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XMFSinchiruna (26.50)

What country is this???



August 01, 2008 – Comments (19)

I think I'm lost... can someone tell me what country I'm in? This is not the country I know and love!

Travelers' Laptops May Be Detained At BorderNo Suspicion Required Under DHS Policies

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.

"The policies . . . are truly alarming," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who is probing the government's border search practices. He said he intends to introduce legislation soon that would require reasonable suspicion for border searches, as well as prohibit profiling on race, religion or national origin.

DHS officials said the newly disclosed policies -- which apply to anyone entering the country, including U.S. citizens -- are reasonable and necessary to prevent terrorism. Officials said such procedures have long been in place but were disclosed last month because of public interest in the matter.

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."

The policies cover "any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form," including hard drives, flash drives, cellphones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes. They also cover "all papers and other written documentation," including books, pamphlets and "written materials commonly referred to as 'pocket trash' or 'pocket litter.' "

Reasonable measures must be taken to protect business information and attorney-client privileged material, the policies say, but there is no specific mention of the handling of personal data such as medical and financial records.

When a review is completed and no probable cause exists to keep the information, any copies of the data must be destroyed. Copies sent to non-federal entities must be returned to DHS. But the documents specify that there is no limitation on authorities keeping written notes or reports about the materials.

"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. Notably, he said, the policies "don't establish any criteria for whose computer can be searched."

Customs Deputy Commissioner Jayson P. Ahern said the efforts "do not infringe on Americans' privacy." In a statement submitted to Feingold for a June hearing on the issue, he noted that the executive branch has long had "plenary authority to conduct routine searches and seizures at the border without probable cause or a warrant" to prevent drugs and other contraband from entering the country.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wrote in an opinion piece published last month in USA Today that "the most dangerous contraband is often contained in laptop computers or other electronic devices." Searches have uncovered "violent jihadist materials" as well as images of child pornography, he wrote.

With about 400 million travelers entering the country each year, "as a practical matter, travelers only go to secondary [for a more thorough examination] when there is some level of suspicion," Chertoff wrote. "Yet legislation locking in a particular standard for searches would have a dangerous, chilling effect as officers' often split-second assessments are second-guessed."

In April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco upheld the government's power to conduct searches of an international traveler's laptop without suspicion of wrongdoing. The Customs policy can be viewed at:



19 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On August 01, 2008 at 3:26 PM, LordZ wrote:

Your anger should be directed at the terrorists, now we are terrorized all over again, I guess if you really want to travel freely

you will need to travel in your own planes.


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#2) On August 01, 2008 at 3:38 PM, XMFSinchiruna (26.50) wrote:


We used to have something called a Constitution. It mattered. The willingness of the American people to sit idly by as the document is torn and tattered by such actions is a direct affront to the very foundations on which this country was built.

I don't want to get into a debate about it. This is a financial blog, after all, and I posted it here because I believe this kind of policy is a hindrance to business travel.

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#3) On August 01, 2008 at 4:08 PM, Tastylunch (28.56) wrote:

No kidding Sinchi,

What's the point of being American if we can't have our freedom? What's the point of safety if we have no freedom to protect?

There are always going to crazy people out there, but personally I'm not willing to concede my beliefs just to protect myself from some nutjobs.

yeah I would think this would be very bad from business traveller's perspective.

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#4) On August 01, 2008 at 4:09 PM, Gemini846 (34.17) wrote:

Forgive them.. for they know not what they do.

(Well maybe they do know what they are doing, but when I go to vote them out I'm not presented with that option).

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#5) On August 01, 2008 at 4:25 PM, colonelnelson (33.64) wrote:

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

--Benjamin Franklin

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#6) On August 01, 2008 at 4:27 PM, StockSpreadsheet (68.43) wrote:

"Any society that will give up a little liberty to gain a little security deserves neither and will lose both."  Benjamin Franklin

It is as true today as it was back then.  Also, isn't "unreasonable search and seisure" prohibited in the Bill of Rights?  As much as I generally dislike the ACLU for some of the frivolous issues they champion, it seems that they should be all over this issue.  It is a true Civil LIberties issue, and one that their name, if not their charter, should compel them to litigate.  

I don't mind too much the bit about having to take off my hat, my coat and my shoes when going through the airport security station, and having my cell phone X-rayed, but it would bother me greatly to have them take my cell phone offsite for months to look through its contents.  At the very worst, if these actions are deemed legal by the Supreme Court, (and I would lose most of my respect for that body if they found these search and seizure policies legal), hard drives and cell phone memory can be copied onto backup systems in minutes.  The most any traveller should have to wait for the return of his items is one hour, and that is probably 45 minutes too long.  The Feds would then have all the time they needed to look through the material, and then erase it when no problems were found.  

Our politicians and leaders used to ridicule China, Russia and North Korea for such heavy-handed, anti-freedom tactics as our government is now employing.  It is a sad day where an American might have more rights in China than in his own country.


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#7) On August 01, 2008 at 4:49 PM, agchris02 (< 20) wrote:

My comments will be brief:

I don't like the ACLU, I don't like far left wing liberal nutjobs, but even this drives me nuts.  This is clearly to far, to much, and does not do enough good.  

What's the point of limiting people to one little baggie of liquids?  Does anyone have any CLUE the type of damage 3oz of industrial grade liquid explosives can do?  The ziploc baggie will not protect passangers.  All of the measures at the border and in the airports (well most of them anyways) are merely to create the "illusion of saftey" for the sheep in the masses and to make it look like Congress is "taking action."  

All these actions do is stomp on our constitutional rights, waste our tax dollars, and generally piss me off.

That said, its Friday, and I'm about to go to a baseball game, eat a hot dog, have a drink, and enjoy being an American. :). 

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#8) On August 01, 2008 at 5:14 PM, camistocks (64.42) wrote:

Yeah, Americans like to go to a baseball game, have a hot dog and forget everything.

This is just  how the Romans used to treat the plebs: bread and games to shut them down.

I find it amazing how slowly slowly more and more rights are being taken away, all in the name of the war on terrorism. Foreigners already are thought to be all terrorists.

Yeah, bread and games will calm the plebs... 

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#9) On August 01, 2008 at 5:21 PM, LordZ wrote:


its a hindrance to any kind of travel.

I'm not for giving up any rights, heck flights would be safer if they would allow everyone weapons on a flight.

I don't agree with them taking lab tops etc.

I cannot stand the dis service security screening, taking off of shoes, having to spill out all your possesions, heaven forbid you set off the detector and have to go back thru while some opportunist rifles thru your stuff and steals your stuff.

The security is not there to protect its customers and if you ever had some of your luggage stolen ~ now that they are charging more for luggage ~ shouldnt they be held more responsible that their employees wont steal or allow theft.

But honestly what is one to do if they single you out and decide to take your lab top, oh sure you could yell and struggle, but lets face it, its a lose lose situation.


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#10) On August 01, 2008 at 6:13 PM, zygnoda (< 20) wrote:

This a good post regardless of whatever lordz says.  thanks..

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#11) On August 01, 2008 at 6:30 PM, eldemonio (97.80) wrote:

Are you scared of the government snooping into your illegal beastiality porn and jihadist material when you travel?  Do you carry plans for carrying out political assassinations on your laptop?  Are you nervous that your laptop will divulge your deepest, darkest revolutionary ideals?  If you answered yes to any of the above - may be the answer you have been waiting for. gives you access to all of your illegal or semi-illegal files stored safely on your desktop pc.  No more sweating it out in the airport security line.  No more wondering if you remembered to erase those pictures of the Olsen twins.  No more wondering what wacky jihadist emails might be lurking in your junkmail. 

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#12) On August 01, 2008 at 6:33 PM, LordZ wrote:

zygnoda  stop being a frackin idiot looking for a fight...

if you would open your eyes you would have noticed that I agree that they should not be able to take your stuff.

Imagine some Fed or security agent thinking wow what a nice lab top, gee I wonder if there is any kewl stuff on it, hmm I think because of national security I'll just keep it to be on the safe side...

zygnoda  your comment only proves my original remarks about you...



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#13) On August 01, 2008 at 6:36 PM, LordZ wrote:

LMAO at go to my pc.....

damn those birds forgot the keyboard...


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#14) On August 01, 2008 at 7:30 PM, jester112358 (28.08) wrote:

Scary new development in the loss of our freedoms.  I'm surprised laptops powered by Li ion batteries are still allowed on flights given the easy manner in which these batteries can be turned into bombs!

 Of course, one wonders if they can actually access hard drives on the laptops with the best security systems.  As a scientist I very much doubt it, since data recovery services cannot recover or access hard drives without the user giving them the password.  Decoding track and sector data without a directory is nearly impossible-the info is just binary gibberish.  Even the companies making these encrypting/access systems let the user know if they forget the master password, they've lost everything on the drive!   So, my advice is have a good encryption system/password protection system-if only since your laptop can be stolen.   Encrypt all your sensitive financial info, and email in particular.   

 And, of course, real terroists would encrypt their email and any sensitive docs using any of many unbreakable RSI-type algorithms so this whole approach is as stupid as having passengers remove their shoes.

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#15) On August 01, 2008 at 7:51 PM, FleaBagger (27.49) wrote:

We have no rights because we voted to have no rights. In 1936, 1940, 1944, 1964, 1972, 1976, 1996, and 2004, we elected or reelected presidents who had already taken away our rights or said they would during their campaign. They and every congress ever haven't cared a whit for our rights, but stripped us of them for their own power. And we wanted them to, because we would be protected, not just from terrorists, but from poverty, bank failures, foreign trade, everything - we want to be protected from freedom itself. Furthermore, exacerbating the problem is that our state and municipal governments don't love power as much as the Founders thought they would, so nobody fights back when the feds walk all over the 10th Amendment. Besides, it's the states' fault that we had slavery and the Civil War, right?

Yes, it's our fault, and we deserve it. Have a nice weekend!

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#16) On August 01, 2008 at 8:33 PM, jahbu (80.07) wrote:

Will we wake up as a nation before it is too late?  We are soooo close to a police state.  Dissenters will be considered terrorist if we do not put an end to this quickly.  I am really concerned.

It is sooo bad that I am willing to Believe their War On Carbon, global warming boogeyman, if they would just End the War on Terror boogeyman.  At least we would have a cleaner earth...

Defend the Constitution.


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#17) On August 02, 2008 at 3:26 PM, RainierMan (64.81) wrote:

 DHS--and we are really talking mostly Customs in terms of checking people and cargo coming into the country--CAN inspect anything they want. THEY DO NOT need reasonable cause. Some people think they do, but they do not. They are somewhat unique in that respect, among law enforcement agencies. I believe that they actually do have a constitutional right to do it, but don't ask me to cite the specific part of the constitution that allows it. By the way, this is NOT a new power; they have had it since the birth of the country. (I would totally agree that there are numerous other recent changes that make me wonder what happened to the Constitution, however. Eliminating habeas corpus for one thing)

Bad stuff can come in through either people OR cargo, so both get checked. Since not everyone and everything can be checked, DHS deals with the massive volume in two ways: 1.) risk--is there anything about the cargo or person that increases the risk that something is entering illegally. It may not be a personal thing, but rather a matter of where you came from, where you came in, whether they are under some sort of highened alert, etc. 2). random sampling--sometimes the "system" just says "look at this one". It should not be based on anything like race or religion, although I would not suggest those have never figured into it unofficially. They are not supposed to, however, and in fact when they have, it's caused a major firestorm.

I'm not saying it's fun, but it is somewhat effective, at least until the bad guys figure out how to circumvent it, which they are already doing (a la the drug cartels using submersible vessels to bring drugs in).


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#18) On August 02, 2008 at 8:37 PM, lepersinmyhead (22.50) wrote:

Searching the contents of luggage, containers, parcels is one thing, searching the contents of computers is an animal of a different color.  Now you are doing a search within a search.  When we cross the border we "consent" to a reasonable search of our articles and selves.  We do not consent to strip searches, body cavity searches and tearing apart of our vehicles.  Searches such as these require something more - some evidence.  So too with a computer.  The government is certainly allowed to remove a computer from its bag, pick it up, open it, x-ray it etc.  But to view and copy files with no reasonable suspicion or probable cause is not a reasonable search.  Now your impinging substantial privacy rights and First Amendment rights - thank you George Bush for unraveling 250 years of liberty.

 For all you right wingers looking for the ACLU to come in and save the day, 20 years of Republican judicial appointments has taken care of any chance to rule such a search unconstitutional.  Methinks Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy trust our government officials with the power to decide what their needs are.  You folks are losing your rights, slowly but surely. The sad thing is is that there is nowhere else to go, we used to be a shining beacon of liberty, now we are just a bunch of Nancys, like every other country, who are unwilling to fight for any liberty.

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#19) On August 05, 2008 at 11:29 PM, TheGarcipian (34.40) wrote:

Ha! Excellent rant, LepersInMyHead! Yeah, we can be a bunch of whiny douche bags in our gas-guzzling SUVs, crying out against the oil companies for our own ignorance of market forces and failure to vote for anything significant over the past 35 years that would have led us away from such a painful point.

And FleaBagger! Excellent post too, man. That is so to-the-point, part of the real problem, which is the continued acquisition and consolidation of power away from the States and into the hands of the Federal government, specifically under the Office of President.

Isn't it extremely ironic that Republican politicians lambast their opponents about Big Government, but have done everything in their power over the past 30 years to grow it at the federal level? This is certainly not what Jefferson & Madison had in mind when they drafted the D.I. and Constitution, respectively. Republicans are supposed to be champions of States rights, with smaller government at the Federal level. Yet this Republican Administration and (until 2006) Republican Congress have stood in the way of States rights. They've felt an overwhelming and unprecedented need to tell Terri Schiavo's family what to do in Florida. Oregon has twice voted in the "Death With Dignity" act by people of the state that clearly understood the new law, only to have it struck down by these same Republican judicial appointments that LepersInMyHead wrote about. And they've incredulously challenged & inhibited California's laws for cleaner air! (When I hear the right wingers spout off about activist judges, I have to think: how much more of an Activist Judge can you be than that?! You appointed them). In fact, the creation of the DHS is the single largest increase in federal govt oversight in our modern history. Thanks to King George and his Republican Congressional lackies.  I feel like TMFSinchiruna here -- living in some sort of bizarro world.

Oh, it may have started out with noble ideals, of protecting Americans and patriotic indignations of "how-dare-they-bomb-us!", but it quickly devolved into consolidation of power within the Executive branch. That has been the Neo-Cons recipe from the early 90's. It took a putz of a President and a national disaster to freak the American public into giving up so many rights involving habeas corpus, wire-tapping, profiling, torture, Geneva Convention circumvention (again, all at the hands of a Republican Congress), and now illegal search-n-seizure, not to mention the abuse of Executive Privilege keeping Rice/Rove/Libby/Gonzales/Goodling and host of others from testifying before Congress, the thwarting and obstruction of justice via multiple subpoena circumventions, the impeding of the 9/11 Commission, and general failure to be responsible for pretty darned near anything. If I were a Republican, I'd be pissed off. As an Independent with Democrat leanings, I'm just seething. Who needs a damn Constitution when everyone knows all you have to do is elect someone based on his religious background? He'll do the right thing because he's a Christian, or a Hindu, or a Whatever. Yeah, right. That's what you get when you mix Church & State: blind arrogance through blind faith. The idiots who elected Shrub got everything they deserved and more. The problem is so did the rest of us...

It was our first President, George Washington, that said: "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence—it is a force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master; never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”

Unfortunately, so many Americans are on auto-pilot or just don't care, that they've forgotten this crucial fact of nature. The politicians are meant to serve us, not the other way round! If you don't like the way you've been treated over these past 8 years, then vote accordingly or quit your complaining...

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