Travelers’ Laptops May Be Detained At Border

By | August 3, 2008

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.  –Washington Post

This is not acceptable. Our balance between freedom and security is way off in this case. The threat is not equal to the intrusion innocent people must endure.

And who is watching the watchers? Who is making sure that inside business information they obtain, for example, trade secrets, information about mergers, etc. is not being illegally used for profit by crooked insiders?

Obviously the thing to do is bring an old laptop you want to get rid of when you cross the border and put a slew of highly encrypted videos of your pet dog named “Nookular Secetion” on it as a protest. (Although, things being what they are, that might also be a way to get to see the inside of Gitmo and to try waterboading first hand until you confess your terrorist plot to blow up Saturn. )

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