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US Federal Judge Rules Suspicionless Border Searches of Laptops Constitutional

Unknown Lamer posted about 9 months ago | from the i've-got-an-inchoate-hunch dept.

Privacy 462

AHuxley writes "The American Civil Liberties Union sought to challenge the U.S. legal 'border exemption' three years ago. Can your laptop be seized and searched without reasonable suspicion at the border? A 32 page decision provides new legal insight into legal thinking around suspicionless searches: your electronic devices are searchable and seizable for any reason at the U.S. border. The ACLU may appeal. Also note the Kool-Aid comment: 'The report said that a reasonable suspicion standard is inadvisable because it could lead to litigation and the forced divulgence of national security information, and would prevent border officers from acting on inchoate "hunches," a method that it says has sometimes proved fruitful.'" It's even legal for them to copy the contents of your laptop for no reason at all, just in case they need to take a peek later. A bit of context from the ACLU: "The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Pascal Abidor, a dual French-American citizen who had his laptop searched and confiscated at the Canadian border ... Abidor was travelling from Montreal to New York on an Amtrak train in May 2010 when he had his laptop searched and confiscated by customs officers. Abidor, an Islamic Studies Ph.D. student at McGill University, was questioned, taken off the train in handcuffs, and held in a cell for several hours before being released without charge. When his laptop was returned 11 days later, there was evidence that many of his personal files had been searched, including photos and chats with his girlfriend."

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Thank fucking Christ... (5, Insightful)

crutchy (1949900) | about 9 months ago | (#45836447)

...i'm not American.

Re:Thank fucking Christ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836519)

That is not a helpful factor if you need to go to usa.

Re:Thank fucking Christ... (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 9 months ago | (#45836921)

'Need'?? Are you nuts? Or are your interests just such that you think you 'need'?

Busting out my tinfoil hat... (4, Insightful)

Toe, The (545098) | about 9 months ago | (#45836593)

How implausible is it to imagine that a system could be set up to suck all data off every device (especially solid state storage) as it passes through airport security?

Since it's legal, why wouldn't the government want to do it? Ya know. Just in case. To protect us.

Re:Busting out my tinfoil hat... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836883)

Maybe they could also redefine "search" as continuous monitoring. So when we cross the border, they are legally allowed to install a rootkit on our computer.

Re:Thank fucking Christ... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836693)

...i'm not American.

It's called customs inspection. Every country has it to regulate what is brought in the country, including yours. It's one of the most basic tenants of national sovereignty.

Re:Thank fucking Christ... (5, Interesting)

john_uy (187459) | about 9 months ago | (#45836703)

That's the problem. All people entering the USA have no protection as accorded to American citizens. You are treated as hostile unless proven otherwise. In the meantime, all rights are suspended with no expectation of being treated as a human being.

Being a foreigner, I have read numerous times of horror stories happening at the immigration. It's really discouraging to go to the USA even if you have all the best intentions to go there. Good thing I don't have any necessity to go there at this point in time.

At the end, I'm not sure it is helping thwart bad people from entering the USA.

who cares American or not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836771)

Apparently we have the same protection under the Constitution: NONE.

Re:Thank fucking Christ... (1)

DexterIsADog (2954149) | about 9 months ago | (#45836815)

That's the problem. All people entering the USA have no protection as accorded to American citizens. You are treated as hostile unless proven otherwise. In the meantime, all rights are suspended with no expectation of being treated as a human being.

Being a foreigner, I have read numerous times of horror stories happening at the immigration. It's really discouraging to go to the USA even if you have all the best intentions to go there.

I understand your dread of entering the U.S. (though you say you have only "read" about "horror stories" and not actually done it yourself), but this is a common misconception. The U.S. Constitution applies to every person in the country, even if they are there illegally, with some obvious exceptions, such as the right to vote.

Yes, it's true that border security will stretch those rights (I'm not saying I think that's good), but the Constitution still applies, both to citizens and non-citizens alike.

This story actually illustrates that the Constitution applies; win or lose, the ACLU is using those rights to challenge the government's alleged abuses.

Re:Thank fucking Christ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836773)

And Abidor was not as well. Did you not even bother to read the fucking summary?

Re:Thank fucking Christ... (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 9 months ago | (#45836825)

Did you not even bother to read the fucking summary?

can you even read at all...

 

Pascal Abidor, a dual French-American citizen

By definition, it's therefore gratuitous (5, Insightful)

sandbagger (654585) | about 9 months ago | (#45836451)

At the end of the novel Catch-22 the famous rule starts to have other formulations including 'they have the right to do to us anything we can't stop them from doing.'

Does anyone think this won't be abused?

Re:By definition, it's therefore gratuitous (5, Insightful)

INT_QRK (1043164) | about 9 months ago | (#45836681)

Of course "they have the [power] to do to us anything we [don't] stop them from doing." That's a universal human and historical truth, and subject of Benjamin Franklin's answer to a passerby's question at the close of Constitutional Convention in 1787 with the veiled warning: "a republic, if you can keep it.' It's also the reason for the Bill of Rights which can only have meaning as long as there is vigilant scrutiny and determined enforcement. My only quibble with Heller is that fundamentally only individuals can have rights; governments, or any collectivist formulation, have only have persuasive or coersive power.

TrueCrypt (2)

OverlordQ (264228) | about 9 months ago | (#45836453)

~nt~

Re: TrueCrypt (1)

frdmfghtr (603968) | about 9 months ago | (#45836557)

You know what? Even though I don't travel with my laptop, I'm thinking the same thing.

With the recent revelations of the ability to intercept hardware en route and infect the firmware with spyware, I wonder if there's a possibility that TruCrypt could be circumvented. I suppose it could, since the data must reside in RAM unencrypted for use by the processor.

I also don't know if whole-drive encryption is really necessary (why would I encrypt my system files?) or if it has an adverse effect on SSD life.

Re: TrueCrypt (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 9 months ago | (#45836647)

Basically, if you're targeted they have you. If you're not targeted you have a chance to cause their automated collection algorithms to have to work extra hard to collect your data, but they still have you. So Truecrypt wont help you much.

Which hard drive encryption, if any, works? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836569)

NSA has proven that they can circumvent technologies which people had thought to be secure.

So, what hard drive encryptions seem particularly strong?

Is the more stock stuff more vulnerable? For example, what about Apple's built-in FileVault [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Which hard drive encryption, if any, works? (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 9 months ago | (#45836603)

NSA has proven that they can circumvent technologies which people had thought to be secure.

crooks can break into locked cars too, but i wouldn't advise people leave their cars unlocked

So, what hard drive encryptions seem particularly strong?

not sure, but anything FOSS is probably your best bet... anything closed-source can be corrupted
if you're super-paranoid at least you can review and compile it yourself

Re:Which hard drive encryption, if any, works? (1)

Pogue Mahone (265053) | about 9 months ago | (#45836765)

FileVault?

Just search for VileFault - there's your answer.

Re:TrueCrypt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836617)

So when you are locked up in an airport basement and tortured by US "police", how exactly will that help you?

Re:TrueCrypt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836723)

Give them a password to a decoy operating system and lie that the laptop/install is new or that you only use it for travel if they ask why there seems to be so little history on it.

You're up against police with limited technical knowledge, not the NSA.

And... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836803)

When someone discovers that there is only 10 GB available of that 500 GB hard drive and they cut your hand off while asking you why? What is your next step in this brilliant plan?

Re:TrueCrypt (2)

mhogomchungu (1295308) | about 9 months ago | (#45836629)

if you are on linux and dont want to use truecrypt binary for whatever reason,you can use zuluCrypt[1] to create and manage truecrypt volumes using a GUI solution

[1] http://code.google.com/p/zulucrypt/ [google.com]

Re:TrueCrypt (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836649)

Encrypting your hard drive's contents may not be such a good idea... If they decide to search your laptop (or any other device) and it's encrypted, they'll certainly ask you to provide the password. If you don't provide the password, expect being detained for as long as the law allows them to hold you. Also, if you're a foreign national, you'll probably be denied entry.

Re:TrueCrypt (5, Insightful)

myowntrueself (607117) | about 9 months ago | (#45836749)

Encrypting your hard drive's contents may not be such a good idea... If they decide to search your laptop (or any other device) and it's encrypted, they'll certainly ask you to provide the password. If you don't provide the password, expect being detained for as long as the law allows them to hold you. Also, if you're a foreign national, you'll probably be denied entry.

Don't encrypt the laptop.

Take a backup of the laptop hard drive, encrypt the backup. Upload that to an online storage service.
Wipe the free space or get a new hard drive. Install basic operating system. Take THAT through customs with you.
For 'extra points' create an online email account and populate it with some plausible emails, copy over some plausible photos, documents etc.
Once at your destination, download your encrypted backup and restore it onto your hard drive.

Re:TrueCrypt (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836891)

Don't encrypt the laptop.

Take a backup of the laptop hard drive, encrypt the backup. Upload that to an online storage service.
Wipe the free space or get a new hard drive. Install basic operating system. Take THAT through customs with you.
For 'extra points' create an online email account and populate it with some plausible emails, copy over some plausible photos, documents etc.
Once at your destination, download your encrypted backup and restore it onto your hard drive.

You, citizen, have just aided and abetted the enemy. Please come with us.

Re:TrueCrypt (2)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 9 months ago | (#45836759)

So you get to spend some quality time with a rubber hose until you tell them your passwords?

That Palin Thing says: (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836469)

"How's that 'hopey-changey' stuff workin out for ya?"

:: winks ::

:: snaps gum ::

That Paling Thing? (1)

Foxhoundz (2015516) | about 9 months ago | (#45836511)

You think it would be different if Sarah Palin was president?

Re:That Paling Thing? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836595)

Yes, it would be different. Watching her statements and positions and her consistency on her positions leads me to conclude that she would restore, at least, some of our rights that POTUS Obama has taken from us.

Re:That Paling Thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836865)

Funny.

Looking at the same person and I get the opposite: we would have been MORE fucked over (and not in a good way) compared to Obama.

Re:That Paling Thing? (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 9 months ago | (#45836607)

it would be different if Ron Paul were president

Re: That Paling Thing? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836665)

Dream on. Congress would block him at every chance. Equating the solution to one person is oversimplified.

Re: That Paling Thing? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836755)

> Equating the solution to one person is oversimplified.

But blaming the problem on one is not.

And before you go "But.... but BUSH!!!!" consider the multiple times Obama has defended and supported the NSA and it's tactics.

It's almost like... the NSA has something nasty on him and has made him their bitch or something.

Naaaa... that's conspiracy theory stuff. Silly me.

Re: That Paling Thing? (0)

crutchy (1949900) | about 9 months ago | (#45836845)

google "executive order" and "presidential veto" biatch

Re:That Paling Thing? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836785)

Does it matter? Barack Obama is president, and this shit is still going on. We were royally duped by the democratic party. No wonder his approval polls are in the shitter now. Time to overthrow this republicrat juggernaut and elect real representatives, not these security paranoid corporate douchebags.

Time for another letter (5, Interesting)

frdmfghtr (603968) | about 9 months ago | (#45836471)

Every time I read about a new attack on the Bill of Rights, I write to my Congressional representation. I also vote to replace my representation since clearly they aren't representing We, the People.

I'm getting tired of writing these letters, yet I'll do it again and remind my "representation" of my position. Anybody else?

re: Time for another letter (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836485)

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Albert Einstein

Re: Time for another letter (2)

kcmastrpc (2818817) | about 9 months ago | (#45836601)

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Anonymous Drug Addict

FTFY.

Re: Time for another letter (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 9 months ago | (#45836643)

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Anonymous Drug Addict

FTFY.

Well, it certainly wasn't Albert Einstein. The quote first appeared in print in 1983 (in a book by Rita Mae Brown [wikipedia.org] ), when Albert Einstein had already been dead for 28 years.

Re: Time for another letter (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836697)

Well, it certainly wasn't Albert Einstein. The quote first appeared in print in 1983 (in a book by Rita Mae Brown), when Albert Einstein had already been dead for 28 years.

"Every quotation sounds better when it is attributed to someone genius" - Isaac Newton

Re: Time for another letter (3, Informative)

kcmastrpc (2818817) | about 9 months ago | (#45836797)

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Anonymous Drug Addict

FTFY.

Well, it certainly wasn't Albert Einstein. The quote first appeared in print in 1983 (in a book by Rita Mae Brown [wikipedia.org] ), when Albert Einstein had already been dead for 28 years.

It wasn't Rita Mae Brown either, it first appeared in the Narcotics Anonymous handbook in 1981.

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Rita_Mae_Brown [wikiquote.org]

Re:Time for another letter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836577)

Another letter? Someone should be shot.

Re:Time for another letter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836599)

Dear NSA, ...it's a figure of speech.

Re:Time for another letter (3, Insightful)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 9 months ago | (#45836591)

I'm getting tired of writing these letters, yet I'll do it again and remind my "representation" of my position.

Unless you include a huge "donation" check in your letter . . . your "representation" won't even receive your letter. The secretary will just toss it in the trash.

Re:Time for another letter (5, Insightful)

Chelloveck (14643) | about 9 months ago | (#45836675)

Unless you include a huge "donation" check in your letter . . . your "representation" won't even receive your letter. The secretary will just toss it in the trash.

Nah, it'll get aggregated by subject matter. In the month-end statistics it'll just be another check for "concerned about border security", prompting the lawmaker to introduce a bill to *require* searches of all laptops. Mission accomplished.

Re:Time for another letter (2)

Greyfox (87712) | about 9 months ago | (#45836613)

Why don't you run? Sounds like you have a better idea. Mount a grassroots campaign on teh internets on a shoestring and see how many votes you get! You want something done, you gotta do it yourself.

Re:Time for another letter (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 9 months ago | (#45836669)

Mount a grassroots campaign on teh internets on a shoestring and see how many votes you get! You want something done, you gotta do it yourself.

already tried and failed... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_WBo4sfmi4 [youtube.com]

Re:Time for another letter (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about 9 months ago | (#45836767)

Why don't you run? Sounds like you have a better idea. Mount a grassroots campaign on teh internets on a shoestring and see how many votes you get!

I'm *trying* . See my sig :-) . So far, I believe I have about 10 votes. Could use a few more to guarantee a majority...

Re: Time for another letter (1)

frdmfghtr (603968) | about 9 months ago | (#45836841)

Don't think I haven't considered it.

I'm of two minds regarding politics:

(1) I'm so sick if the Washington nonsense that sometimes I wish I could just forget the whole thing, tune it out, and just go on with my life. That usually lasts two minutes, because it does, and will, affect me whether I want it to or not.

(2) actually run and bring back as much inside info as I can, to REALLY inform my employer (the CITIZENS I represent) of the nonsense that goes on. Really try to do some good and represent We, the People.

What worries me about (2) the most is the intense pressure that comes from big donors. I'd be concerned that I'd become just as corrupt, power-hungry, and full of myself as those in Washington.

Representation inherently fails (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836621)

The fact is, you're never going to find someone who represents you. Politicians get into office because they seek power. Representation is a distant, low priority for them.

If you want a real solution, please check out how you personally can build it: http://metagovernment.org/

Re:Time for another letter (3, Interesting)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 9 months ago | (#45836673)

And here-in is the problem. The NSA has assuredly more blackmail material on every politician in this country than could ever be had by any investigative journalist or PI. When it comes to shutting down the entire NSA do you think they'd use that? Or just roll over?

Re:Time for another letter (1)

INT_QRK (1043164) | about 9 months ago | (#45836725)

Yeah, and I'm I'm probably on the same list as you are for the same reason. Looking forward to meeting you at Re-education Camp!

Re:Time for another letter (5, Insightful)

FridayBob (619244) | about 9 months ago | (#45836831)

... I'm getting tired of writing these letters, yet I'll do it again and remind my "representation" of my position. Anybody else?

Your pleas are falling on deaf ears, because your representatives in Congress today don't work you anymore: to them it's all about the money they need to get re-elected, so now they only work for their donors. Even Obama, who received so many small donations, got 70% of his campaign cash from big donors, mainly from people on Wall Street (which is why he will never prosecute them).

Therefore, what we must do is fix the underlying problem first: by getting big money out of politics.

This would be difficult in any other country with a corrupt political system, but luckily the United States Constitution happens to include Article Five [wikipedia.org] , which describes an alternative process through which the Constitution can be altered: by holding a national convention at the request of the legislatures of at least two-thirds (34) of the country's 50 States. Any proposed amendments must then be ratified by at least three-quarters (38 States).

Is anybody doing this yet? Yes. WOLF-PAC [wolf-pac.com] was launched in October 2011 for the purpose of passing a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that will end corporate personhood* and publicly finance all elections**. Since then, many volunteers have approached their State Legislators about this idea and their efforts have often been met with unexpected bi-partisan enthusiasm. So far, 50 State Legislators have authored or co-sponsored resolutions to call for a Constitutional Convention to get money out of politics! Notable successes have been in Texas, Idaho and Kentucky.

However, if the State Legislators are also corrupt, why are they helping us? Well, maybe they aren't as corrupt as you think. And even if they are, the important thing is that they seem to be just as fed up with the Federal government as we are -- so much so that they seem quite happy to help out with this effort. After all, it's a pretty simple proposal that speaks to both Democrats and Republicans.

If you think this idea makes sense, you can sign this petition [wolf-pac.com] , donate, or even take action by personally contacting your favorite State Legislator and asking for a meeting. It's easier than you might think and as a result we might be able to change this awful situation sooner than you think.

.

*) The aim is not to end legal personhood for corporations, but natural personhood. The latter became a problem following the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, which grated some of the rights of natural persons to corporations and makes it easier for them to lend financial support to political campaigns.

**) At the State level, more than half of all political campaigns are already publicly financed in some way, so there's nothing strange about doing the same for political campaigns for federal office.

Disquieting... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836475)

Really, this trend toward a total surveillance society is getting more and more worrying.

And the given rationals are so pathetic. How can people like that be in position of autority? It would be funny if it was not frightening.

What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836507)

Worrying? Trend?

You live in a complete police and surveillance state RIGHT NOW! Me and my friends would rather go to North Korea than to the USA on vacation.

Anything goes now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836495)

I think people must realize that we have basically conceded our privacy from ourselves. If your paranoid about people from the NSA or whoever going through your stuff.
Then I think the only solution is going under the radar and avoiding these devices. Disconnect from the internet, buy a dumb phone and pay for everything with cash.
Unless your willing to take measures like these I think your privacy has been long gone.

Didn't want that tourism income anyway (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836497)

Or those science or business conferences either, come to that.

I'd love to visit the US someday, but when I expect treatment like that, I just think, OK well there are plenty of other places in the world who will be happy to see me spending money in their local economy without forcing me to risk accepting that kind of treatment "on a hunch".

France want the Statue of Liberty back (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836499)

France want the Statue of Liberty back

Why is this a problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836501)

When you cross the border to a country, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy of items on your person. You can't just carry a box and say "I'm not telling" when the customs official asks what's inside. So what's the problem here?

Re: Why is this a problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836537)

So you'd have no objection to a forced colonoscopy at every border crossing either?

Re: Why is this a problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836777)

> So you'd have no objection to a forced colonoscopy at every border crossing either?

So you have an objection to looking for fruit at the border? Why would you compare a colonoscopy to inspection of goods?

Re:Why is this a problem? (1)

meflo (1546007) | about 9 months ago | (#45836571)

So when you cross the border every black boh should be searched or every binary bit that crosses the us border should be searched? Well, you probably mean that he had digitized some drugs in that laptop, so its data should be searched? Oooh, should this comment be searched? Do I have something to hide?

Re:Why is this a problem? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836597)

What is so special about the US border that makes it an exception to the 4th Amendment?

The 4th Amendment is null and void (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836517)

The terrorists have won! No I'm not talking about the Islamic kind. I'm talking about the American government which since 2001 opted to keep its citizens in a perpetual state of fear to increase its power over them.

two paths emerge as i cook cabbage. (1)

nimbius (983462) | about 9 months ago | (#45836527)

2014: year of the hunch
or 2014: year of the massive street protests

Re:two paths emerge as i cook cabbage. (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 9 months ago | (#45836781)

"...inchoate hunches, a method that it says has sometimes proved fruitful."

Since even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut, said squirrel may rifle through your personals.

Yep, passes the smell test for science.

in Soviet USA (2)

meflo (1546007) | about 9 months ago | (#45836543)

Police is the state

Re:in Soviet USA (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 9 months ago | (#45836637)

in soviet america, government own you!
in soviet russia, government own you!

is it just me or have russian reversal jokes kinda lost their funny side?

Re:in Soviet USA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836659)

Police is the state

It is about time these silly little yanky tanky spanky's got a real life instead of prancing around (and they do prance as well in fact almost mince ) acting little hitlers . Your patch of insignificant mud you call home is just that an insignificant patch of mud suck it in steroid taking tweakers .

Re:in Soviet USA (1)

meflo (1546007) | about 9 months ago | (#45836709)

You mean "real life" - like the the one you live answering my opinions. Sure, officer.

/sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836559)

This is why I don't even have stopovers in the USA anymore, I don't want to be detained/searched/arrested/fined for no reason apart from the fact I'm not american and even then its only if you yell I'm a patriot louder than the guy beside you.

So it's constitutional because ... (4, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | about 9 months ago | (#45836575)

... anything else would be "inadvisable"?

logic... (2)

wbr1 (2538558) | about 9 months ago | (#45836583)

If I have a briefcase full of papers at the border can that be searched without warrant or suspicion? If not, then why cana device which serves similar purpose be searched?

Because fuck you (and the constitution), that's why. Oh sorry, because terrist bogeymen, that's why.

My ass hurts.

Re:logic... (4, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 9 months ago | (#45836671)

If I have a briefcase full of papers at the border can that be searched without warrant or suspicion?

Unless you have a diplomatic passport, then yes, your briefcase can be searched at the border for any reason or for no reason.

Re:logic... (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 9 months ago | (#45836687)

Actually yes it can. The DHS suspends the constitution within 100 miles of the border. They can search anything they want in the name on national security.

Re:logic... (1)

bdam (1774922) | about 9 months ago | (#45836701)

The answer to your question is yes, they would absolutely search a briefcase. I'm not sure what would make you think otherwise. I cross the Canadian/US land border several times a year with the full knowledge that if the border agent wants to tear my car apart bolt-by-bolt he can do so. Once done, they'd give me the OK and leave me with a pile of car parts. I'm pretty big on civil liberties, and stories like this don't exactly make me comfortable, but at the end of the day the border guys have a tough job. Hundreds of thousands of people entering the country, they get a minute or two to decide if something is amiss. Should they have unlimited powers? No. However, I think there's a case to be made that if you want to enter a country you are not entitled to due-process in it's entirety. In terms of it being a fourth amendment issue ... I'm not sure it's unreasonable to be searched when entering a country ... it seems pretty standard across the world. Electronics make it feel far move invasive, sure, but the base concept of being able to search people entering the country seems pretty sound.

Re:logic... (4, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 9 months ago | (#45836705)

Yes it can be searched.

The search standards at border crossings are very loose. It's been that way since 1789. The Constitution is high on defense of the nation, and tariffs were the first taxes. Obviously you cannot defend the borders or impose tariffs without being able to search at border crossings.

The Congress shall have power:

To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

"Exhibit A in the Supreme Courtâ(TM)s case for border searches is a statute Congress enacted in 1789, which granted customs officials âoefull power and authorityâ to search âoeany ship or vessel, in which they shall have reason to suspect any goods, wares or merchandise subject to duty shall be concealed"

from: http://lawreview.richmond.edu/run-for-the-border/ [richmond.edu]

This statute actually PREDATES the adoption of the Bill of Rights as amendments to the Constitution by two months.

Re:logic... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836885)

Obviously you cannot defend the borders or impose tariffs without being able to search at border crossings.

Then don't. In the land of the free and the home of the brave, you don't sacrifice freedom for safety. This is clearly a violation of the constitution.

NSA trolls operational? (1)

meflo (1546007) | about 9 months ago | (#45836615)

I mean do you have that practice - government to pay trolls defending its interests? Too many irrational comments in favor of NSA here.

Computer searches alter that which is searched? (1)

gaspar ilom (859751) | about 9 months ago | (#45836633)

If a computer search alters the state/contents of a machine, how would it be legal? e.g.: a naive software-based search of files, that alters metadata on files? Or: disassembling a device that wasn't designed to be disassembled, in order to clone the HD?

If border officials order a user to boot-up and enable the same access the traveler would have: What if there's software on the machine, that is *designed* to alter file contents when they are viewed? (The precise reason doesn't matter, but: what if the uncorrupted state of these files, or hardware, are important for one reason or another? say, to enable a security audit, by the traveler's employer?)

So (perhaps unlike other personal effects or "papers"), a computer search is not necessarily a passive process -- it's an ACTIVE one, that can (likely?) lead to damage, destruction, or complete loss.

Re:Computer searches alter that which is searched? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836867)

No, it's exactly like other personal effects. For example, if you carefully wrap fragile items with clothing in your suitcase, you'll invariably find them unwrapped when you open your suitcase, leading to damage, destruction, or complete loss.

Copyright (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836651)

Stick a copyright notice on your laptop.

"The contents of this laptop are copyrighted. Licensed for use by owner only."

Then sue them.

Re:Copyright (1)

Titus Groan (2834723) | about 9 months ago | (#45836873)

or simply inform Adobe, Microsoft, MPAA and all other interested parties for the data you have on your laptop that the US Government is in violation of copyright by copying their data which you have licensed and legally hold on your laptop. Let them with fatter wallets sue them.

A year ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836699)

the (smart-ass) comments around here to this kinda thing were in the line of "haha, I store my dataz in teh cloud!".

Not such a smart-ass comment any more today, is it...

(the hint is obvious, right, or do I Need to Spell it Aut?)

Whats the problem? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836739)

Lets see, Name Pascal Abidor Islamic Studies dual French-American citizen.
His passport contained visas for Jordan, Lebanon, and Yemen.
Also speaks Arabic.

Looks like grounds for reasonable suspicion to me.

Re:Whats the problem? (2)

ledow (319597) | about 9 months ago | (#45836783)

Yeah, fucking well-travelled, bi-fluent, academics. America should get rid of the lot of them.

Looking at some state's science education programmes, you already have...

Solution (1)

Tyr07 (2300912) | about 9 months ago | (#45836775)

Step 1 - Bitlocker etc. Encrypt your drive. They will not spend the resources decrypting it, and cannot force you to give up passwords to things without a court order. Step 2 - Pay for a server located in a country that you trust (as much as possible anyway) and sync or store files there. Accessing things you need when you need them instead of always carrying them around. If step 2 is an issue for you due to wanting access to content while without internet, see step 1. Now if you are actually doing something terrible and have incriminating files on your computer, if they really want them, encryption won't do it. But depending what it is I believe these people should be caught. However encrypting your drive and putting on a password will be enough to stave off random searches for no reason of normal crap Like family photos etc, it won't be enough for them to put in the resources to get access to it..

Re:Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836799)

That is fruitless, because there is also federal precedent that says you can be forced to divulge your encryption keys and passwords under pain of being held without charges and without a lawyer (i.e. for "contempt of court").

Re:Solution (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836827)

Step one fedex your shit where your going.

This will work out fine for everyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836779)

Eventually business travelers and tourists will learn to not bring anything, or simply just not go there at all. The only people trying to get into america will be Americans and terrorists wanting to kill Americans. This self sorting will eventually solve the problem (keeping Americans safe, catching terrorists), all the government asks is for you to have patience, and of course your surrender.

Actually, that is not certain to keep Americans safe, better restrict where Americans are able to travel (and if they travel anywhere suspicious - better put them on all applicable lists).

Chinese Comunism is looking a lot like (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836817)

Freedom.

May the honorable... (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about 9 months ago | (#45836833)

May the honorable judge Edward R. Korman be subjected to warrantless searches and having his personal data copied by the government as often as possible. He should be okay with it... he legalized it.

Abidor, an Islamic Studies Ph.D. student at McGill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836843)

"Abidor, an Islamic Studies Ph.D. student at McGill University"

Ya gotta admit, that was stupid.

Sigh (5, Interesting)

ledow (319597) | about 9 months ago | (#45836859)

Constitutional or not, I wouldn't risk it anyway. Please note, I'm an IT Manager - I have nothing to hide - but the machines I use contain information on how to access other machines at my workplace. Providing access to the data on those machines, sited in the UK, is considered a breach of the Data Protection Act in the UK as they hold personal information. It's even a bit more serious than that, as I work for schools.

As such, case law prevents me even revealing those passwords to anyone without just cause or a court order. The penalties apply to ME, not just my employer. There are even cases where even the POTENTIAL to access the data (i.e. giving someone the password, even if they can't use it without being on the right system, etc.) is considered no different to direct and provable access to the data.

My previous employer prevented staff taking data to France because they have a similar law, but it wasn't anywhere near as serious a threat to our ability to control the data under our protection.

So, sorry, I can't take any electronic equipment holding that information into the US whatsoever. Others may interpret the situation differently, but I'm afraid the only interpretation that matters to me are the courts', and they have spoken many times on such matters and fined people heavily for doing so. I'm sure I could "get away" with it a billion times if I tried, but that's not how I conduct my professional or personal life.

As such, I wouldn't even bother to take a computer across the border in America. And given recent revelations, I don't think it wise to just take some hidden / memorised access credentials to the US and then use them when I'm then to - e.g. set up a blank / hired laptop.

Honestly, this is something I factored in when I was considering emigration many years ago. America pretty much ended up a no-go for me because of the attitude towards foreigners, and their casual approach to data, and their failure to sign many of the same agreements that all EU countries signed up to with regards data usage.

I wouldn't even bother to go there on holiday again - did it once, but now I wouldn't be able to take my laptop or my smartphone with good conscious as both contain encryption and access credentials that although if law-enforcement NEEDED them, I would provide, I do NOT expect law-enforcement to store it longer than necessary, duplicate it, or fail to provide assurances on the security of that data while it's in their possession. That's all you need to do - not even stop collecting the data, just tell me what you can and won't do with it so that I can take that piece of paper to a court (if it ever comes up) and say "Look, here's the assurance I was given when requested to hand over data by law enforcement - not my fault the data got into the wild" - even then, the case law says I'll still get fined but I think I have more of a chance of having the case swing my way under "reasonable efforts" to protect that data.

When you take my phone and laptop away, that cripples my ability to store my documentation (even my flight tickets), research my destinations, book hotels, navigate to places, etc. and I see it as unnecessary. So, basically, even as a place for a quick holiday, it's out of bounds.

And although the places I work for aren't the poorest, they aren't the richest either - so faffing about with blanked laptops is just too much shit to put up with.

Sorry, US. When you treat me like a prisoner, or an alien, with zero human rights, I don't want to be near you - like the bully in the playground. Have fun playing on your own.

All for the sake of a proper receipt, with some assurances that you won't just splurge my (and my employer's) private data onto the net the second I walk out the door...

First it's laptops at the border.... (1)

DewDude (537374) | about 9 months ago | (#45836871)

Next thing you know it'll be people coming in your house every day. If they're allowed to search your laptop without reason; *someone, somewhere* will use this to illegally everything. The Fourth Amendment had a good run; but this past-precedent will lead to it's invalidation. What's next? Free speech (which we barely have); the right to plead the fifth (which you can give up because a judge decides it). I feel like they've been violating the ninth just to get their way.

We need to just stop international travel. We need to stop leaving the country and people need to stop visiting. I can't think of a good reason for someone to visit the US anyway. "Greatest country in the world", if you consider treating everyone like a suspect great; if you consider getting people to rally behind the bill of rights and chanting "freedom" while at the same thing ripping these freedoms from under the people.

America isn't great; the only thing it's good at is being an example of how corporate greed and the greed of people can corrupt a great system; and how they can use this to oppress people.

America sucks. There, I said it.

And that's why... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836889)

...my company does not let us take work laptops to the USA.

Travel sans hard drive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45836901)

My laptop doesn't even have a hard drive in it. All it has is an SD card with a custom Ubuntu live ISO with OpenVPN and an RDP client installed. My data never leaves the house.

We fought a war for Independence over much less (5, Insightful)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 9 months ago | (#45836917)

Sad, isn't it? We live under far worse tyranny today than we did under King George III.

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