket.

              by gooderservice on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 04:09:26 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Wouldn't count on that (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RandomSequence

              My laptop was searched by customs recently.  I'm pretty good at computer forensics, and they made no effort to cover their tracks.  It was simple poking around at image and audio-visual files, pls opening a few work-related documents (Word and PDF), for a total of 20+ minutes.  They did not launch any processes beyond those normally inovlved in viewing those files by default on my PC.  If they did run something more capable, it was very well hidden and they spent a lot of time poking around as a ruse.

              More likely, they don't put the time into serious analysis unless they have something fairly substantial to justify the effort.

        •  Can't Use It Anymore (0+ / 0-)

          The point of TrueCrypt "deniability" is that it lets its user plausibly deny that the encrypted data exists at all on the computer. Schneier showed that TrueCrypt's existence on the computer can be revealed.

          So now someone like a TSA or Customs/Immigration "official" (or rent-a-cop) can say "is there data hidden on this computer?" and you have to say "YES", because they can test whether you're lying. And then they can coerce you to unlock it, just like they can coerce you to open the suitcase it's in.

          So TrueCrypt cannot protect you.

          The NSA doesn't have to be waiting outside your interrogation cell to test your PC. Schneier's work shows that the NSA, or Schneier, if the government hired him and he took the job, or some other competent cryptanalyst who's up to date and has read Scheier's paper (by googling for it), could write standard software used at borders. The border guard just has to run the software, not crack TrueCrypt from scratch.

          When I invoked the NSA in my summary, what I meant was that since Schneier could render TrueCrypt useless, the superior capacities at NSA probably already have such a tool. And there's a good chance they've just cracked the "new and improved" version, and even the underlying scrambling, too. Care to bet, with all your personal data, or just a jail sentence for "making a false official statement"?

          When you're lying to Federal agents at the border these days, it's safe to assume that you're up against serious intelligence services. Maybe the Keystone Kustoms agent isn't so serious, but they probably have NSA products in their pocket, or can get them while they hold you for a few days.

          You just need to know whether you're willing to take that risk. Now that you know which dice you're rolling. Remember that they're loaded, by the Bush gangs that gets at least $40 BILLION a year to use against you.

          "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

          by DocGonzo on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 03:41:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That's not exactly how government works... (0+ / 0-)

            It takes years -- even decades -- for NSA style software to get down to customs agents, by which time defensive software will have improved.

            When you say "deniability" you have to ask, deniable to whom? Just like when you say "encrypted" you have to ask, encrypted from whom? NSA may have a crack for aes 128 -- but it would be "super top secret" and unavailable to most opponents.

            In the same way, there's a long way between a customs agent, a courthouse forensic investigation, and the NSA.

            Hypotheticals don't matter --- practice is what matters. TrueCrypt is useless in some applications; for others it would work.

            If they're going to prosecute you for lying in a court, they would have to show the tools they used; not a peep has been heard yet. On the other hand, if they're willing to disappear you, it's a different ballgame.

      •  Good to know. (0+ / 0-)

        And with all the great minds out there who contribute to open source, soon they will find a workaround, I'm sure.

        Government spies are great, but are they really going to waste their time to see if somebody has songs on their computer that they didn't pay for?

        Take another look: McCain is not a flip-flopper -- he's a pathological liar. Either that, or he's playing Jon Lovitz, Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket.

        by gooderservice on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 03:08:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  They Don't Know Until They Find It (0+ / 0-)

          They don't know that what they're going to find is just some pirated CDs. If there's evidence that you're lying about "nothing to see here, officer", they're just going to go to step 2, and crack it. They won't know that it's just CDs (or a puppy, like in Apocalypse Now) until they find it.

          They might even get more angry for your having lied if all they find after a few hours bothering with you is just some pirated CDs. Like when you resist the muggers instead of giving them the $10 in your wallet, so they beat you senseless. Then, out come the anal probes, and the orange Guantanamo jumpsuits.

          "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

          by DocGonzo on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 03:49:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  As a stopgap (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnnygunn

    Should we just package our electronics and papers in sealed USPS envelopes/boxes?

  •  Copies to Every Fusion Center (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AnnCetera, crose

    You can be sure every Fusion Center across the Nation will have access to your Browsing History and Banking Info, if not more.

    Until we get rid of the Fusion Centers we have yet to take a first step.

    President Theodore Roosevelt,"No man can take part in the torture of a human being without having his own moral nature permanently lowered."

    by SmileySam on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:08:23 PM PDT

  •  What's wrong with those customs slackers? (0+ / 0-)

    Everyone knows they can open your mail, too.

    Get on the stick, boys!

  •  Question Authority, as always (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AnnCetera

    Precisely WHERE does our government get the authority to engage in this obscene conduct?

    I'd really like to know the precise statute, just so I can have a good read.

    " ... or a baby's arm holding an apple!"

    by Lavocat on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:09:11 PM PDT

  •  Solution: Attach laptop to migrating swallows (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    crose, cn4st4datrees

    Don't be so afraid of dying that you forget to live.

    by LionelEHutz on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:09:40 PM PDT

  •  But, they do open the mail anyway. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AnnCetera

    Since when has a legal prohibition stopped spying anyway?

    The Postal Service was already opening my mail back in the 1980s.  And, caught red-handed, when I made a complaint, they said that there wasn't much they could do about it.  They are the ones doing it and they didn't do anything once caught.  There you have it!!  Get used to it.

    Just because it is inadmissable in court, doesn't mean they forgo the spying or forego crossing any legal boundary.  It may be prohibited, and it may be illegal, but they do it anyway.  

  •  So now we have to have a campaign of support... (4+ / 0-)

    to encourage our government to NOT BREAK THE LAW?

    Does this seem strange to anyone but me?

    Any government that willingly breaks the law to this level (not to mention ongoing torture) is likely to have little or no respect for such campaigns.

    I find it odd that the news media is choosing to ignore these things. Doesn't it occur to them (the news media) that allowing the government to get away with ignoring the law may, one day, have an adverse effect on a "free" press?

  •  Russ et al (5+ / 0-)

    should introduce legislation to shred the Homeland Security Act, the Alien Sedition Act and any other Act which undermines the rights of Americans to, well, do what we were guaranteed we could do before the Goonverment went all fascist on us. We need to get back to square one. This country should have nothing to fear from anyone and wouldn't if our leaders hadn't pissed on everyone outside the border.

    Mal: "This is the captain. We have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then explode."

    by crose on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:16:26 PM PDT

  •  The simple solution (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zett, owlbear1, AnnCetera

    Yes, it's obviously a good idea to have rules that don't allow our border police to confiscate our laptops without cause.  But it would be an even better idea, would solve many more present and potential problems, to simply cut back the border police so that they only have the time and personnel to do the one or two things we actually want them to do.

    We need to have enough pre-flight inspection to insure that nobody can board an airplane with a firearm or with the tools needed to get through the flight cabin door.  We need to have post-flight inspection on internatiional flights only, and that only as needed to enforce customs and immigration laws.  No other law enforcement, period.  No authorization for such, no funds for such, no personnel for such -- none such.

    We have a non-system now under which we have turned a politicized agency, the DHS, loose with an open-ended mission that they are allowed to expand upon largely in secret.  Instead of chasing after the individual abuses that this monstrosity generates after they have been turned loose on the land, we need to just kill the monster that spawns them.  End DHS.  End presidential control over all of the separate agencies that remain after DHS has been killed, so that they can do the simple jobs we decide, in a democratic and open process, that they should do, without any political agenda.

    The presidency must be destroyed.

    by gtomkins on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:16:58 PM PDT

  •  it could be even worse (0+ / 0-)

    I have heard from multiple sources that border/customs agents can eavesdrop on your conversations while you are waiting to cross.  (One person told me that this is part of the reason they don't want you using your cell phone in customs in the airport.)

    Indeed, one friend who does research on national identity cards, even informed me of a big flap that the US had with Canada a few years ago.  Apparently, the US was driving across into Canada (up to a few miles!) and using listening devices on cars approaching the border.   Needless to say, Canadian officials were upset about this.  I don't know how it all got resolved.

    These may just be "conspiracy theories" -- and until recently, I didn't think much about them, even though I cross the border a lot -- but the more I hear about things like this, the more concerned I get.

    Social advance depends as much upon the process through which it is secured as upon the result itself. --Jane Addams

    by shock on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:23:07 PM PDT

  •  you don't need to cross a border (0+ / 0-)

    A federal appeals court has upheld the constitutionality of random bag searches by police in America's busiest subway system to prevent terrorism.

    link

  •  and where are the rest of the Dems? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cyber Kat

    Seems like most of the rest of the Dems in Congress don't give a damn about our civil liberties or the Constitution. What exactly are these people doing when they go to work each day?

  •  What we need to do is re-establish the (0+ / 0-)

    presumption of innocence and not just in the context of a trial.  There's been a persistent pattern of interpreting the limitations imposed on the agents of government in the Bill of Rights narrowly so that they only apply to specific instances, rather than recognizing that this is a list of things the agents of government cannot do, even when they suspect a crime, unless they get special permission.  Absent that, they're not permitted to invade individual privacy at all.

    I'm not sure I'm saying this right.

    Let me try an example.  The right to remain silent in case what one says might be self-incriminating is being interpreted as denying the right not to answer questions to someone who's not in apparent jeopardy of self-incrimination.  One would think that the human right to speak would imply the right not to speak and is not properly subject to coercion, unless there's a good reason.  Ditto to the right not to be searched or have one's property seized.

    I think one reason these rights have been eroded is because of our acceptance that the agents of government are in the protection racket.  Under the guise of protection, they've asserted all sorts of restrictions which smack of the old "good" advice to women that they should stay home, if they didn't want to get raped.

    Security measures only satisfy the power addicted.  They do not keep us safe.

    How do you tell a predator from a protector? The predator will eat you sooner rather than later.

    by hannah on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:27:44 PM PDT

  •  Maybe They Could Make Everybody... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AndyS In Colorado

    ...sign "Loyalty Oaths" when they enter or reenter the US -- like they did during the McCarthy years.

    That way the US would be safe from both communists and terrorists ;-)

    Pluto now orbits Overnight News Digest ʍou sʇıqɹo oʇnld

    by Pluto on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:31:53 PM PDT

  •  Obama : Full Parity for FL Delegates (0+ / 0-)

    Just heard announcement over Classical South Florida radio station (89.7) that Obama now wants Florida delegates to be allowed full voting participation at the Democratic National Convention.

    Well, well.

    They burn our children in their wars and grow rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

    by Limelite on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:43:23 PM PDT

  •  Irrelevant. Most people who travel abroad (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brein

    are Democrats.  And if they aren't, and get pissed at having their laptop seized, they're Democrats by default.  And even if they're not, if they have nothing to hide, they shouldn't complain .. well there is that part about your laptop (or other information device) being passed from person to person like a frisbee while all your personal details and priceless information is inaccessible to you .. but it's a small price to pay.  Along with of course your taxes to pay for it.

    The opposite of war is not peace, it's creation - Jonathan Larson (-6.62, -6.26)

    by AndyS In Colorado on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:46:12 PM PDT

  •  security broke laptop (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brein

    An acquaintance of mine, a young woman, was recently traveling from the US to Europe. Airport security demanded to examine the laptop computer she was carrying on the plane; she readily complied with the request. So this clumsy security guard proceeds to drop her laptop on the floor, seriously damaging it.    He then gave it back to her. She was in a hurry, so she rushed to catch her flight. The upshot of the story is she had to buy a new laptop and was never reimbursed for it. It's not only your privacy that's at risk here. When security damages your property, it may be difficult or impossible to get the feds to pay for the damage they cause.

    Your puny mojo means nothing to me - ct

    by klingman on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 02:25:21 PM PDT

  •  Of course our GENIOUS's in charge... (0+ / 0-)

    ... with utter lack of technical understanding miss the whole point... the ENEMY will simply use stegonography to embed encrypted communications into innocent pictures that would never set off suspicion. Or just email the same images once they get to there place of operation.

    The enemy has proven to be more technically savvy than our own "genious" counter-terrorism ex-spirts.

    Truly pathetic, again once the 4th amendment has been completely undermined, what is next?

    How soon before local law enforcement stops obeying the 4th amendment?

    Six months left before we find out just who Obama really is.... if these abuses dont end, we will have our answer.

  •  So a LARGE envelope with a Stamp and address (0+ / 0-)

    is off limits?

  •  Don't mean to toot my own horn here, but... (0+ / 0-)
  •  Let's Review (0+ / 0-)

    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.

    No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

    Why should we, as citizens, obey the law when our government cannot be troubled to do so?

  •  Just a Little Edit (0+ / 0-)

    The e-mail at Hands Off My Laptop is good enough as a petition to have them do an impact statement, but that isn't the real problem. The real problem is that what they are doing is illegal.

    I did a little edit on my message to them to remind them that what they are doing is illegal. I want it to weigh on their conscience.

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