Skip to comments.Homeland Security formalizes laptop seizure rules -- sort of (Maybe Obama can Defrag my C Drive)
Posted on 09/02/2009 5:57:49 PM PDT by blueglass
For months it's been the policy (written or unwritten, no one is sure), that the Department of Homeland Security can do pretty much whatever it wants with your laptop, cell phone, or other electronic gadgets when you, a U.S. citizen, return to the country from overseas.
It's understandable why they want our laptops: If you're a terrorist, chances are you have the plans to destroy the world just sitting in your inbox, and the feds would like the chance to read them while you're waiting in line at the airport. But going through multiple gigabytes of data takes time, and so DHS has filled its vaults with the laptops of the multitude, often sitting on them for months and years as they try to figure out what to do with the bounty.
Consumer rights groups haven't exactly been thrilled with all the arbitrary searches and seizures, and for months they've been pressing for DHS to formalize and clarify the rules on what it can do. At last, the department has.
(Excerpt) Read more at tech.yahoo.com ...
This is BS, pure and simple. It’s anti-Constitutional. Absent articulable probable cause, there is no reason for ANY governmental agency to keep any data storage device. And, that PC should be sufficient to get a search warrant.
This is getting way out of hand. It’s time to take back the country.
The obvious solution is to take a laptop with no data or software in it, and a sealed case. You get around this problem by putting encrypted information on the Internet, which you download at your destination. And have you OS and software on an encrypted thumb drive.
If they crack open your case, you will know it, and can have it searched for any new parts they added. If they get your thumb drive, they will have to crack its password, but that will only give them access to licensed software, so any changes made to it you can just wipe.
This leaves your online data. Since you can be compelled to divulge your password, use Truecrypt to encrypt it with two passwords, one of which will just reveal non-sensitive data. In addition, you can make your real password too long to remember, then split it in half, and give the other half to someone outside their jurisdiction, who will only return it when you have reached your destination.
The government is treating electronic devices the same as all the other possessions you have with you, subject to search without any suspicion required.
you’re only half right- it’s unconstitutional were a Republican president....it’s appluaded when a rat-winger is in the WH....
There's a problem here?
I would kind of like to keep my country safe, and one way is to STOP stuff at the national border ~ and that's what's going on here.
We once had a computer seized by Customs. By "we" I mean our office at USPS ~ we found difficulty sending the PC into Canada and getting it back.
Eventually Canada was allowed to import improved technology so those PCs became OK. ZIP Drives hadn't been invented yet.
Actually, it’s not BS, it is rather constitutional, and requires no search warrant, as you are importing these devices into the United States, even though you’re carrying it, and as such, anything imported, even personal property, can be taxed, seized and searched at the border.
And it’s not just laptops - your iPod can be a tasty treat for DHS, or perhaps some cds or DVDs that are in your luggage. There’s been cases where master discs for record companies, mixed in Canada, have been seized at the border, and it can take months to get them back.
Just like how many of us take a carry on bag with a change of clothes in it, just in case our suitcase is lost (with a DHS lock on it, so they can more easily open it...), anyone who takes technology on the road should have important documents backed up online, perhaps using Google Docs, or a company secure FTP site.
And those priceless family pictures you take while overseas - it could easily be worth your time to use the WiFi in your hotel to upload them to Flicker, or a similar site, so you can access them when you get back, just in case the data card in your camera has to make a side trip.
I’m loathe to advocate for the government to give up it’s constitutional and sovereign right to seize items entering the country, and even more worried that outrage over these pretty rare takings will result in solutions such as a station at border crossings to mirror off your entire hard drive, as those procedures would become standard for all laptops, rather than the rarity.
More annoying would be all digital media being copied off, and having to provide documentation of ownership for all your MP3’s, software programs, etc.
The sick thing is, it is infinitely easy to sidestep all these border crossings - a note card home, inserting your photo SD card will probably never be checked, nor would probably an encrypted e-mail, or a secure FTP transfer. But the truth is, most criminals are idiots - lazy, taking the easiest way, and these DHS seizures provide constant results, nabbing child pornographers, data thieves, and even tax evaders who have helpfully documented on their computer all the illegal overseas money transfers.
Really, my biggest worry is that the EFF or another group will continue to press the DHS on this issue, and rather than a rarity, data seizures at the border will become the standard. If you don’t want some drone at DHS to have your data, don’t bring it to them.
As for the solutions of using encryption on your drive, that’s just like waving red meat under their noses, you’ll make them want to know /more/ about you the harder you make it to examine your data. The method I say will guarantee that your luggage would be opened is if you line it with a substance that prevents it from being x-rayed. Same thing with data - the presence of an encryption package will make it more likely for your laptop to be seized, and in the end, provide less protection.
Do you think George Bush took the waterboarding secret with him when he left?
“A federal district court in Vermont has ruled that the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination does not bar the government from requiring Sebastien Boucher, who faces charges of possessing child pornography, to decrypt his laptop hard drive. A lower court had previously quashed a subpoena compelling Boucher to enter his password, reasoning that this was tantamount to requiring a defendant to testify against himself.”
Importantly, this is just the most recent ruling. This issue is far from settled. But a federal district court decision means that, as things stand, you have to assume a password can be coerced from you.
This is why the freeware TrueCrypt is so useful right now, because it provides double passwords. One is the real password, that decrypts the files you want to protect, and the other is a “plausible deniability”, or “duress” password, that will decrypt real, but harmless files.
Because of the nature of the encryption, they cannot tell how much data is hidden inside the encryption, so the trick can likely work.
In addition, I proposed a secondary means of splitting an unmemorable password in two, so that the files cannot be decrypted without the help of a confederate who is out of the jurisdiction of the court. And they will only provide it to you when you have reached your destination. They might even have instructions to destroy their half if it is not recovered by a given date.
I had my laptop searched after I had checked it at Oakland. I checked it as Luggage and when I got it back it had the seals broken. Of course there was nothing in it of any value or I wouldn’t have checked it.
I gotta admit, all this stuff is making it less likely that I will present at foreign conferences (I had enough crap getting into Canada). I can't afford to have my computer or iTouch taken by
Any MP3 player works just fine. There is a very slight risk when you cross national boundaries (be it to Canada, the United States, etc) that your electronics could be subject to search (which means seizure, since the drone taking it likely couldn't figure out what a playlist is...)
So, just make sure you have your music on a MP3 player which you can afford to replace. That's pretty standard even ignoring the international boundary issue, as mp3 players are high value targets for thieves - never take one on travels that you can't afford to replace.
If you store your music files on your laptop, and intend on taking that laptop with you, move the files off of your laptop onto an external drive and leave that drive behind.
But let's make it pretty clear here - right now, one in a hundred thousand electronic devices are seized at the border as part of customs. With increased pressure, that could change to one in a thousand - a pretty rare occurrence, and one that you shouldn't be overly concerned with.
I have a cheap MP3 player that I use while exercising. Do you suggest I take that one and leave the iTouch at home?
Not Constitutional does not mean anything unless you have a means do prove what you assert. I do not agree what is being done to America but it is becoming very apparent to me that just because something isn’t constitutional does not mean much to people who are determined to reek havoc on us. “Prove it” is what they are saying, knowing full well it will take a long time to do just that. They know how much damage they can do while we spin our wheels proving what is simple and honorable for most of us America loving folks to know, obey and understand.