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.
“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.
- Samuel Adams, address to the Philadelphia State House, 1766
subject to, nor conditioned on, cost-benefit analysis by the Government.
Seems as if, if I were a hierarch in the ChiCom BuDer or the Russian FSB (KGB) or a private industrial-spying firm, I'd want a few guys working for me at TSA, what do you think?
“Seems as if, if I were a hierarch in the ChiCom BuDer or the Russian FSB (KGB) or a private industrial-spying firm, I’d want a few guys working for me at TSA, what do you think?”
I’m thinking the Chinese and the Russians would have a hard time planting a spy in the TSA. It’s really hard to fake being stupid enough to work in the TSA, you see.
I don’t do international travel, but for the sake of discussion lets say that I do.
So I am on a trip that involves bidding on a big contract and all of the sensitive info must be in my computer.
I take a naked laptop loaded with only the operating system and a few very basic things to make it look like my regular machine.
But all of the sensitive contract info is on a thumb drive.
When I get ready to come home, I send the contents of the business meeting to my home or company machine by encrypted email.
Then I format the thumb drive or clean it.
Then I smash it with a rock, hammer or whatever is handy.
I then dump it in some place, in little pieces, and go across the border with the laptop loaded with a few poker games, checkers, my basic (nothing sensitive) mail and phone list.....and let them look at that all they want.
Carry an innocuous spare HD when you travel abroad. Swap it out on the way home.
Treat DHS to a laptop/iPad full of Barney the Purple Dinosaur and TeleTubbie videos.
Will not work because your C drive with your OS will keep some of the information you think only exists on the thumb drive. You could>>>>
Take that blank laptop abroad. Upload anything you create into an Amazon, Microsoft or Google cloud service/
Before returning home you reformat your laptops hard drive thereby erasing all you did. Also you could mechanically destroy the hard drive and trash it before returning to America. So you return home with a laptop with no hard drive.
But if I were to go with your idea, I would carry it even farther.
I would buy a cheap laptop, send the info to a cloud or to my office machine and clean the drive as you describe.
Then after destroying the drive and leaving pieces in more than one obscure place, I would leave the computer for the house keeper in the hotel to steal.
Say I were traveling for Caterpillar on a multimillion dollar deal for mining equipment in SA, a $900 laptop would be an insignificant cost to keep China from finding out the details of my bid.
The real point of our discussion is that the bag guys that would commit a terrorist act against the US have already thought all of this out and will be way ahead of us and certainly ahead of the likes of “big sis”.
Whether it is confiscating laptops or killing American abroad, it is a simple step to go from a restricted policy to an open-ended policy. Just look at how Social Security has grown from it’s original intent.
We still have the right to privacy.
Can’t agree on that,everything about a person is on file.
A few companies are in that type of business and sell data all the time.