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ACLU Sues For Records On Border Laptop Searches

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the what-are-you-looking-at dept.

Privacy 337

TechPolitik writes "The ACLU has sued the US Customs and Border Protection agency under the Freedom of Information Act, aiming to obtain records on the agency's policy of searching laptops at the border. Under the policy, the CBP can search through financial records, photos, and Web site histories, and retain that information for unspecified periods of time. The ACLU is arguing that the information is necessary to understand whether the CBP may be violating the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable and unwarranted searches. The agency has so far not responded to requests for comment."

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337 comments

It's a search without a warrant. (5, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211717)

Yes, it's a fourth amendment violation.

-jcr

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (5, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211771)

Congrats - you're the first (of many) posts by people who have not read the entire Constitution. UNREASONABLE searches may not be conducted without a warrant, not ALL searches. It's up to the courts to determine after the fact whether someone's rights were violated with an unreasonable warrantless search, not slashdot armchair lawyers. Write to your congresscritters to let them know you think it is unreasonable so they can put pressure on the executive branch to not do the search in the first place.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (4, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211803)

UNREASONABLE searches may not be conducted without a warrant,

They're not showing any probable cause, either. Routine searches with no grounds for suspicion are unreasonable, QED.

-jcr

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (4, Informative)

Atlantis-Rising (857278) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212051)

It has always been my understanding that the Supreme Court has determined that the border is where the powers of the executive to order searches has been at its zenith.

More precisely, warrants are not required at the border.

So, within that confluence of factors, the searches were probably quite legally acceptable.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (1, Interesting)

Architect_sasyr (938685) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212107)

But... aren't the laptops already across the border when they are searched? The border is a very very thin line, so either these searches are being conducted in (say), Mexico without the Mexican Governments permission, or they are being conducted inside the US. At which point has it been defined that the US border is a fuzzy line a mile wide - and why are Mexican "illegals" not permitted to step foot within this fuzzy line when apparently the laws they are trying to get to are permitted to get bent there.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (4, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212217)

But... aren't the laptops already across the border when they are searched? The border is a very very thin line

For better or worse the legal system assumes that you haven't actually crossed the border until you clear customs/immigration. Otherwise there wouldn't be much point to having those functions at international airports wholly contained within the United States.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (3, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212267)

But... aren't the laptops already across the border when they are searched?

Perhaps, but the US government has the authority (and exercises it) to establish "processing zones" for the examination of people and goods being transported/imported to the US before releasing them to move freely within said borders.

Otherwise, according to your rather tortured and fuzzy "logic", we'd have to locate airports at the precise border of the US and disallow any international flights except for those which land there. But since that makes little sense on the face of pure logistics, we instead establish the security system such that the plane touches down, and then passengers/cargo are inspected before being released from the confines of the airport itself.

This goes the same for the inspection of ships at a port as well, for example. The "border" of the US may have been crossed at the line of the territorial waters, but the ship and cargo may be inspected at any time by the authority of the US as delegated to the port authority or other law enforcement agencies.

and why are Mexican "illegals" not permitted

I see you are trying to troll and get a rise out of someone here, as well as exposing your rather pointless agenda. Please grow up.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (-1, Flamebait)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212513)

Otherwise, according to your rather tortured and fuzzy "logic", we'd have to locate airports at the precise border of the US and disallow any international flights except for those which land there.

Which gives rise to the question my old high school math teacher asked us once. If an aircraft crashes in the middle of the Rio Grande, and half the passengers were Mexican and half were American, and the aircraft was registered in Liberia, where would the survivors be buried?

No, don't answer that. Really. Don't.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (1)

lastgoodnickname (1438821) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212335)

100 miles is thin?

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (4, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212179)

So, within that confluence of factors, the searches were probably quite legally acceptable.

Indeed, the term "reasonable," as it has been permuted by the lawyers through the centuries, no longer bears much resemblance to how a reasonable man would use it.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (1)

Atlantis-Rising (857278) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212325)

"Reasonable", like the term "Reasonable Man'', has a rather precise legal meaning these days. It still makes sense... if you accept that the point of the law is to narrow as much as possible the definition of any particular word.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212193)

They're not showing any probable cause, either. Routine searches with no grounds for suspicion are unreasonable, QED.

My understanding is that Customs doesn't need any suspicion to search anything crossing the border.
They can even open any in/outbound international mail. [loc.gov]
Can you provide any citations that say Customs is not allowed to search [anything] at the border?

I believe the limit is that they are not allowed to conduct invasive procedures (shoving a finger up your ass, exploratory surgery) without a warrant.
Oh, and diplomats.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (4, Informative)

aynoknman (1071612) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212279)

IANAL, but IAACWSTDHSTTATTTUSA*

My understanding is that any attempt to board a plane or cross a border, implies consent, which makes the searches consensual. If you don't want to be searched, don't try to get on the plane or enter or leave the country.

*I am a Canadian who since the Department of Homeland Security, tries to avoid traveling to the USA.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (4, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212327)

Can you provide any citations that say Customs is not allowed to search [anything] at the border?

It's not for me or anyone else to prove that a given power doesn't exist. it's up to the officers who wish to exercise that power to prove their legitimacy.

-jcr

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (2, Informative)

arminw (717974) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212499)

... it's up to the officers who wish to exercise that power to prove their legitimacy....

BS. It is up to the courts, the Supreme Court specifically, to decide what power the officers are allowed to exercise under the Constitution. Apparently they have decided not to significantly limit the searching authority of customs and immigration officials that country's borders. Apparently, the usual protections against searches do not apply at border entry points.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (4, Insightful)

belmolis (702863) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211823)

The OP may be well aware of the fact that only "unreasonable" warrantless searches are forbidden by the 4th amendment. He neither states nor implies that all warrantless searches are illegal. It's quite possible that he has reached his conclusion that these searches are illegal because he believes them to be unreasonable. I think you're the one making assumptions.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211915)

He neither states nor implies that all warrantless searches are illegal
 
He states it directly - read the message title straight through to the text: "It's a search without a warrant. Yes, it's a fourth amendment violation." He makes no mention of thinking it unreasonable and by leaving the word "unreasonable" out he implies he thinks the Constitution protects all searches unless there is a warrant. If he knows better, he can feel free to clarify his position in a new post. If you read his journal you'll see he comes across as a Libertarian so it's proabably an amazing day he'd support the ACLU's position. Although against my inclinations as well, I must agree with the ACLU that it's an unreasonable search. So in this case the original posting probably is a case of forgetting the word "unreasonable". Still, there are going to be plenty of people who read it who interpret it to mean that all searches need a warrant. Look at all the people who screamed about the wiretaps between US based phone numbers and phone numbers of terror suspects overseas as being unreasonable searches that need warrants.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (3, Insightful)

belmolis (702863) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212003)

Sorry but his subject header together with the single sentence of the post still do not claim that all warrantless searches are illegal.

What he writes in his journal doesn't really bear on his post. The point is not figuring out what his reasoning process may have been, it's whether what he states in his post is ignorant or illogical. And its not unreasonable to treat warrantless searches as by default illegal since that is a pretty good approximation to the Supreme Court's position. Within the US, there has to be either no expectation of privacy or exigent circumstances for a warrantless search to be permissible. There is somewhat more leeway at the border but when you're getting into searches of material for which there is a significant expectation of privacy and on the other hand only a very limited relevance to the lawful purposes of border inspection, the bias against warrantless searches is appropriate.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (2, Informative)

arminw (717974) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212527)

...that it's an unreasonable search...

Honestly, if they are allowed to search all your luggage, why should they not be allowed to search through your laptop as well? Where does anybody here on /. get the idea that digital information is somehow privileged above real-world goods? If you have such super-secret information, why carry it on your laptop? Put it safely encrypted on a server either in the USA or elsewhere and then access it over a secure Internet connection. For crying out loud, is it really necessary to carry your entire pron collection across borders?

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (4, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211859)

have not read the entire Constitution

As it happens, I've not only read it, I re-read it periodically, and i'm also familiar with the debates that surrounded its ratification. This kind of routine violation of privacy was among the reasons that we overthrew our king, and was a major issue that impeded ratification of the constitution before the bill of rights was drafted.

-jcr

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (1)

jhol13 (1087781) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212339)

I re-read it periodically

Why?

I mean it is 200 years old document, some of it is hardly relevant today. We (Finns) have had several changes to constitution as we see the world change.

Every time I hear argument "it is against constitution" it does sound very, very much like a religious argument. Like now, going down to an interpretation of a single word on it, just like reading the bible. Sharia comes to mind (law based on some, sometimes strict, interpretation of the koran).

If you do relate it like to a religious writing I must apologise, I intend no offence.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (4, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212375)

It's not a religious writing, it's a contract. It is the entirety of the legal basis for the power of our government. If we permit them to ignore it for convenience, then we no longer have the rule of law, we have the rule of men, and history has shown us many times that an unlimited government is extremely dangerous.

-jcr

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (1)

michaelhood (667393) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212405)

Why?

I mean it is 200 years old document, some of it is hardly relevant today.

Too bad you're not American-born, you'd make a great modern president.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29212429)

I would much rather have people being rabid fundamentalists about the US Constitution than most of the 'real' religions in the world today.

The Constitution can (and has) changed over the years. It's not the 'same' document from 200 years ago, but mostly is. Most of the principles that were instilled into it are still relevant today, though there were things in the Constitution that the founding fathers probably never dreamed would happen (I'm pretty sure '90 years past the death of the author' as a copyright term would probably fall under their definition of 'unreasonably long'.).

The problem with changing the Constitution is that it takes a huge amount of effort and a large majority of the population needs to be behind it. This is a double-edged sword. It means that the Constitution doesn't just get changed on a 'whim' of the current political ideas, but it also means that there are some very good ideas that should probably be inserted into the Constitution that don't even get mentioned because of the general-public's apathy towards any political isn't that isn't religiously or emotionality charged.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (1)

TheModelEskimo (968202) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212465)

>I mean it is 200 years old document, some of it is hardly relevant today.

I'd be interested to know which parts in particular you think are "hardly relevant."

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (4, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211781)

The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution:

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.

There is one phrase there that might of interest - "unreasonable searches and seizures". And there hangs the ACLU's case. Are these searches "unreasonable"?

In my opinion, they probably are.

But a good lawyer can make a lot of mileage out of one key word, and "unreasonable" will probably be the word more argued over in this lawsuit.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29211811)

I think the phrase of interest is "probable cause". Is crossing the boarder probable cause for having illegal data?

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211947)

Also, don't forget this tidbit: "and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Searching the hard drive is one thing. Imaging the entire hard drive, and keeping that image on file for an undetermined period of time, is another thing entirely.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (5, Interesting)

CRC'99 (96526) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211955)

The fun part is - that as a non-US citizen, I look at something like this and think "What the hell is the US Government wanting to know what people have on their computer as they visit the US?".

What happened to the whole idea of freedoms and liberty for all that every US history class tells you America was founded on?

The more I hear about this kind of thing happening, the less I want to visit the US and chance of me doing business with American businesses gets lower and lower.

It seems to this foreigner that the US government needs to be told to pull it's fucking head in and act like a government - not the Gestapo.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (0, Troll)

angelwolf71885 (1181671) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212065)

got some news from you the socialist EU is 1000x worse

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (5, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212125)

got some news from you the socialist EU is 1000x worse

That's odd: I work in a company where employees can be sent all over the world with laptops, and the only country where we've received specific instructions on the carriage of sensitive information while crossing the border is America.

It's possible that you're correct and the EUSSR is actually 1000x worse, but from foreign companies' standpoints travel to America is becoming a serious liability; your policies are going to harm your economy far more than EVIL LAPTOP TERRORISTS ever will.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (0, Troll)

angelwolf71885 (1181671) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212185)

while you may not of gotten a warning while traveling within the EU im very sure they also look trough your computer.. witch they have no real right to do at all.. unless the FBI or interpol has you on a known terror list or pervert list theres no resin they ( EU or my gov USA ) has the right to know my private life and i fully aree with you our polliceys are gunna be our undoing its sad really i miss the clition era..

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (0, Flamebait)

mckinleyn (1288586) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212283)

You are an incoherent babbler. Please attempt to pay attention in your high school English course. Then perhaps we will be able to understand you and critique your logic instead.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (1, Insightful)

Omestes (471991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212289)

While you may not of gotten a warning while traveling within the EU, I'm very sure they also look through your computer which they have no real right to do at all. Unless the FBI or Interpol has you on a known terror list, or pervert list there is no reason they (the EU, or my government the USA) has the right to know my private life. I fully agree with you, our policies are going to be be our undoing, it is sad really. I miss the Clinton era...

I was going to give a running tally of the errors, misspellings, and typos... But I gave up. Here is a free tip, in a fully text based medium, people judge you by your ability to type out a well formed thought/sentence. If you're too lazy to write it well, then your probably too lazy to bother with complex thoughts, or justified opinions.

Also, Clinton was also a wanker, and didn't do much for privacy rights, or rights in general.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29212427)

...then you're probably too lazy to bother with complex thoughts, or justified opinions.

There, fixed that for you.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (4, Interesting)

GumphMaster (772693) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212225)

Not once have I had to surrender my fingerprint(s) to cross the border of an EU (or even non-US) nation.

Not once has my laptop hard disk been imaged and stored as I crossed the border of an EU country.

Not once has my employer outright banned carrying our work-a-day laptop on trips to EU countries. My last employer, a large US company subsidiary, even issued clean machines to people travelling to the US because (clearly) the corporation doesn't trust its own government officials. Of course, all our files were still available on the global corporate network, which made a joke of the border controls anyway.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29212085)

The problem is that both parties are going more and more towards a nanny state. Currently the libs have almost total control, so dont try and go blaming everything on Bush. Sure he wasn't completely clean, but Obama, who is the New Messiah of the Democrats, is looking to be worse. Funny how rapidly his public support is dropping now.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (0, Troll)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212263)

It seems to this foreigner that the US government needs to be told to pull it's fucking head in and act like a government - not the Gestapo.

Yes, because searching your laptop at the border is exactly the same as rounding up minorities and sending them to death camps. It's exactly the same as hanging enemies of the state with piano wire after "convictions" obtained in a kangaroo court. The United States Department of Homeland Security also operates without any form of judicial or legislative oversight and is answerable only to President Obama.

You raised good points in the rest of your post but this last comparison of yours is utterly absurd.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29212331)

It's just the first step though...

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (2, Insightful)

dbet (1607261) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212281)

The fun part is - that as a non-US citizen, I look at something like this and think "What the hell is the US Government wanting to know what people have on their computer as they visit the US?"

They don't want to know what's on your laptop - not really. There's 3 factors here. First, they enjoy intimidating people. It makes them feel important. Not because they're assholes, but because they're human. Part of the reason for the bill of rights is to protect us from ourselves. We are all capable of terrible things.

Second, on the off chance they get lucky and find some questionable porn, raises all around.

Third, they probably honestly believe they're protecting the border by making sure you didn't store your terrorist plans in a folder called "terrorist plans" right on your desktop.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (1)

michaelhood (667393) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212461)

They don't want to know what's on your laptop - not really. There's 3 factors here. First, they enjoy intimidating people. It makes them feel important. Not because they're assholes, but because they're human. Part of the reason for the bill of rights is to protect us from ourselves. We are all capable of terrible things.

There's so much wrong with that statement it's hard to pick a point so I can coherently counter your foolishness.

That said- I assure you that the founders of this country didn't believe we needed protecting from ourselves. That's an English thing.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (2, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211973)

People get hung up on "unreasonable" of the phrase quoted above ...

The problem is, we forget the PURPOSE which is defined by

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects

How secure are the rights of the people if simply crossing a border causes a violation of the 4th amendment's purpose?

Sorry, but as the Federal Government of the US continues to erode all the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, all in the name of "security" (border searches), "welfare" (Universal HealthCare), "protection" (Gun Control), and neither of the two big parties really fighting for these rights, I'm left wondering what's next?

Oh right, totalitarianism under the rule of the Chinese (who own the US). Guess what folks, the (R) and (D) are killing us slowly, and most Americans don't care because they see one side or the other as "good" when in reality they are both evil.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (4, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212291)

Oh right, totalitarianism under the rule of the Chinese (who own the US)

Please stop repeating this myth. China doesn't "own" the US. It doesn't even own a majority or even a quarter of the outstanding US debt. Here [optimist123.com] is an interesting pie chart for your consideration. The data is a little out of date (I believe the Chinese have since surpassed the Japanese as the largest foreign creditor) but it shows that the overwhelming majority of the US debt is owned by the US Government itself.

This is what happens when the Government borrows money from the social security trust fund and other such accounting gimmicks. The second largest holder is American citizens and institutions. Foreign creditors account for the remainder, of which China doesn't even have a majority.

BTW, I agree with everything else you said.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (2, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212341)

the overwhelming majority of the US debt is owned by the US Government itself.

You know, if any private organization replaced its pension funds with its own bonds, someone would be doing time for it.

-jcr

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (2, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212473)

Yeah, it's real cute how that works, isn't it?

BTW, I love your sig :)

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (5, Insightful)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211807)

ACLU's kind of taking a weird angle at it, but I fully support their cause.

The retention period of the data is irrelevant, in my opinion. The fact that they deem fit to search laptops or other electronic devices at all without probable cause, let alone a warrant, and considering the highly private nature of most peoples electronic devices, seems obviously contrary to the intentions of the 4th amendment.

Physical searches to board airplanes, regardless of destination seem very reasonable given the public endangerment risk from terrorism like sabotage, bombs, hijacking, etc. Beyond addressing physical security risks, other types of searches should not be conducted without a warrant. If they deem someone a risk, they can detain them and obtain a warrant. If it's not worth the effort to obtain a warrant, then the search isn't justified.

Simple as that.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (2, Interesting)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211863)

Now, let's be clear here, I'm surprised that the ACLU is getting involved in this, it being a genuine civil rights issue and all, but the fourth amendment does not say what you think it does.

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.

I'm not sure what the underlying right this thing is supposed to affirm, but the writers seem to have left themselves some wiggle room in key phrases like, "unreasonable searches." Why did they specify "unreasonable" searches as prohibited and not just "searches." without qualifier? The tenth amendment would seem to apply at least, but when have we ever seen the government actually obey the tenth?

The logical conclusion is that warrants are not required in all circumstances, and national borders would seem to be an appropriate location for some amount of searching (for contraband, at least). As there is no prohibition on data entering the country, I'm at a loss as to why border agents would be interested in or have authority to search laptops beyond checking that they are, in fact, actually laptops.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (4, Interesting)

belmolis (702863) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211923)

As there is no prohibition on data entering the country, I'm at a loss as to why border agents would be interested in or have authority to search laptops beyond checking that they are, in fact, actually laptops.

Actually, some data is prohibited, e.g. child pornography. In any case, the claim is that they are looking for evidence that the owner of the laptop is a terrorist. The documents that constitute such evidence might well not be prohibited entry, but they would be useful in determining whether or not to admit the bearer. It's just like examining someone's papers. There's nothing illegal about bringing identification papers into the US, but if someone claims to be a tourist and turns out to have papers that identify him as, say, a member of an Iranian intelligence agency, that would bear on whether or not to admit him to the US.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212321)

In any case, the claim is that they are looking for evidence that the owner of the laptop is a terrorist.

Ah yes, terrorism. The new boogieman that replaced drunk driving and child molesters. Wouldn't any halfway smart terrorist just buy a laptop here in the states and download whatever he needs through an encrypted connection to the terrorist data center back home in Dirkadirkastan?

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (2, Interesting)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212445)

What would be interesting to know is some figures on: # of searches, country of origin of the person (e.g. American citizen returning from vacation in England VS American Immigrant returning from vacation in England), gender - it would be real interesting to find out how many women or % of all female travelers have laptops searched.

Likewise, how many mega-millionaires, diplomats, US Politicans, Law enforcement or Judges have been searched? I'd be willing to bet if enough of them are searched laws will change real quick.

Who does the imaging of the drives? I'm asking in the sense of an even further reaching-question. Suppose someone working for a Secret or TS level clearance (these examples are piss poor but just to make the point: an aviation engineer or IRS employee) is coming back across the border. Worker brought their S or TS work with them on laptop encrypted etc. etc. overseas on a project/assignment. Guy looks a bit nervous/sweaty. Border people know he's a gov't employee but decide to him anyways. He "looks" suspicious.

Wouldn't the person imaging the hard drive get into a huge heap of trouble if they manage to access and keep the S or TS data especially if they don't have that level of clearance?

By extension, if the data isn't properly secured after imaging -especially if undetermined retention time- and your company's - data gets stolen. Couldn't there be a massive lawsuit as a result of the loss of the data - competitor could have it, etc?

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212123)

If it just said searches then any police investigation would be almost impossible. The implication is that awarrant is given after review that a certain search is reasonable. Now days, some have a flat reasonable status (cop sees a bloody trail in the park leading to a car trunk). The visible evidence makes it justifiable, even without a judges warrant.

Re:It's a search without a warrant. (1)

arbiter1 (1204146) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212343)

If remember hearing right, they can confiscate your laptop for indefinite period of time.

Here's an idea (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29211737)

put a single txt file on the desktop that says something like...

I put all my illegal materials on the OTHER laptop

;-)

Re:Here's an idea (1)

weirdcrashingnoises (1151951) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211761)

at the soviet border, laptop searches you

Re:Here's an idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29212083)

Hate to break it to ya, but the U.S. Supreme Court has construed the "unreasonable" part of the 4th amendment in a very narrow manner when it comes to border-related searches. Probably along the lines of you have no right to international travel.

Re:Here's an idea (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212121)

Who takes their laptop to Mexico?

Limited internet connections and a high probability of being hit over the head and the laptop taken.

Re:Here's an idea (1)

asticia (1623063) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212253)

World does not consist only of US, Canada and Mexico. There is couple more continents behind oceans.

National security... (2, Insightful)

bfmorgan (839462) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211751)

They roll out the "We can't release this information because of National Security" excuse one more time.

The 4th amendment is only for criminals! (4, Insightful)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211777)

Why would you want to hide anything from the government? Why would you not want them to keep all your personal information indefinitely?

What do you have to hide? You must be a communist^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h criminal^h^h^h^h^h^h^h terrorist since you want to have privacy from the government.

Re:The 4th amendment is only for criminals! (1, Troll)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212137)

a year or two ago I would have somewhat felt inclined towards such statements. Not complete agrement but acknowledging that it has a point. The way things have been accelerating towards socialism in the US recently, it just scares me now.

Re:The 4th amendment is only for criminals! (3, Informative)

highplansdrifter (1017356) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212383)

Socialism is an economic policy, not a personal freedom policy. The US is accelerating towards totalitarianism. Oddly enough I recall having entered a number of those socialist countries that some Americans like to rant about without any ridiculous searches.

more info (3, Interesting)

belmolis (702863) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211791)

You can read the ACLU's press release here [aclu.org] and its Freedom of Information Act request here [aclu.org] .

I'm also curious as to what happens when information is encrypted. In the case of a non-citizen, they may be able to refuse entry if someone will not decrypt it, but they can't refuse entry to a US citizen.

Re:more info (1)

MrMista_B (891430) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211933)

No, but your laptop can be permanantly seized, and you can be indefinately imprisoned for non-compliance.

Re:more info (5, Informative)

rhook (943951) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212025)

Its not non-compliance when a federal judge has ruled that you cannot be forced to reveal your encryption keys. http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-9834495-38.html [cnet.com]

Re:more info (2, Insightful)

asticia (1623063) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212171)

And if I enter country with freshly formatted laptop? Like wiped completely clean. Will it be suspicious as well? Sure they may want to find something behind it. I do not wanna get my laptop being held for indefinite amount of time just because I bought it day ago and haven't had time to bring it up yet ...

Very Tricky but pathbreaking area (3, Interesting)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211799)

Legally pathbreaking but also very potentially damaging.
If ACLU wins based on fourth amendment basis on the right of people to be secure in their persons & papers, then the border searches will be extremely time consuming as each search will need to accompanied by a warrant from a judge.
In short people will start to hate the border patrol more and DHS will get the blame.
OTOH, if the judge decides that People are NOT people until they enter USA and that the laws of the land do not apply to them until they enter, then it becomes much more abusive.
Border Patrol can easily strip search every 18-yr old girl, in the presence of her parents, and easily barge through every suitcase she has. Also, they can drag a "Person of Interest" to the border, search him, and bring him back.
This raises hackles everywhere.
 

Re:Very Tricky but pathbreaking area (5, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211825)

If ACLU wins based on fourth amendment basis on the right of people to be secure in their persons & papers, then the border searches will be extremely time consuming as each search will need to accompanied by a warrant from a judge.

You say that like it's a bad thing. I for one don't consider it advantageous for violations of my right to privacy to be simple and convenient for all concerned.

-jcr

Re:Very Tricky but pathbreaking area (4, Insightful)

nickheart (557603) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212005)

Three cheers! Just because I have nothing to hide doesn't mean I'm not offended when my privacy is offended.

Re:Very Tricky but pathbreaking area (5, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212361)

I'd got a bit farther than that, and say that i consider it a citizen's duty to require public employees to obey the law. If a cop ever wants to search my car in the future, my answer will be "officer, sorry for the inconvenience, but if you believe you have probable cause to search my vehicle, then you shouldn't have any difficulty convincing a judge to issue a warrant. I'll wait."

-jcr

Re:Very Tricky but pathbreaking area (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212151)

I think he means that they will do it for everyone, meaning you just get to wait at the gate longer now while they do it anyway.

Re:Very Tricky but pathbreaking area (2, Insightful)

belmolis (702863) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211875)

I don't think that all of the consequences you propose are realistic. If the courts decide that warrants are necessary, the result will be the termination of most laptop searches, for two reasons. First, the burden of obtaining a warrant for each search would be prohibitive. Second, a judge will only issue a warrant if there is probable cause, which in most cases there won't be.

As for dragging people to the border to search them, that won't happen because the US government lacks the authority to remove a citizen from the country except by court ordered extradition. Note that bringing a US citizen to the border would not be sufficient to license a warrantless search: it would be necessary to remove him from the US since customs inspection applies only to persons entering the US from abroad.

Re:Very Tricky but pathbreaking area (3, Informative)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211901)

a judge will only issue a warrant if there is probable cause, which in most cases there won't be.

Well, a judge who takes his duty seriously will hold to that standard. Sadly, law enforcement officers routinely find pet judges who'll issue a warrant just because the cop says he wants it.

-jcr

Re:Very Tricky but pathbreaking area (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212071)

It happens, but "routinely"? Care to back that up?

Re:Very Tricky but pathbreaking area (2, Informative)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212315)

Follow Radley Balko's stories at Reason.com.

-jcr

Re:Very Tricky but pathbreaking area (1)

lastgoodnickname (1438821) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212299)

the border is 100 miles or more wide these days

These peanuts are the BOMB! (5, Insightful)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211853)

Its a fishing expedition, they dont have cause other than visiting a 3rd world country. Visiting a 3rd world country = sex crimes they say, wrong.

Myself, I'm such an asshole, I'd military format the laptop HD, with a "FUCK CUSTOMS!!!" dos bootup banner, before I come back into the USA, after I copied anything over the Internet to my home PC. Of course I'd lose my laptop, because they would take it to scan the HD for anything.

Really, I'm already pissed I have to take my shoes off to fly, like my shoes are now a terrorist threat.

When they hire bagage handlers at minium wages, and these fuckers steal laptops. I read that over 1000 laptops are stolen from the aiports a week. WTF? So by this logic, if there was a terrorist threat, they could just plant a bomb on the luggage.

I'm so tired of the "Security theater" show they put on. its a scam. At least some of us are actually calling them out on this bullshit. Bravo for the ACLU for doing this. I walk a fine line at protesting and getting tazed for being a smart ass. I know one of these days my comments at "these peanuts are the bomb" are going to land my ass in federal prison. But at least I can write a book and make a million..

Damn what a country.

Re:These peanuts are the BOMB! (4, Informative)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211867)

By the way, yes I'm drunk when I posted this. :)

Re:These peanuts are the BOMB! (1)

JDub87 (1391689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212087)

SUWUTI!

Re:These peanuts are the BOMB! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29212205)

Gee thanks! Now they are going to want us to do a breathalizer test while we wait for them to copy our hard drives.

Re:These peanuts are the BOMB! (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212109)

I'd military format the laptop

What is "military format"?

Re:These peanuts are the BOMB! (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212149)

What is "military format"?

Thermite and a couple of magazines from an M-16, if I remember correctly.

Re:These peanuts are the BOMB! (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212187)

I think he must be using the term differently if the disk is going to boot DOS and put up a banner.

Re:These peanuts are the BOMB! (1)

cbraescu1 (180267) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212333)

The banner also involves thermite ;-)

Re:These peanuts are the BOMB! (1)

andy_t_roo (912592) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212189)

overwrite with 0's / random data multiple times to ensure that not a single bit of usable data remains.

(not that it has been shown that you can recover data which has been overwritten even once with any degree of certanty (i believe the best that was done was recovering data overwritten once with zeros at between 80 and 90% success per bit, and that was an old drive using techniques which are not realistic today. the cost would be quite a few seconds electron microscope time per bit, so unless you potentially have data worth several thousand billion $, return on investment of extracting data is negative on any modern hard drive)

Re:These peanuts are the BOMB! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29212199)

i believe he means a DoD Wipe:
http://www.capasset.com/dod_wipe_datawipe.html

Just keep your data in the cloud and relax... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29212243)

...seriously.. I stopped keeping actual "data" on my laptops a couple years ago. Search away. It makes no difference to me. Hell, you can confiscate my laptop and I'm only out the value of a netbook.

The drive is ghosted, and my data isn't local.

Fuck you customs. You suck at technology.

Re:These peanuts are the BOMB! (4, Funny)

sukotto (122876) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212251)

Really, I'm already pissed I have to take my shoes off to fly, like my shoes are now a terrorist threat.

Just be glad that Reed didn't have that tiny little wad of explosives tucked into his underpants...

encryption FTW (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29211913)

Seriously - if you're going anywhere that you might not be able to totally control who has access to your system, *use encryption*.

Relationship to a recent story? (1)

WheelDweller (108946) | more than 4 years ago | (#29211987)

How does this mesh with the laptop searches "anytime, anywhere" from just a couple of weeks ago? Why would they JUST look at those at the border?

TrueCrypt - easy free, effective (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29212081)

OK so there is this program that is freely available, as easy to use as a removable hard disk, and offers completely unbreakable encryption.

They must be going for the stupid terrorist/criminals.

I don't even see why this is an issue.

Re:TrueCrypt - easy free, effective (1, Troll)

Omestes (471991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212329)

offers completely unbreakable encryption.

Is there such a thing? Unfeasible encryption maybe, but all encryption, AFAIK, is breakable given substantial investments of time and money. Even if brute forcing it would take longer than the Earth will be around, there always is finding weak spots in the algorithms, which might, perhaps, bring the cracking time down to at least feasible time frames (albeit in mere geological time).

And for the Mac users.. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212419)

There's FileVault. System Preferences->Security->FileVault.

-jcr

So Not Only.. (-1, Troll)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212165)

So not only will the government have the contents of your laptop, but now so will the ACLU. I can't decide which is worse.

Oh yes I can -- the ACLU!

The really scary part, (4, Insightful)

FSWKU (551325) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212231)

And the part that concerns me the most, is how they would likely defend against "unreasonable search" allegations. All they have to do is say the search is reasonable based upon suspicion that ANYONE travelling outside of the country could have been doing so for "evil" reasons. This could get them a magic "propable cause" allowance, and your stuff is still siezed/searched. So now we have the government worried that all people travelling abroad are potential terrorists, but they will hastily point out that it's only for people travelling abroad. There are no internal searches anywhere in the US (nevermind the dubious truth of that matter). Lovely choice you have their. Give up any/all information privacy, or never be allowed to leave your country. Sounds a wee bit too East Berlin to me...

Re:The really scary part, (3, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212401)

All they have to do is say the search is reasonable based upon suspicion that ANYONE travelling outside of the country could have been doing so for "evil" reasons

That's why we separated the executive and judicial powers in the constitution, and required anyone making such a claim to swear to it, and to convince a judge that their suspicion is reasonable before the judge can issue a warrant.

-jcr

Two words.. (1, Interesting)

Starfleet Command (936772) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212247)

Hidden Partition........ Put your pr0n and silly stuff there, keep the rest of the drive clean and clear. There searches are still unreasonable, but they can't fuss about what you have on there in this case

Re:Two words.. (4, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212443)

Never, ever carry porn over a border. Anywhere.

Hide your private information on a USB stick. (5, Insightful)

bezenek (958723) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212259)

Carry a large USB stick. Back up your personal information (browser history, saved email, etc.) to it and put it in your pocket or even better, mail it home to yourself at your destination before you board the airplane. When you arrive, replace the personal information.

Looking through browser history is equivalent to asking you to provide your personal diary in order to get into the country. Similarly, looking at your saved email is equivalent to requiring you to bring copies of all your personal correspondence for the previous 12 months in order to get into the country.

This is really, really disgusting, and should not happen in the United States of America.

Todd

Flash drive! (1, Interesting)

dagamer34 (1012833) | more than 4 years ago | (#29212287)

If you have pr0n, keep it on a Flash drive using HFS or ext3. Since all government computers are Windows, it'll ask "Please format drive." when you stick it in. BOOM! Instant win!
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