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.