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'Big Sis' Reasserts Unlimited Power to Seize and Inspect Laptops ^ | February 13, 2013 | Bob Barr

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 hasn’t 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 hasn’t 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 government’s 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 department’s 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 government’s robust power to inspect people and goods entering the country. After all, the very foundation of national sovereignty is a nation’s 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 traveler’s 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 Sam’s view, because evidence of potential criminal activity can be found in a laptop computer’s hard drive just as in the tourist’s 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 Amendment’s 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 Napolitano’s 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 device’s 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.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: barackobama; bigsis; bordersecurity; dhslaptopseizures; electronicdevices; immigration; stateoftheunion
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To: MeganC

Yes, agreed, but there are times when one may have to take some toys for business reasons.

21 posted on 02/14/2013 10:45:30 AM PST by elpinta (Jer. 10:23 - It really holds true!)
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To: MeganC

Where possible, thats best. Not everyone,, can do it, but for those who can,,,.

22 posted on 02/14/2013 10:46:11 AM PST by DesertRhino (I was standing with a rifle, waiting for soviet paratroopers, but communists just ran for office.)
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To: Kaslin

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.

23 posted on 02/14/2013 10:48:29 AM PST by familyop (We Baby Boomers are croaking in an avalanche of rotten politics smelled around the planet.)
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To: palmer
A real criminal could easily circumvent this. For example he could download the entire contents of his laptop to a server farm (think "Carbonite"), wipe the disc and reload the basic OS and let them inspect it. Once here he could do a backup restore and voila! he's got his allegedly illegal data back.

Like gun laws banning "assault" weapons, the gov't harasses the law abiding while the crooks just dance around the law.

24 posted on 02/14/2013 10:49:19 AM PST by lafroste
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To: Kaslin
The writer of the article failed to mention that the DHS claim extends for one hundred miles within any border.

In other words, this Fourth Amendment-free zone encompasses the areas inhabited by a large majority of the people of the United States.

The DHS "Fourth Amendment-free zone"

An interesting map of the areas affected can be found here.

25 posted on 02/14/2013 10:52:58 AM PST by EternalVigilance (An irate, tireless minority...setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men...SelfGovernment.US)
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To: TexasRepublic
The government’s definition of “unreasonable” probably doesn’t match ours.

When there is no prospect of obtaining information that could only be obtained overseas, the search is by definition "unreasonable."

26 posted on 02/14/2013 10:53:45 AM PST by Carry_Okie (The environment is too complex and too important to be "protected" by government.)
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To: elpinta

“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 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?

27 posted on 02/14/2013 10:55:47 AM PST by MeganC (Liberals fool people by walking upright.)
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To: DesertRhino
How long will it take them to apply this to financial law? To US Tax law? To US environmental law?

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.

28 posted on 02/14/2013 11:01:21 AM PST by marron
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To: Kaslin

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

29 posted on 02/14/2013 11:02:21 AM PST by dennisw (too much of a good thing is a bad thing --- Joe Pine)
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To: al baby
I hope she likes brunettes with amble bosoms

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.

30 posted on 02/14/2013 11:03:55 AM PST by Cyber Liberty (Obama considers the Third World morally superior to the United States.)
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To: Kaslin

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.

31 posted on 02/14/2013 11:06:27 AM PST by zeugma (Those of us who work for a living are outnumbered by those who vote for a living.)
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To: Vaduz; Kaslin
No such thing as privacy in an electronic world.

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.

32 posted on 02/14/2013 11:10:16 AM PST by GOPJ ( Illegal immigrants: violent boorish party crashers. Send them home, call police - make them leave.)
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To: MeganC

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).

33 posted on 02/14/2013 11:10:16 AM PST by Cyber Liberty (Obama considers the Third World morally superior to the United States.)
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To: Kaslin

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.

34 posted on 02/14/2013 11:10:59 AM PST by I want the USA back
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To: elpinta

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.

35 posted on 02/14/2013 11:18:53 AM PST by hiredhand
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To: MeganC

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).

36 posted on 02/14/2013 11:20:15 AM PST by elpinta (Jer. 10:23 - It really holds true!)
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To: Paladin2
VPN with heavy encryption?

Or small amount of C-4 inside the casing with a five minute delay timed fuse

37 posted on 02/14/2013 11:20:58 AM PST by Buckeye McFrog
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To: Kaslin

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.

38 posted on 02/14/2013 11:23:09 AM PST by KosmicKitty (WARNING: Hormonally crazed woman ahead!!)
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To: Paladin2

maybe - I prefer UPS wife mailed friggin smoked ham from germany to me and it made it untouched

39 posted on 02/14/2013 11:26:55 AM PST by Revelation 911 (hump scratching n'er do well.....all strung out on chicken wings and venison jerky)
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To: Carry_Okie
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...

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 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.

40 posted on 02/14/2013 11:28:46 AM PST by KosmicKitty (WARNING: Hormonally crazed woman ahead!!)
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