Skip to comments.'Big Sis' Reasserts Unlimited Power to Seize and Inspect Laptops
Posted on 02/14/2013 10:07:55 AM PST by Kaslin
President Obama did not mention it in his State of the Union address last night, and there hasnt been much attention devoted to it in the Congress of late; but, the fundamental right to privacy Americans have a right to expect from their own government, has suffered yet another body blow.
On the surface, things seem to be in order. For example, at the beginning of February, the Federal Trade Commission released a staff report outlining consumer privacy recommendations for developers of mobile phone apps. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz called the recommendations best practices intended to safeguard consumer privacy, that would build trust in the mobile marketplace.
Unfortunately, the rest of the Obama Administration hasnt gotten the message.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), headed by Secretary Janet (Big Sis) Napolitano, just reaffirmed its policy that Americans returning home from travels abroad are subject to arbitrary searches and seizures of their computers and other electronic devices.
The controversy surrounding warrantless and suspicion-less searches at the U.S. border has been brewing for years. In 2009, for example, Napolitano asserted the governments right to inspect and detain electronics from all persons traveling into the United States, and to copy any information stored on those devices. Continuing this view, the departments Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties last week released its Civil Liberties Impact Assessment of the directives after originally setting a 120-day deadline back in August 2009.
As has become typical, the report contends the government can have its cake and eat it too. Confusingly, DHS concludes current border search policies comply with the Fourth Amendment, but that actually requiring federal agents to follow the Constitution would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits. In other words, what government is doing is constitutional even though the cost of following the Constitution would outweigh the benefits to be realized by the citizens. Clear? As mud.
Courts have long recognized the federal governments robust power to inspect people and goods entering the country. After all, the very foundation of national sovereignty is a nations ability to protect its borders. Until recently, however, this border search power was reasonably considered to be limited to physical searches necessary to discover illegal contraband attempted to be brought into the country; inspecting a travelers suitcases, for example.
The proliferation of electronic communications devices -- personal computers, iPads, Blackberries, and what not -- and the potential treasure trove of information contained in such devices, however, has pushed the government to assert the power and the right to inspect such devices and anything stored thereon, under the border search provision.
In Uncle Sams view, because evidence of potential criminal activity can be found in a laptop computers hard drive just as in the tourists suitcase following a visit to Mexico, the former enjoys no more protection against government snooping than the latter. This limitless perspective, and the vast power grab reflected in it -- based on nothing more than the fact that a person has travelled abroad and is returning to their home -- is preposterous. More important, this assertion seriously undermines the Fourth Amendments guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The average American returning from a trip abroad likely -- and understandably -- assumes the contents of his or her electronic device does not come close to meeting the threshold of criminal activity, such as would give a government agent the right to seize and peruse their iPad just because they are returning from a vacation. Government agents at our borders and ports of entry, however, are undeterred by such common sense and historically-sound notions of privacy.
In Napolitanos view, just because an iPad is being carried by an American student returning from a semester studying in London, instead of returning to New York from Los Angeles, it becomes fair game for her agents to seize, inspect, download and retain data; all without any suspicion whatsoever the devices owner has engaged in any illegal activity.
The exhaustive, three-year study conducted by the Department of Homeland is as flawed as most government reports. Unfortunately, unlike many other such projects, this one does more than just cost American taxpayers money; it comes at a heavy price to their fundamental, God-given right to privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to our Constitution.
I hope she likes brunettes with amble bosoms
No such thing as privacy in an electronic world.
The Obama folk pretty much believe they can do whatever the heck they want, and for the most part they pretty much do. The Constitution has become nothing more than a charade in this country to which the ruling class at best pays mere lip service and at worst expresses outright contempt.
VPN with heavy encryption?
The explanation that I read (from TSA or DHS, I forgot) was essentially that the internet does not exist, therefore all devices capable of transporting data must be inspected at the border.
Its becoming more and more plain to me by the day that there is no freedom without privacy, and that includes financial privacy.
Glad to see the government is so serious about Border security that they need to dig through my laptop. Nevermind swarms of Mexicans and South Americans sweeping across the border like the wildebeest migration in the Serengetti. Nevermind cargo container shipping boxes filled with Chinese arriving at every port.
Go after those laptops of Americans coing back from vacation. And also, does anyone believe for a moment that a GS bankster, a GE executive returning from China, etc, will have THEIR laptop seized? The nomenclatura will be left alone.
The problem is TERRORISTS with Obama-derived MANPADS
and Obama-derived Fast&Furious Weapons, and
Obama-derived Open borders, not Americans.
But Americans, and their wives and children’s genitals,
are easier, safer targets, because so far Americans
are mute and docile.
Never mind that one can get all that information from anywhere in the world without having to cross a border, making "border inspections" pointless other than as an invasion of privacy.
I haven't seen it on the thread yet, but here's a copy of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, for legacy purposes of course...
Hey! The Police need these powers. Someone might get hurt by incoming citizens with and evil intent. If there’s a risk to law enforcement personnel, or if we can save even one child’s life, it’s worth it.
“and the potential treasure trove of information contained in such devices, however, has pushed the government to assert”
We live in a no kidding, dictatorship. Everyone is looking for the Gulags or the nazi death camps. But that was 1930s thinking. The dictators of the USA have perfected a hundred ways to utterly destroy the lives of dissenters without killing them.
They “out Stalined” Stalin. And the GOP is just as guilty.
Article, and # 7.
Big Sis' Reasserts Unlimited Power to Seize and Inspect Laptops
These are the people in charge of our country ... with unlimited power, no legal or moral constraints.
They could drain our bank accounts in a heartbeat, and we'd never know who did it; we would be without protection or recourse to regain our losses.
“against unreasonable searches and seizures”
The government’s definition of “unreasonable” probably doesn’t match ours.
And a lot of this is done under the guise of “protecting children”. US law forbids a US citizen from having sex with anyone under a certain age (18?) anywhere on earth. This even if the US citizen s obeying all local laws.
But the precedent has been set that US citizens behavior in other countries can violate US law, even if all local laws of the other nation are carefully observed.
How long will it take them to apply this to financial law? To US Tax law? To US environmental law?
The door is opened that we are property of the US government no matter where we are. We can be on Mars and DC claims we must follow their edicts.
“They could drain our bank accounts in a heartbeat”
After the government’s redistribution of our wealth, there won’t be much left in the bank to drain anyway. If you are still worried, don’t keep all your eggs in one basket — diversify. Much of my meager wealth is invested in tangible assets that can only be liberated by the expenditure of gun powder.
Stop and frisk.
Total disregard and contempt for the supreme law of the land.
Love to stop and frisk the Libyan diplomats’ notebooks!
TrueCrypt is a great way to protect your data; it also has a way to hide virtual drives.
“TrueCrypt is a great way to protect your data; it also has a way to hide virtual drives.”
Better yet, just leave your toys at home when you travel. Give the f*ckers nothing to search or steal.
Yes, agreed, but there are times when one may have to take some toys for business reasons.
Where possible, thats best. Not everyone,, can do it, but for those who can,,,.
That’s one example of government by hysteria. Some appointees—mostly of the she type (boy wanna-bes)—have been threatening the populace and are trying to make messes. Somewhat like a child who picks her nose, tries to rub the offending matter on siblings, run to mom and make false allegations.
Like gun laws banning "assault" weapons, the gov't harasses the law abiding while the crooks just dance around the law.
In other words, this Fourth Amendment-free zone encompasses the areas inhabited by a large majority of the people of the United States.
An interesting map of the areas affected can be found here.
When there is no prospect of obtaining information that could only be obtained overseas, the search is by definition "unreasonable."
“Yes, agreed, but there are times when one may have to take some toys for business reasons.”
Here’s a question: Say you work for a Defense contractor and the Thugs Standing Around (TSA) demands your encryption key and then your passwords to your company device...do you get prosecuted or fired for doing so?
And say you just work for a private firm - can they fire you for handing over access to their networks when the thugs demand it?
Tax and financial laws, we're already there.
Where ever you go in the world, whtever you do there, you are US property subject to US taxes, US banking regulations, US reporting requirements. Even if you never set foot in the US.
Buy another laptop that is clean and used just for foreign travel or buy a spare hard drive that you swap into your laptop when traveling abroad. That second hard drive needs to formatted into Windows, Linux what have you
I'm sure Big Sis loves brunettes with large bosoms (or even smallish ones that point out to the sides), but I don't know how she feels about bosoms that walk around.
One thing not mentioned in this article is that according to a news article I read here a few days to a week ago, DHS is asserting the power to search electronic devices within 100 miles of the border as well.
That's the new liberal mantra. I've heard it from every liberal I know - all within the past year. My liberal friends are wrong on this and you're wrong too Vaduz. We still have the right to privacy. The same mantra could have been used years ago when the telephone came into wide use - but the courts said otherwise. When the Government wants to listen in on land-line telephone conversations they have to get a court order. Our parents and grandparents fought for our rights and we must do the same.
Please Vaduz don't pass on liberal's newest lies as facts. We don't HAVE to live in '1984' - we can stop the totalitarians ... We have the right to privacy - we just have to work to make it happen.
I work for a large company, and if something like that were to happen, I’d let them in and notify my IT guys instantly. The key the thugs hold would be worthless inside of 1/2 hour. Not perfect, but it would keep me out of both fires. I don’t get beaten up by the thugs and I don’t get fired.
Companies have contingency plans, and large companies have had a lot of “events” like this key-grabbing business. Every time a laptop gets stolen, for example (usually by the same Thugs Standing Around).
The country marches headlong into fascism and tyrrany, and the public still has its head up its a$$ and spends its time watching 2 1/2 a$$holes, kim kardashian, and stores of Marco Rubio drinking water.
The FBI keeps escrow keys that work on ALL TrueCrypt encrypted partitions and data. I know a certain young man who thought his data was secure using it...and he quickly learned that it was not.
The answer is that you are toast in those situation.
That said, the Cryp tool I referred too, allows a user under those situations to turn over the password, and even then there is a hidden place to keep the secure information that is not ‘visible’ to the casual lurker.
Granted, someone familiar with forensics in this area would know where to look (and they would not need the password to begin with).
Not that I side with Big Sis, BO, or any government official, but this really isn’t new
Our expectation of a “reasonable right to privacy” has always stopped at our borders.
We have the option of not traveling out side of the those borders, or not taking our electronic equipment with us.
maybe - I prefer UPS ground........my wife mailed friggin smoked ham from germany to me and it made it untouched
There are severn exceptions to the right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment
Border crossing is one
Consent is another as well as bing searched when you are arrested. If you want the rest, I can go on.
No to be contentious, but this really isn't anything new.
“The FBI keeps escrow keys that work on ALL TrueCrypt encrypted partitions...”
Sure, that is why I said: “...someone familiar with forensics in this area would know where to look...”
Nothing is for sure! Like locks and such.
Only by dint of licentious interpretation.
No to be contentious, but this really isn't anything new.
A person carries a lot more than business papers on their laptop, including a lot of personal information. Any of that information could be obtained without leaving the country. There is then no particular purpose for searching such an instrument as there is nothing on it that could not be obtained domestically and therefore there are then no grounds for such a search. Any spy or terrorist who obtained information so sensitive as to require concealment could easily do so without putting it on the laptop. There is simply no benefit to such a procedure.
Or, we could drain theirs, if enough of us had the courage.
Er... actually... the asymmetric encryption used with DM (Device Manager) encryption for Linux is pretty good. But most people don’t set it up correctly. It’s best IF the keys are stored on separate media. I’ve seen major distributions make it a lot easier over the past couple of years. It’s reasonably easy with Debian and Ubuntu at the moment. Setting up encryption using separate media for keys is still manual though. Even after that though, most people don’t give a thought to data integrity and then wouldn’t know if a root kit or keystroke recorder were installed to start with. Encryption and data integrity checking have to both be good. The overall system is only as strong as those two major factors. :-)
You also have the option of not taking a laptop with personal information on it with you when you cross the border.
It was the same before BO became president. It will be the same afterwards.
Thanks for those comments.
I just started messing with encryption, and I am finding, as you state, that to do it right requires some thought/knowledge.
Fortunately, what I have to protect is very basic, and is info the gooberment already has!
This inspection business of laptops has been regular policy for several years, and became the ‘norm’ after 9-11. I’ve known numerous people who’ve traveled abroad and they regularly face the episode. What TSA is using is their anti-terrorism rules to look for anyone else who has stuff that they could prosecute on. The curious thing....as long as we continue with the Jihad-wars....TSA and this whole game of theirs will continue on. There is no end to this.
I went to public school give me a brake
I lost all mty electronic devices in a horrible boating accident Im at the Library today
The government noose is tightening more and more each day hence the rush to confiscate as many guns as possible.
Even free encryption software like PGP will slow down that lesbian bitch at DHS for quite some time.
Confiscate guns. 2nd Amendment gone.
Warrant-less searches at airports, government buildings. 4th Amendment gone.
Hate crime legislation. Free Speech gone.
Put kids into government indoctrination centers earlier. Let the brainwashing begin earlier. All knowledge of what we were and what made us great GONE.
The trap was set, and now it is being sprung and we sit by and watch it happen. But American Idol is still on and phony pro-sports are still on so life it good.