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.