Leadership Journal Archive
October 12, 2007 - January 19, 2008

August 5, 2008

Answering Questions on Border Laptop Searches

Computer keyboard close-up.
We’ve received several comments from readers regarding my recent post about laptop searches at the border. I’d like to take a few minutes to try to answer some of your questions and set straight some misinformation that is circulating with regard to this long-standing policy.

First, it’s important to note that for more than 200 years, the federal government has been granted the authority to prevent dangerous people and things from entering the United States. Our security measures at the border are rooted in this fundamental fact, and our ability to achieve our border mission would be hampered if we did not apply the same search authorities to electronic media that we have long-applied to physical objects--including documents, photographs, film and other graphic material. Indeed, there are numerous laws that apply to such material at the border including laws regarding intellectual property rights, technical data that can be imported or exported only under state department license and child pornography.

In the 21st century, terrorists and criminals increasingly use laptops and other electronic media to transport illicit materials that were traditionally concealed in bags, containers, notebooks and paper documents. Making full use of our search authorities with respect to items like notebooks and backpacks, while failing to do so with respect to laptops and other devices, would ensure that terrorists and criminals receive less scrutiny at our borders just as their use of technology is becoming more sophisticated.

This result would be ironic given that this same technology actually enables terrorists and criminals to move large amounts of information across the border via laptops and other electronic devices. At the end of the day, we have a responsibility to search items — electronic or otherwise — that are being transported across our borders and that could potentially be used to harm our nation’s citizens or that are otherwise contrary to law.

Second, this is not a new policy. We’ve been searching laptops of those who warrant a closer inspection for years. In fact, we’ve taken the unprecedented step of posting online (PDF 5 pages - 161 KB) a policy that would typically be reserved for internal purposes. This information is not new and has been publicly debated countless times. Indeed, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently confirmed the constitutionality of suspicionless laptop searches at the border.

This brings me to my third point, which is that travelers whose laptops are searched represent a very small number of people. As Secretary Chertoff noted in a recent op-ed,

"Of the approximately 400 million travelers who entered the country last year, only a tiny percentage were referred to secondary baggage inspection…[and] of those, only a fraction had electronic devices that may have been checked.”
This number is less than one percent of people entering the United States. Contrary to some media accounts, we’re not rolling out a new strategy and screening an exorbitant number of travelers. We’re simply following a common sense border policy that has been in place for years, and has been reaffirmed by the courts.

And finally, to allay any concerns the business community or others may have that their personal or trade information might be put at risk by traveling with their laptops, I urge you to look at our track record. Every day, thousands of commercial entry documents, shipping manifests, container content lists, and detailed pieces of company information are transmitted to CBP so we can effectively process entries and screen cargo shipments bound for the United States. This information is closely guarded and governed by strict privacy procedures. Information from passenger laptops or other electronic devices is treated no differently.

Our Customs and Border Protection officers are trained professionals with a defined mission, and they have neither the time nor the desire to search travelers’ personal belongings for any reason other than to ensure compliance with our customs and related laws and to protect the United States. As the policy’s provisions make abundantly clear, officers are subject to numerous policy restrictions regarding the retention, sharing, and scrutiny of travelers’ documents and information.

I hope this has helped answer some of your questions. One of the lessons 9/11 taught us was that we must adapt to 21st century risks and anticipate rather than react to new threats. Our CBP officers are on the front lines every day ensuring that these lessons are heeded. We trust that travelers understand the need for these sensible security measures.

Jayson Ahern
Deputy Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

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  • Greetings from Austria !

    Congratulation, i´ll never arrive "gods own country"

    you and your goverment are paranoid !

    a lucky European Guy !

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 6, 2008 5:12 AM  

  • What would keep any terrorist from uploading a file to, say, YouSendIt.com, and downloading it on an internet café PC after entering the US?

    Having arrived in the 21st century, there is simply no NEED to transfer "illicit data" via a laptop harddisc, CD/DVD, flashdrive or cell phone memory anymore. any terrorist who actually does and tries to cross US borders deserves to be put away for their stupidity.

    how many terrorists were caught by searching their data storages, anyways, if it's such a little percentage of travelers that actually carry laptops or somesuch, and even less which are picked out for secondary baggage inspection?

    Having any kind of personal data storage searched is a huge violation of a person's privacy, and business discretion. Having a "good track record" does not mean nothing illegal happens (even less that it's safe from happening) - it just means nobody did it SO FAR, or that it couldn't be proven. What you actually admitted to with your statement is, that it COULD happen, and that you are AWARE of the security risk.
    To me, coming from a government institution, this is inexcusable.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 6, 2008 8:19 AM  

  • While it is easy to understand the rationale, many of the specific cases in the media really leave me wondering. Also, it would be easier to believe if the link to the policy "posted online" actually worked.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 6, 2008 8:56 AM  

  • I still think CBP should conduct and publish a Privacy Impact Assessment and then adjust its policy to include meaningful safeguards for protecting our privacy. The policy, as it stands, still leaves open too many opportunities to undermine our privacy rights.

    If you agree with me, add your voice to the Hands Off My Laptop campaign at http://www.HandsOffMyLaptop.org.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 6, 2008 10:16 AM  

  • "We trust that travelers understand the need for these sensible security measures."

    We don't. For all of the reasons mentioned above.

    And for us who have to travel to assignments with laptops and such we will go some where else than USA.

    This policy is directly counter productive for growth in the IT sector in the US.

    By Blogger Barnabas, At August 6, 2008 11:15 AM  

  • I totally agree with the second comment. I highly doubt about its effectiveness. People can send files through email at the easiest, or upload them to some servers etc. By searching for laptops does not do any good, not to mention privacy issues.

    Similar story about 911 terrorists with student visas. By scrutinizing student visa applications and denying more applications after 911 (it's better now) could prevent terrorism? Think about the fact that how many people have already entered US illegally, 20 million in total?

    The intention is understandable, but it itself does not guarantee its effectiveness.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 6, 2008 11:44 AM  

  • "A common sense border policy that has been in place for years."

    Well as long as it has been in place for years, it should not be questioned. Nor should the common sense of the Customs and Border Protection officers, even though DHS is going on a hiring spree, contracting anyone with a pulse. I'm sure we can trust them to make judgment calls from the gut.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 6, 2008 1:39 PM  

  • This is nothing more than a bunch of fascist hogwash.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 6, 2008 1:43 PM  

  • How can it be absolutely necessary for customs to be able to search this information without any individualized suspicion at all if it is carried in on a laptop but on the other hand its no problem that FISA warrants are required to access the exact same information when it comes across a wire? The fact is that "criminals and terrorists" who are looking to transport information into the country are doing it over the Internet.

    Also, while Customs has long had broad authority to search at the border, broad is not the same thing as completely unlimited. What, exactly, is stifling about having to establish "reasonable suspicion" in order to perform such a search? Its an extremely weak standard. Early American customs regulations authorized searches of items that agents "shall have reason to suspect" contained contraban. Now, Customs wants to search anything anytime without any suspicion!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 6, 2008 1:51 PM  

  • "Our Customs and Border Protection officers are trained professionals with a defined mission, and they have neither the time nor the desire to search travelers’ personal belongings for any reason other than to ensure compliance with our customs and related laws and to protect the United States."

    That's great. Just like all of the TSA folks are trained professionals - and the fact that there are periodic cases where they're caught stealing from checked baggage is entirely coincidental.

    Who do you think you're fooling with this hogwash?

    By Blogger Jeremy, At August 6, 2008 3:06 PM  

  • What a load of nonsense. If you do not search laptops except where you have "suspicion" (As Chertoff alleges) then why are your lawyers in US v Arnold fighting tooth and nail to be able to claim the right to not need any particularised suspicion?

    And what is this nonsense claim about looking for "inforation on IEDs". I can have all the info I want on IEDs, biological weapons, nuclear weapons, whatever, on my laptop. Information is not illegal.

    By Blogger BlognDog, At August 7, 2008 12:29 AM  

  • "We trust that travelers understand the need for these sensible security measures."


    You are wrong. No one agrees with you. It is not sensible. You a are paranoid morons. I cannot wait for the entire lot of you to be thrown out to the curb next January.

    By Blogger Blat, At August 7, 2008 5:43 PM  

  • Put it simply. I will not be entering the USA at any time soon, as I cannot vouch for the safety of any data on my electronic equipment. Much data that is carried about on laptops is privileged, confidential or secret - letting a random search occur leads to the possibility of it becoming available to people it should not be available to.

    No-one clever enough to be planning attacks would be using a laptop to transport that data around. Especially not an unencrypted one. Much more likely that secure servers are used hidden on the internet.

    Laptop searches are invasive, and damaging to the USA.

    By Blogger localzuk, At August 7, 2008 6:12 PM  

  • Responding like the true dinosaur of a country we are...I am sad to say I am American right now. How about we quit letting stoopid people run the country and get some people who think in current terms?!?!?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 7, 2008 6:23 PM  

  • I cannot even begin to judge the soundness of this policy until DHS and CBP issue a very clear guidance in writing as to:

    What happens to the data of a copied laptop? Where is it stored? How is it used? Is it ever purged from government databases?

    Will the person be informed that their laptop has been copied?

    What if I store by data on an encrypted hard drive? Is that automatically considered suspicious and put the individual under scrutiny?

    This just strikes me as a really dumb policy. You have already indicated the sophistication of terrorist organizations like Al Queda. The level of stupidity of putting critical information on a laptop and going through CPB seems unfathomable. In fact, i could see terrorists doing it intentionally just to expend counter terrorism resources on a wild goose chase.

    This entire policy seems designed to frustrate travelers and curb our reliance on technology without getting anything back in terms of increasing our security.

    Please - go back to the drawing board on this.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 7, 2008 6:33 PM  

  • It's completely unnecessary to search a laptop.

    If I want to bring Cocaine, Marijuana, Alcohol, prostitutes, illegal immigrants, nuclear materials or explosives across the border I physically have to cross the border with them. The government can make a case they have an interest in preventing this through searching me.

    But, if I want to bring nuclear plans, bomb making plans, child pornography, or any other computer data into this country I can do it from the privacy of my own home. I never have to cross the border like do in all the cases mentioned above. The government has no compelling reason to force me to turn over data I could have gotten without crossing the border.

    The logic for not searching laptops is the same reason we don't do drug searches on domestic flights. It's cheaper and less risky for drug dealers to drive the merchandise across the U.S.

    The government can't prove searching all air passengers would limit the drug traffic in the U.S. with readily available cheaper alternatives to air travel.

    The government can't prove they have a compelling interest in violating our rights if we can easily bring the data in without ever leaving the country.

    It's an absolutely ludicrous argument the government is making.

    Note: If this comment is not posted then I will make sure every liberal blog becomes aware that are you are trying to censor this crucial rebuttal to your argument. How can you not look at yourselves and think, "I am such an idiot for violating American's privacy rights for something that protects the U.S. in no discernible way."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 7, 2008 6:35 PM  

  • 3 words: HIPAA, SOX, PCI.
    So when you guys copy encrypted data on a laptop and ask for the encryption keys, you're essentially creating a security breach that would have to be reported. Thanks guys, you just made my job and that of anyone in information security that more difficult.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 7, 2008 6:46 PM  

  • Like the majority of DHS's encroachment on our rights, this is not a sensible security measure, and it never will be. You can only wave the specter of 'the bad guys' in front of our faces so many times before we get tired of hearing it.

    You claim to believe you're protecting us from the .001% of people who hope to do us harm. And in the process, you've helped tear apart the values and freedoms that once made this country special and unique in the world. We have no greater enemy than those who would destroy this country in an effort to protect it. We'd rather take our chances with 'terrorists' than give up our privacy to paranoid overzealous fools.

    RESIGN! I mean it. RESIGN! You have failed! You should be ashamed of yourself.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 7, 2008 7:05 PM  

  • This policy is moronic. Sorry, there's just no polite way to say it.

    Searching or removing the laptops of people as they enter the country is exponentially more intrusive than searching a piece of luggage, and it provides absolutely no improvement in our security. In fact, to the extent that it gives anyone - especially government officials - a FALSE sense of security, it actually decreases our security.

    Ask the folks at Google, providers of large amounts of free storage accessible anywhere and from any device, what their brilliant engineers think of your policy. But be prepared to help them up off the floor once they stop laughing...

    By Blogger Rob McDonagh, At August 7, 2008 8:19 PM  

  • i love my country and i agree that we need to defend it, but i think that this is going a little to far. i am an american citizen that is currently traveling throughout Europe, you mean to tell me that when i cross borders to come home my laptop and my iphone will be confiscated? why should i american citizen of a free country feel harassed by my own government? not to mention i am a student and as far as i can see no one will tell me how long my laptop will be absent from my life. you need to understand that many people have their lives on their laptops and rely on them including me, and that invading that life is completely going against our constitution. i wish you all the best with this policy but tell you the truth in few short days there will be many many pissed off people and whos going to deal with them? . n

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 7, 2008 8:46 PM  

  • no matter how much you tried to make this policy sound beneficial it did not work. i bet no one will confiscate your laptop or phone when you travel, you dont know how much of a headache this will be,people will just hate crossing the U.S border and will go to Canada on their vacation instead, this will surely help our economy to stabilize. wow i love seeing my tax money at work.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 7, 2008 8:53 PM  

  • This illegal search of laptops terrifies me. Not because I am a criminal afraid of being caught, but because of the blatant corruption of our laws and constitutional rights.

    I feel like we have finally slipped into a science fiction novel. 1984. Brave New World. Minority Report. Pre-crime. Guilty before innocent. The death of personal rights.

    You, Jayson Ahern, and all your complacent employees, should be ashamed. How dare you invoke 9/11 as an excuse to destroy our country by poisoning our laws. Our founding fathers would be outraged and deeply disturbed by the death of the 4th Amendment.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 7, 2008 10:01 PM  

  • i am concerned because as a counselor, i keep my records of clients on my computer. these records are confidential, and there are specific legal exceptions to this (danger to self, to others, grave disability--psychosis--, child abuse, and others). none of these includes homeland security concerns. i would need to have a release of information from each client every time i boarded a plane, or risk being sued.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 12:35 AM  

  • How does being at a border suspend the constitutional protections that are guaranteed for all people?

    The 4th amendment specifically mentions probable cause is needed in order to search a persons papers. A computer is the 21st century equivalent of a persons private "papers."

    Your argument that the 4th amendment not applying at a border could just as easily justify the same policy at any security checkpoint, such as when a person takes any flight.

    It is a very slipery slope and when people become so scared of the boogie man that they give up their constitutional rights for a little security, then the terrorists have already won.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 12:40 AM  

  • The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), also known as the Buckley Amendment, is federal legislation that governs the privacy of student records. Professors often carry student records on their laptop computers, for example because they're evaluating student work and creating grade records while traveling. So Federal law requires the traveling professor not to reveal this information, but your laptop search requirement requires him to reveal it. How does the traveling professor reconcile these two conflicting federal requirements?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 1:28 AM  

  • The danger of this is in the selective policy used to implement the deterrent.

    The ruling should be that this level of scrutiny is unwarranted and jeopardizes to much in terms of right to privacy and travel, and if it isn't it should be applied uniformly to all travelers (execpt official govt business).

    good luck with your conscience

    By Blogger Joseph, At August 8, 2008 1:59 AM  

  • This "policy" is so far beyond the pale, and so obviously unrelated to any notion of "security" that it is very plainly evident that this policy itself is terrorism, pure and simple.

    The good thing about this type of thing is that it will make human rights prosecution of the perps responsible for these policies that much easier, for the motive is as plain as day.

    Unfortunately, they are not in the prisons in which they belong to be just yet.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 9:13 AM  

  • "We trust that travelers understand the need for these sensible security measures."

    That's the sentence so many have been latching onto, and there is good reason. In case you didn't realize it, Mr. Ahern, you essentially ridiculed anyone who is uncomfortable with your program as being "not sensible."

    More with honey than vinegar, Mr. Ahern. Trust me.

    But in the end, anyone reading between the lines sees the issue: Your fear, the thing you must stop, is someone, who at the moment you'll give the label of "terrorist", who cannot be allowed to "move large amounts of information across the border."

    That's the touchstone, now isn't it? That's the fear underlying this all. The free flow of information. Large amounts of information. Soon terrabytes upon terrabytes of information will be flowing all over the world. So best to set the precedent early. And that's why the lawyers are firing with both barrels.

    But don't baby us with this whole "we trust you'll understand" nonsense. You've already got an image problem and you're embarking on a program that reminds many people of Big Brother. Don't exacerbate the problem by talking like him too.

    Then again, if you had any awareness of these issues to begin with, you never would've written such a dreadful, off-putting, and indeed insulting defense. So I guess I'm just posting to add the united chorus of people who strongly disagree with you.

    But don't fret...I'm sure eventually some lonely paranoid soul or some semi-facist type will wander to this page and add at least one comment supporting your decisions.

    By Anonymous Mark B, At August 8, 2008 9:32 AM  

  • I just want to say that I think searching laptops at borders is very intrusive if there is not reasonable belief by the agent that the laptop contains subversive information. It's not like a backpack which just usually contains every day items. A laptop may contain personal and private information or proprietary information. Unless the border agent believes I am a terrorist or am planning to do something illegal he has no business copying all my information. The government doesn't have a very good track record with keeping personal information safe from thieves and hackers. What's to stop unscrupulous agents from snooping and using information themselves. Personal is still personal unless there is reasonable suspicion and my financial and medical records are my business not meant for anyone else.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 12:23 PM  

  • I will leave my laptop at home if I ever travel out of the country, I just do not realize why my country has such an imbecile policy. Security is good for all, but mindless security is god for none.
    You can physically search my backpack but I will not allow you to search my laptop.

    By Blogger randy, At August 8, 2008 12:28 PM  

  • Insanity.
    So we are not on US soil, therefore you have no authority over me until I am on US soil. Then my 4th amendment rights come into play.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 3:40 PM  

  • Ok so you want to search my laptop. Fine. Two things you will have to do 1: If it is my companies laptop you will have to gain approval from my legal department. I'll give you the number. Second if its my laptop you will get a copy of my data in binary form and encrypted. This is the only form you are allowed to view without a warrant. I do concede that you could consider bits an electrical state of on or off a physical searchable item. And as such you are more then welcome to my bits and in just that format. Have fun with hours of converting my data to a readable format, finding my passwords to everything, and decrypting it. I might even be so nice as to precopy my hard drive for you. This wouldn't be for your benefit but mine. I could take 2-3 hours at a border station or airport customs to find an appropriate means of copying a 2gb drive. Enjoy HLS.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 5:01 PM  

  • My laptop contains all my personal passwords, including PayPal and bank accounts. I can't imagine that they have the right to look at these without a warrant.

    If I wanted to travel with subversive data, I would use a fake music CD, a USB key, an FTP site, an invisible file on my camera memory card, but CERTAINLY not my laptop's hard disk.

    Better yet, I would put subversive data on my Macintosh. No agent would search such a cute computer. Just too cute.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 5:02 PM  

  • this is unamerican.

    homeland security seems more focused on eliminating freedoms than safegaurding them.

    I wish I could muster outrage, but this is simply another example of DHS gross incompetence.

    maybe this is your goal all along. tragic.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 5:02 PM  

  • Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.

    this isn't searching a backpack, people have very personal, very confidential documents on their laptops, to allow a government to simply confiscate and copy would worry me to no end.

    you are overstepping your boundries once again.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 5:06 PM  

  • Because of these restrictions, and very invasive techniques, I won't be bringing my laptop should I ever leave this country on a vacation. There is private information on my laptop that I don't want anyone to look at, and considering TSA doesn't need to suspect me to search it, I have no defense against the search. If I full-drive encrypt it, they can take my laptop. Therefore, I'll leave my laptop at home, and settle on an ironkey if I really need to transfer data for a vacation.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 5:19 PM  

  • The Reason is simple enough. It's called The Bill of Rights:

    "Amendment 4: 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."

    You're Breaking the Law, Homeland Security. =/

    By Anonymous neo, At August 8, 2008 5:21 PM  

  • When traveling, I would assume that searches are done for the protection of the traveler and the people traveling around them. With respect traveling through borders, it is to protect the country.

    With that said, what could possibly be obtained from a computer or cellphone that is going to protect other travelers or the country they are entering? Do terrorists frequently send emails that say "Lets blow up that plane at 4:00 p.m. flight number 631 and attached is a list of all the accomplices."

    Fact is, those little bits and bytes are really important to all of us and often very private. Lately our government has more or less tried to convince us that privacy, safety, and security cannot co-exist. It's a myth that has to be put to rest and they need to find better ways to obtain the information they need without harassing the non criminal populous. Terrorism is using fear to get a group of people to do something. Sounds a lot like what our government does to us.

    By Blogger James, At August 8, 2008 5:22 PM  

  • This is a clear violation of the 4th Amendment, and is therefore criminal behavior. If it was just a matter of one isolated incident, then I would not be nearly as upset. However, seeing as this blatant disregard for law seems to be standard DHS operating procedure, I say with complete confidence that the DHS is a criminal organization. Perhaps I'll put it on a bumper sticker...

    Anyways, I would have a tiny bit more sympathy for the DHS if it was actually making us more secure. However, it is having the exact opposite effect. With over a million names on the "terrorist" watch list, I am quite sure that attacks would be easier for a terrorist to perform now than it was before 9/11/01 What better smoke screen then a million suspects?

    By Anonymous crashsystems, At August 8, 2008 5:24 PM  

  • What has happened to my country? This is unconstitutional, not to mention appalling on several other levels. When did the USA become a police state? All this fearmongering and paranoia are not worth the price of our freedoms and liberties.

    I am embarrassed by how our current government has twisted the ideals of our forefathers. I used to be proud to be an American ...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 5:24 PM  

  • Data on a laptop is not a dangerous thing. A bomb hidden in a laptop is. Scanning a laptop for explosives is acceptable. Searching my personal data is akin to searching my brain, as my laptop is an extension of my brain, which is unacceptable. Searching based on "suspicion" is too vague and can easily be abused. You want my laptop data, present hard evidence of wrongdoing first.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 5:25 PM  

  • The difference between searching my backpack and searching my laptop is plain and simple: I will not allow you to search my laptop. It is an intolerable infringement upon my rights and dignity. Try putting on your United States citizen hat next time you decide to strip us of personal dignity in some new way in the name of safety. Forget terrorists entering the country, you're creating thousands out of the citizens that live here already.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 5:26 PM  

  • I could spout of a long list of reasons why it is ridiculous for anyone to search my laptop but I don't have the patience or time to waste talking to brick walls. So I'll just talk about the two most important to me. First. You have no evidence, proof, suggestions or rumors that I am any sort of terrorist. (Except say for your own delusional sense of paranoia.) My laptop is filled with private information which legally you have no right to view without a search warrant. I do not find it justifiable or right for you to hire some simpleton to go rummaging through my personal affects. Let alone my laptop. Which brings me to my next point. I seriously don't trust that you've hired an IT professional to properly handle my expensive device. Johnny Doe who just took my laptop and flipped it over like it was a book w/out consideration to possible damage. Johnny who lacks any sort of technical expertise except a 30 minute primer when hired. If you want to search my laptop then I expect you to take as much care in hiring the properly trained/educated personal to handle my items just as you would expect the same courtesy had you walked into my office and needed your computer looked at.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 5:28 PM  

  • These policies may have been in place for a very long time, but I believe they need to change.

    1. What limits your power to confiscate or hold a laptop? If you choose to search my computer, is there any assurance I am going to get it back? You say you're professionals, and you're probably right. But people are people and subject to poor judgment, envy, greed, etc... What scrutiny or oversight keeps your people from stealing data or hardware?
    2. A corollary on that- if I keep credit card information, bank passwords, and tax information encrypted on my computer, you could legally ask for the passwords to decrypt all that. Again, what oversight or scrutiny keeps you from using that information to steal my identity?

    The United States is *fundamentally* based on checks and balances, and whenever a process does not have those checks and balances, people should be wary. I see here a process that does not in any way guarantee the rights of the citizen, and I can't support it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 5:28 PM  

  • As many have stated, this is an intrusion of our privacy and it will be for no benefit. There are so many ways to send encrypted data that if I truly need to hide something it won’t be on my machine when I’m crossing the border. The ONLY thing you are doing is stripping us of our rights, hurting America’s economy by driving business and tourists away, and opening up people to theft of their data and items.

    If I want to bring drugs or weapons into the country, your search will find it, but you can’t stop data.

    And since no one else has posted it yet:
    Those who would give up ESSENTIAL LIBERTY to purchase a little TEMPORARY SAFETY, deserve neither LIBERTY nor SAFETY.

    By Blogger Debbie, At August 8, 2008 5:29 PM  

  • "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."

    These aren't suggestions. Although recent government actions lead me to believe they view it as such.

    A warrant should be needed to confiscate, search, and copy the personal contents of a laptop. There is no valid reason you could give to justify your anti-liberty policies.

    If someone is planning an attack on the US, I doubt they are going to be stupid enough to leave the plans sitting on their computer. Just because you are at the border doesn't mean the law changes. Customs officials should have the same standards as law enforcement to search personal belongings.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 5:30 PM  

  • DHS makes me ashamed to be an American.

    I no longer fly if it is possible to drive, and the airlines should be blaming lost profits squarely on the shoulders of DHS.

    Not only does this violate the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, but DHS top brass may need to revisit the Declaration of Independence to learn why we became a nation in the first place.

    "swarms of Officers to harass our people" much?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 5:31 PM  

  • "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

    By Anonymous Benjamin Franklin, At August 8, 2008 5:32 PM  

  • Embarrassing and ineffective.

    These are the two words which come to mind regarding DHS latest idea for protecting our "freedom."

    As mentioned in other posts-- there are several other data storage devices-- USB key, CD/DVD, external hard drive, mp3 players, Intenet storage, email, encrypted file storage on a laptop, hidden file/folder attributes on the laptop, etc.

    Unless there's a Word doc. on the user's Desktop called "How to Kill Americans" or "Terror Directives from Obama bin Laden"-- a thorough data scan of an indivdual would consume several hours.

    Please discontinue this ineffective practice immediately.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 5:33 PM  

  • This is so backwards and ignorant. Is Our (the American) Government really that technologically inept?

    This scares me, but at the same time comforts me. If our Government is that clueless as to the nature of online storage, torrents, data transfer, etc., then We (the Technologically Elite) have absolutely nothing to worry about.

    This just shows their ignorance in a glaring and quite frankly embarassing manner. The rest of the World must be laughing at Us

    By Anonymous Eyes and Teeth, At August 8, 2008 5:36 PM  

  • Amendment IV

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath of affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    Stay out of my laptop. I am not a criminal, stop treating your travelers this way. Would any of you like to have your computers searched? Your homes, your cars? Would you want a stranger rummaging though your band/credit card statements, your stock portfolios, your reports, journal entries, written stories and songs, poetry, medical information, email, and/or school work? In the age of electronic mail, online storage, flash drives and memory, portable hard drives, cell phones, will searching a laptop really make our boarders any more secure, or will it only be an infringement upon the right to privacy of good, law-abiding, American citizens?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 5:44 PM  

  • I didn't think it was possible to get worse than 'warrantless' wiretapping, but..... 'suspicionless searches'!?!??!

    "I'm going to poke around in your house. I have no reason to suspect you're doing anything wrong - I just feel like it."

    Wow. I do NOT trust DHS to take proper precautions, follow proper procedures, etc. As noted, this is a 'Policy' - not a law. So if you don't adhere to the 'Policy', then what? What is my recourse?

    The Policy states "Each
    operational office will maintain appropriate mechanisms for internal audit and review of
    compliance with the procedures outlined in this policy." But you don't state what these mechanisms are. If one of your employees misbehaves (steals my data, makes unauthorized copies, fails to destroy copied data, etc.) what is my recourse? I complain and you say 'Gee, sorry.'. Not OK.

    And by the way, the audacity of saying - "we’ve taken the unprecedented step of posting online (PDF 5 pages - 161 KB) a policy that would typically be reserved for internal purposes" is stunning!! You want me to follow all the rules, but... you generally aren't going to bother to tell me what the rules are?

    Lastly - do you not understand that searching laptops is pointless?!? If someone wants to transport electronic data across borders THEY DON'T NEED TO CARRY IT IN A LAPTOP. Ever heard of email? FTP? BitTorrent? Why in the world would someone put 'terrorist info' on their laptop? If nothing else, they could put their 'secret' data on a USB Flash drive. Or a CD. Or an SD card... or... you get my point. You are missing the forest while trying to search the trees.

    By Anonymous Colin Davis, At August 8, 2008 5:46 PM  

  • "Amendment 4: 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."

    The Executive branch is supplied with the means to search electronic media already - through warrants issued lawfully by the Court. This, however, is another intrusive executive measure that bypasses any ability the people might have to protest or be safe in their possessions - especially something as incredibly personal as a laptop.

    Searching a lap top is NOT the same as searching a backpack. Much more sensitive information goes on a lap top, including pesronal information that is none of the government's business. What exactly are you looking for anyway? The Bush Administration's Security protocols have been broad, sweeping measures that are comparable to the power the Soviet Union wielded under Stalin.

    As the checks and balances that restrict executive power to intrude on the privacy of its own citizens erode, our country comes to resemble a police state. This is unacceptable - not even during WWII, a far more dire situation than the one we're in right now, did the Executive branch show such blatant disregard for the constitution and the liberties and values of the American people as a whole.

    The suspension of Habeus Corpus is a criminal act that should be rectified. While we elect our officials to protect us, we do not elect our officials to intrude on our lives. Stay out of our personal business if you do not have a warrant - you are required to follow your own country's laws, not arbitrarily suspend them.


    By Anonymous Alexander of Wisconsin, At August 8, 2008 5:48 PM  

  • The Privacy Act of 1974 requires the DHS to publish a detailed assessment of their collection and usage of any data they come into contact with during these searches. Has such a notice been posted in the Federal Register?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 5:56 PM  

  • Homeland Security's obvious ignorance of computers and technology make it impossible for you to prevent any harmful plans, subjects, ideas, and documents from entering the United States realm, whether it be by laptop or by some other mechanism.

    If you believe that searching laptop harddrives would help, you are mistaken. information can be passed by jump drives, sd chips, microsd, compact flash, internet...etc. In fact any mobile media (cell phone, pda, camera...)could potentially be used to transport what you may consider as a threat to the US. This travels back to the days of microfiche and diskettes.

    Your excuse to invade peoples privacy is flawed and gives unlimited access to people. For homeland security to be able to copy an entire harddrive with personal information is ridiculous... but I guess in an age where Bush can order illegal phone taps without warrants, I understand how something so fundamentally invasive can be allowed.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 5:57 PM  

  • Surely this policy is actually putting the US at increased risk? It is most unlikely that any terrorist or organised criminal would carry data across a border. Far easier and safer to transmit over the internet. So searching laptops is be a significant drain on resources, costly and really distracting. Yet most unlikely to yield very little significant data. It just seems so crazy, counter-productive and short sighted. Al-Qaeda must be laughing their socks off.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 6:02 PM  

  • This only reinforces my view that DHS should be dissolved. What a waste of tax payer money, and what an unacceptable privacy invasion! Government agencies seem to be able to get away with anything as long as they're "protecting" us. Well, at least I'll feel all warm and snuggly once I get my new national id...

    I hope other people are as outraged about this as I am.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 6:03 PM  

  • The DHS is out of control. we are no safer today than we were before sep. 11th. We've been stripped of our liberties and kept in fear. At every turn, from the useless TSA to Customs we're harrassed and denied our constitutional rights. You keep outdated secret lists of a million people's names that can't fly, but you can't keep news crews from boarding an aircraft with all the makings of an explosive device. Our only hope is that once the Democrats are in the whitehouse, they will dismantle the ineffective, bloated DHS.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 6:05 PM  

  • I'll give you my laptop when you take it from my cold, dead hands!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 6:08 PM  

  • Thing is, it is literally impossible to control the flow of digital information in and out of the country. The internet still exists. Searching hard drives is pointless.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 6:10 PM  

  • This policy is terrible. This type of draconian policy makes me ashamed to call myself an American.

    You're no longer protecting the citizenry, you're on a mad quest for all my personal information.

    I can think of 1000 different ways to get sensative information across the boarder without a laptop or the internet. Micro SD cards are smaller than a fingernail and now can carry 8 gigs. This would be trivial for even the most novice of criminals to hide.

    Frankly, I don't trust you at all. Your measures are neither common sense nor are they reasonable. Words like Fascist, draconian and evil are what the first thing I think of when I think of this policy.

    Quite simply, you cannot information from entering or leaving the country. Why bother trying?

    By Blogger Jeff, At August 8, 2008 6:14 PM  

  • This facile policy will provide no more than a flimsy illusion of security, while having a drastic effect on the right to privacy of anybody who sets foot in the USA.

    Who exactly do you think is going to be caught out by this easily-avoided trap, which is so behind the times in terms of understanding information management it is practically jurassic? Anybody with anything to hide will know all about this, and will be able to take simple steps to access their illicit materials remotely once in the country rather than physically carry them over the border - the only people who will ever be affected by this nonsense is the average person once again.

    In short, get your grubby mitts off my private and confidential data unless you have an actual reason, with some kind of evidence, to implicate me in something. It's policies like this that make the USA's chest-pounding rhetoric about being the home of freedom a worldwide joke.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 6:20 PM  

  • I don't get searching a computer. Once it turns on and is shown to be functional and not a container for a weapon or a bomb, it's no longer a threat. It doesn't need to be completely stripped bare.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 6:21 PM  

  • Terrorists aren't idiots and there aren't that many of them. I doubt, very seriously, that they would leave it to chance that they will get across the border with a laptop full of incriminating data.

    The average American may be ignorant enough to assume that because laptops are searched at the border we are safe from terrorist computer data. And that may be the point of this whole charade. But a growing number of the American population knows better.

    Shame on you for exploiting and aiding in the exploitation of the fears of good people to further this nonsensical "War on Terror"... War on sanity and intelligence is more fitting.

    By Anonymous Toby Horton, At August 8, 2008 6:22 PM  

  • As many others have said, it is a useless policy to search peoples laptops. Did you ever think a "terrorist" just upload files to an FTP site or just use a live CD therefore leaving no trace of activity on the hard drive? Totally waste of time and a violation of my privacy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 6:23 PM  

  • Laptops and other electronic devices should not be searched without very reasonable cause, such as a search warrant or the like, and this is why. Terrorist can upload any, ANY files to a server that they were going to be transporting in a laptop. They can then to to the local cafe log onto the server using ssh encryption and download those files without anyone ever knowing what they were. There is no point in searching laptops, and other electronic devices and multiple reasons not to. By searching a laptop if it belongs to a psychiatrist you could be invading patient doctor confidentiality. You could be reading a journalist report or reading a lawyers private files over a case such as this one http://op.bna.com/pl.nsf/id/dapn-7h3qy5/$File/harddrive.pdf I'm not saying that you should never be able to search them but you should need to have a warrant to do so, because you could really be invading the privacy of American citizens when in reality a terrorist is not going to carry the plans on his laptop, flash drive, cell phone ect. he'll instead upload it to a private server hosted in his home country.

    By Anonymous John, At August 8, 2008 6:27 PM  

  • There is a fine line between safety and paranoia, respect and abuse, freedom and oppression. No matter what we do there will always be a way for someone to hurt us, however we can guarantee only one protection and that is protection is from ourselves. When we start to take away limits to freedom, piece by piece or in one lump sum, we hand victory to all who would do us harm. Data passes through custom’s with the greatest of ease. If the internet didn’t exist this might be a valid idea, though in this day and age the policy only hurt’s the one’s you wish to protect.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 6:33 PM  

  • Making copies of personal data or privileged information is really nothing but ordinary theft. DHS knows it but as most of America has simply abdicated their freedom and responsibility to anyone other than themselves, I am sure DHS is more than happy to continue taking personal property without cause.

    Taking what is not your is theft ... plain and simple.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 6:35 PM  

  • Granting DHS access to anyone's electronic devices for whatever reason without accountability opens up doors to the slippery slopes of violation of American Freedoms. These are the freedoms that many of us Americans, as children, were taught to respect. There are too many ways that regular people can be abused.

    CDs are purchased by we the customers, songs are ripped to MP3 for playback on our electronic devices(laptop, ipod, etc). We don't bring the CDs with us on vacation. Currently our device can be confiscated and we can be held - because our electronic devices contain media which we can't prove belongs to us. The MPAA and RIAA say that it's not fair use to make digital copies of purchased music - it's a matter of debate that can result in the confiscation of millions of electronic devices of regular law abiding Americans.

    Same could be said for porn. Technically it's considered obscene. However, millions of us have porn on our electronic devices(some of it is likely of the owners of said electronic devices). I'm pretty sure that at least 90% of all laptops have some porn on them. Even if you accidentally went to porn website one time the porn data likely still resides in your data cache.

    These are just a couple examples. If you've got banking information, personal photographs, personal diary, etc. on your laptop. It will now be analyzed by some DHS goons in a dark office where they have lots of tissue paper and Jerkins hand lotion - and all because they were able to open their mouth and say "gimme". That is not a wholesome thought. Twenty years ago this kind of thing would considered downright un-American. It's a rape of privacy.

    That is not to say that electronic devices should be off limits to search and seizure. If there is probable cause and a higher court of law grants permission then it should be done. However, there has to be some accountability mechanism to prevent bored or agitated agents from abusing power at the cost of ordinary citizens' rights.

    I'm more afraid of my own all-powerful and often unaccountable government taking away our freedoms and raping our liberties than I am of a few camel riders in the middle east.

    By Anonymous Derek, At August 8, 2008 6:38 PM  

  • Anybody who doesn't want the DHS to look at his files, go to www.truecrypt.org and encrypt your data. If you are afraid of getting waterboarded for the password, save a long one you cannot remember yourself on a USB stick, which you can easily destroy before the CIA picks you up.

    P.S. I'd be surprised if this posting gets through your censorship.

    By Anonymous Raphael, At August 8, 2008 6:40 PM  

  • Here's an honest question which I think deserves an entire article if you can publish your answer as one.

    What about the media people pay for which is stored on their laptop.

    Fact: You can buy MP3s, games, movies, etc. and store them in digital form legally according to international trade laws adhered to by many countries.

    Fair use allows us to have a backup or at very least functional copy of media we pay for.

    How will your border officials act to enforce copyrights when you don't know whether or not the traveller has licence files or the purchase receipts for their media.

    Will travellers have to keep the receipts for all media they purchase legally just for fear of travelling to or through the US resulting in some kind of nasty audit?

    The best example of a fair use grey area I can think of is a set of WMA audio tracks purchased from PureTracks. You get them crippled with DRM, allowing you to synch them unlimited times and burn them 3 times.

    These files fail to work in your cell phone MP3 player so you burn the WMA files and re-encode them to MP3s to play on the device you purchased them for in the first place.

    In this case no copyright protection circumvention is taking place technically because you are allowed by PureTracks to burn the audio file to CD and the CD is certainly not protected by default, so you can MP3 it all you want.

    In the end you have some DRM free MP3s on your cell phone as you pass through customs.

    Let's say you had too many coffees that day, your hair is a mess, you have an unfortunate style of dress or whatever and you're pulled aside for suspicion because you "look" suspicious although you may be innocent.

    The trained staff check your cell phone and find the MP3s you paid for (or worse take it away so you have no phone!!!)

    What happens then?

    Thanks in advance.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 6:45 PM  

  • Hello,
    I just want to point out how pointless Your procedure is. Go to rarlab.com, dl and install WinRAR. Select a file, right click Compress to... On the second tab select password protection with directory encryption, use a password "123456789012345678901234567890.... repeat 5 times...dhscantcrackit" Now you have trillion of trillion of trillion of compbinations. Even with QUANTUM COMPUTERS it will take trillions of years to crack it. Now don't you thing people that finished harvard would know that ?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 6:48 PM  

  • All you are doing is compromising business security and peronal information. any terrorist that is stupid enough to have incriminating data on his laptop when coming across the border deserves to be caught. they can just transfer the data to a server before hand, or they can just encrypt all the incriminating evidence.

    I would give a high likelihood that all you will accomplish is cause people to start encrypting their whole drives so that then when there actually is something you need to look at you wont be able to since you are abusing everyones rights so much that we all have encrypted our whole hard drives. also forcing someone to give you the password wont do any good since most modern encrytion schemes have a fake password you can provide that will work but wont actually show any of the important data. there is no way to tell if you got the right password or not.

    By Blogger Nathan, At August 8, 2008 6:52 PM  

  • As a citizen, taxpayer, and voter, I must say: I cannot see how I was at all represented when the taxes were taken out to support such inane decision making.

    I've been both a commissioned security officer, and a programmer in my time, and I must say: your average guard simply does not have the skill set to search through a 40 gig + hard drive for potentially encrypted data which may or may not contain actionable data, nor do most terminals have the sheer horsepower required to crack said encryption if found.

    At that point, should such ill advised invasion continue to be escalated, the only recourse would be to datadump the suspect files over to a beefier machine, or force the content owner themselves to open their private files. Something no sane individual with a backbone will comply with without a court order.

    At that point, in my case, you would then be accessing company source code, violating not only my rights, but the rights of my company, and any additional company we've done business with.

    And for what? To possibly catch an individual unintelligent enough to store internet-transmittable data on a hardware medium?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 6:56 PM  

  • Greetings from Europe!

    This is indeed a new America we're seeing from here. An America that is spying on, misleading, belittling its very own people. The very same America that less than 1o years ago we over here have been regarding as something to aspire to, this America is now commonly referred to only in sentences like

    "we don't want a second America here".

    Who would have thought such a thing possible back then?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 6:59 PM  

  • That's a ridiculous excuse for the DHS to increase it's power and influence at the expense of citizens' civil liberties. The fact is, computers aren't like a backpack at all. I don't stuff my backpack with important, confidential financial, legal, and personal documents when I go across the border. However, my laptop contains them, plus much more. It's not like a backpack at all; it's a portal to my entire documented life. My laptop can very well contain far more sensitive information than my house, but you still need a warrant and probable cause to search it.

    As mentioned before, searching laptops doesn't even achieve anything. Unlike the physical substances carried in a backpack, which must physically cross the border, the electronic information stored on a computer can be communicated through the internet. Individuals or organizations with malicious intent would clearly find it easier to email their nefarious plans than take them on their laptop, while the rest of us find our personal life revealed to a HS officer for no practical purpose, defying civil liberties and requiring increased DHS resources.

    By Anonymous Nik, At August 8, 2008 7:23 PM  

  • Do you recognize this text? You might want to think hard about the motivations behind the patriots who wrote it, and consider whether your attitude and actions are more representative of the 18th century British Crown or the founding fathers who took it upon themselves to be free of tyranny.

    When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    By Anonymous Aaron, At August 8, 2008 7:24 PM  

  • Stop pretending you know anything about terrorists. They are a bogeyman you use to oppress us. The only things you will uncover on these searches are pirated movies and downloaded mp3s which I'm sure will be sent to the MPAA/RIAA. You're not protecting us. You are protecting corporate interests. If someone wants to sneak files across the border they just have to put them on a flash drive and mail them inside something. I'd rather be killed by terrorists than "protected" by people like DHS.

    By Anonymous Bizzie, At August 8, 2008 7:26 PM  

  • Regardless of the justification for searching laptops and electronic media, I am concerned about the practicality of doing so. Most of the laptops in use in my business are dual-boot, Linux/MSWindows. Since it is unlikely that there would be a Linux expert available, I expect that our laptops would just be seized and sent off to an "expert" consultant. Not acceptable.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 7:29 PM  

  • Digital data provides no distinction for level of privacy - When doing a personal search, the level of invasiveness matches the perceived threat and other information. A bag search is common, a strip search is not. To do a strip search, you would need to meet a higher bar of scrutiny. On a hard drive there is no distinction between extremely personal information (tax records, computer passwords, financial documents, family photos, email correspondences, etc.) and mundane information (music files, camera drivers, software versions, Game high scores, etc.). When all data is copied and analyzed, there is no difference between the most sensitive information and the most banal. Because there is no distinction, the most casual border search can be looking at a person’s most sensitive information.

    The invasion of privacy should be commensurate with the risk - Just as the volume of drugs is commensurate with the sentence, and the depth of the search is commensurate with the degree of reasonable suspicion, likewise, the search of a computer needs to have this same level of concern. Since all data is the same (see above), it is the most sensitive data that we must assume and thus this should be put under the highest level of protection. To do anything less is to degrade privacy to the lowest standard and to treat the most sensitive data as the most mundane. In effect this is a means of increasing the invasiveness of border searches.

    The contents of a hard drive can be the extension of a person's mind - A person's mind is not subject to a boarder search. In many cases the material on a hard drive (or other computer media) is merely the extension of that person's thoughts.

    Search is different than retention - When your bag is searched at the border, that search is over when you leave the border. When a copy is made of your information, that copy is kept for an unknown period of time and for use at a time (and for purposes) that can extend far beyond just protecting our borders.

    Personal media information can be considered under copyright - Some might argue that making a copy of this information is a violation of that person's property rights as the property was taken without consent or compensation. Will the border guard be responsible for paying the RIAA if they copy my iTunes library?

    To copy this data is to open up a path for corruption - To copy the contents of a computer’s storage allows those in power to monitor those who might challenge their control. If the campaign manager of an opposition political candidate were to take a trip out of the country; upon their return the laptop contents could be copied at the border and used to understand their strategy. Likewise, people targeted by the government could have their data analyzed; not for the protection of the public by blocking contraband (as border searches are intended), but as a means to understand that person and discover additional ways to compromise them.

    By Anonymous Author, At August 8, 2008 7:30 PM  

  • This is way too invasive of our privacy. There is no real reason for the Government to copy EVERY SINGLE FILE from our laptop to their servers. Once our files end up there, who knows who has access to our documents. It is ridiculous that they are even thinking about this at all.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 7:33 PM  

  • Amazing, the USA really don't want foreigners to visit anymore.

    First you treat us like criminals by fingerprinting and scanning our eyes.

    Then you inflict your aggressive border security staff on us, all of whom have a messiah complex.

    Now you steal our laptops, PDAs, phones at a whim.

    I am so not going to return to the USA on holidays or on business again. Its more welcoming to fly to North Korea.

    Annoyed Brit, wondering why we fought at your side... was it to be treated like this?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 7:39 PM  

  • Here's one for the copyright gurus out there:

    When the government copies the contents of a computer with legal music on it, are they committing copyright fraud?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 7:45 PM  

  • Roll over and die already America.
    Sheep led to slaughter are easily distracted.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 7:51 PM  

  • I smell conspiracy:

    - Could it be that they want us to use online storage. And that they have powerful brute force decrytpting technologies to target a given onliline storage account if needed.

    - Could it be that this is a deception while they sneak through other forms of privacy invasion without us noticing.

    - Could it be that those in power have tie-ups to those companies that get the contracts to do the electronic searches.

    - Could it be that they are ping us to one end of the board and then seeing how far away we can drag them back.

    I personally dont think that DHS is stupid enough to do these for the obvious reasons.... just a thought.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 7:52 PM  

  • Such a crock and unnecessary invasion of privacy. It seems like this policy is more aimed at finding pirated material than anything to do with terrorism. We're so far off course any more. I can't wait until Jan when we get some common sense put back into our government.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 7:59 PM  

  • "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."

    You are supposed to uphold the constitution, not destroy it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 7:59 PM  

  • It seems to me that the option to search and confiscate laptops will be used as a tool for agents to harass people they don't like, and to cause problems for poor students who need their computer and are unable to replace it. Anyone who the agents don't like the looks of will be harassed. Be sure to dress like a conservative when crossing the border!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 8:00 PM  

  • I hope that some of the numerous posters who have been shocked to learn that CBP has the right to search laptops at the border are also sharing these concerns with their congresssional representatives.

    It is (sadly) black letter law that until you are on US soil, Constitutional Protections do not apply (hello, Guantanamo!), so the CBP policy that they can search laptops does not violate the 4th amendment, as has been asserted/claimed/ranted by many of the commenters here. The US can strip search you upon entry, unless you are entering on a diplomatic passport - the laptop search rule is not new; it was only recently ratified by the courts.

    Let me be clear that I don't support this policy, but complaining on this blog will not change the policy - we need a law passed by Congress (and hopefully by a smarter President than the one we have now) - that says that CBP may only search a laptop with a warrant approved by a court, and with some reasonable basis to move forward with the search. Allowing unfettered discretion in searching gives CBP officers too much latitude to discriminate in how they search, or use the search as a means to hit on passengers. Agent sees a pretty female business traveler, seizes/searchs her laptop - he may then have all of her personal data to start harassing or even stalking this person. Or an agent could pull all necessary data to steal a travelers identity, access their online bank/credit card accounts. Given the many news reports of corruption in the Border Patrol (such as taking bribes to let people in), I don't think these fears are unfounded.

    Assurances that CBP knows what they are doing are not enough - we need to see that the US values personal privacy, and doesn't assume that all of us are guilty until proven otherwise.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 8:32 PM  

  • Ok I believe in the rule of law. Please understand, that I also work in law enforcement. I regularly search people and I am in turn searched. I did not like to be searched at first; however, I have nothing to hide so I have gotten more use to the idea of reasonable searches.

    As far as someone searching my laptop I would have to agree with both arguments. On the one hand I have information on there as I might just have in my house.

    On the other hand our enemies might have information that was readily obtained and being stored in that type of software and hardware.

    These are complex issues that test the fabric of our liberty as a nation with a constitution. I suppose that in the interest of law enforcement I find it reasonable to search anyone coming into or leaving the country with any electronic device. However, we must also agree as citizens that our electronic devices are not secure or are not secure in a way that we can have absolute control over. What if someone asked to use your laptop at your house and accidentally downloaded questionable pictures, then you took your laptop on a business trip. You then come to find out through a search that the offensive materials are on the laptop. Are you guilty by possession of this electronic contraband even though you did not download the offensive picture. Perhaps your child has done this and inadvertently by surfing to the wrong web site. So, are we to suffer criminal offenses for actions we clearly did not commit.

    These are complex issues that need to be taken into consideration. We need to be aware of the complexities to which these devices may involve ourselves and others.

    In the interest of justice we have to enforce the rule of law but we have to do it in a just way. For, example, if someone uses a laptop to download illegal images and that link is stored on search engine our the people that provide the database just a liable in criminal intent for supplying the electronic equivalent of a connection to the illegal images?

    Once again as citizens there are not exact yes and no answers that clearly define the law for all of us. So, depending on the individual and what illegal files have been found we need to be aware that just because you are in to the possession of such a device are you necessarily guilty by what that device contains.

    For example, criminals intent on using your laptop for illegal electronic purposes can install spy- ware on your system just by opening a website up. That is correct you read that right. So if you did not know better your computer might have been used as an electronic go between for illegal activities with out you ever knowing it.

    To say that everyone is a criminal because they have an electronic device and that the government finds a certain illegal files is like saying anyone with a cell phone and is an American has done something illegal.

    The distinctions are startling because we know that all American with cell phones are not doing illegal things. So, in the fairness and interest of the rule of law is every American who has illegal materials on his or her computer guilty of what that computer may posses. If the answer to that is no then we must carefully weigh all mitigating facts before we come to any conclusions as to what if any law has been broken.

    If we are not careful our freedoms as a democratic nation will serve us less and as a people we will become a republic where we fear justice and we no longer want to uphold our laws by being virtuous because obiding by the law could cause overwhelming jeopardy to our person.

    This has been demonstrated in other countries where there is no rule of law, communist regimes, and dictatorships.

    I have no doubt that I believe in the this country, These United States, and one republic for which it stands and our constitutional freedoms. I am for upholding the rule of law as long as it is fairly and justly applied.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 8:38 PM  

  • The Laptop is not dangerous because of the ideas or material it has. The reason to search Laptops is to find out if there are any explosives concealed inside, this is accomplished via a simple xray. If the files of a Laptop are searched it is fundamentally like reading my mail. In my America I am not afraid of ideas why is DHS afraid of ideas?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 8:54 PM  

  • Laptops can and do contain private data, from unfinished literary works, to personal letters, to confidential pieces of code protected by NDAs, etc.

    DHS has NO right whatsoever to search/copy/view the contents of a laptop without a warrant.

    By Blogger J. Dack, At August 8, 2008 9:22 PM  

  • LOL, you all couldn't find my Churchills and you think you're gonna match wits with me on my own laptop? LOL. Ever heard of remote terminals? Ever heard of torrents? Do you even know what a ssh tunnel is? This is rich.
    BTW, how's that border fence working out for ya?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 9:30 PM  

  • Absolutely preposterous. I travel overseas on business, and as a developer I have thousands of dollars and thousands of gigabytes invested in my computer. For you to take the time to search all of the data that I would have with me would prevent me from working to ear a living. To pay your government salaries with over half of my income. You nickel and dime me to death already with hundreds of taxes hidden everywhere, and now you expect me to stop working while you spend days digging through my life?
    I store things on my laptop because it's the most efficient way to travel. Because I can have everything at hand without having to lug suitcases full of documents, music, information etc. It's my privilege, and you can just step off.
    This isn't a job for homeland security, because you've just admitted that you're not just searching for terrorist actions. You're searching peoples' whole lives in an effort to find something to convict them with.
    I own around 400 CDs, including music, software, games, databases, etc. I keep much of it with me at all times. And you'd probably stop me and insist that I stole that data. Who are you to tell me that I need to cart them all with me so that they get stolen? I can buy an intangible "license", but if the physical media disappears, thieves like you will insist that I purchase it again. Like any sensible person, I store the originals and keep the copies with me. A license shouldn't be vulnerable to theft. But we've already seen how good you are at writing laws...
    You've been backing the media industries in their insistence that I must purchase multiple inferior copies of the same song for exorbitant rates and now you're going to see who you can extort at the border.

    Anyone connected with terrorism would be using public internet cafes to transfer data. Data and technical information export is banned only to certain countries. All they have to do is pass it through a legal country who hasn't gone all 1984 on us. Stop the charade. It's a control game, not a safety game. And it's not like you've actually accomplished anything so far. I met someone who accidentally took a gun through an airport screening onto a plane. I am not confident of your abilities, much less your motives.

    Plus, TSA steals thousands of laptops from airports already because you don't let us lock them. Like I'll trust you at the border to not rob me blind. You already do it under the guise of taxes to put on your international soap operas. Just stop it. Go back to being fellow citizens instead of gestapo.

    The sad thing is, I might actually buy into this security game if it was just to protect the people, instead of your pockets.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 9:41 PM  

  • 1. Laptop searches last far longer. The backpack search is complete when the traveler leaves the border. For a typical laptop, the government can make a copy and then search every file at its leisure.

    2. It’s like searching your home. Our laptops contain family photos, medical records, finances, personal diaries, and all the other detailed records of our most personal lives. Having the government rummage through all these files is like searching your home, and that requires a probable cause warrant.

    3. Confidential and privileged information. Many kinds of confidential information are in laptops, including journalists’ notes about an investigative story, trade secrets and other key business information, and many more. Lawyers’ laptops contain attorney-client privileged information, as reinforced by a recent case that says the privilege is lost once the government sees a file during a search.

    By Anonymous Tom Schultz, At August 8, 2008 10:26 PM  

  • You guys are so far out of reality it is just amazing. First, IF I want to import my private files into the US (assuming I would ever be stupid enough to want to visit your country in the first place), all I would have to do is upload them to my own hosting server, delete them from my hard disk, and sail through your laughable 'security'. Then download them once I am in the country. What a joke!

    Second, no matter what authority the 'government' has given you, the Constitution specifically grants citizens the right to privacy. YOU are violating that right under the spurious and extremely stupid pretext of showing how much you care about security. The truth is, all your precautions are based on FEAR. Nothing more. You cannot stop a determined terrorist or lawbreaker. That is just wishful thinking on your part.

    Third, your actions are causing more and more people to avoid even thinking about travel to your country. While your stupid policies are in place I will NEVER go to the USA. If my clients want to meet me they can go through your gauntlet and fly to some other country to meet me.

    Fourth, you have managed to destroy what little respect many non-Americans may have had for your country. Remember, your paranoia is all based in FEAR. Get over it. You are big boys. If your government stopped attacking other countries for no good reason other than to satisfy the Military/Industrial complex quest for profits, you wouldn't have to FEAR anyone. The only politician in your country that has made any sense lately is Ron Paul. Read what he says about government, then quit your crappy jobs and go get a real life!

    By Blogger Marc, At August 8, 2008 10:28 PM  

  • I can store secret stuff on the internet and retrieve it later, so can terrorists. Will you then be asking to search the internet? I can store files on by ipod as mp3 files. Are you going to listen to all 80 gigs of music on my ipod? I can encrypt my files and hide them. Are you going to try to crack my encryption? I can use Linux. If I store my files in Linux, are you even going to know how to start my GUI? I doubt the high school drop outs at HomeSec will be able to nav anything but Windows or MacOS, let alone "search for terrorist files" on my laptop. Oh...and let's not forget my all plastic thumb drive that will not be detected while in my pocket. Are you going to search my person (invasively as well) for my thumb drive, then crack the encryption? I doubt this battle will be won, even if it manages to pass as legal search. There are too many possibilities to hide data. They may catch 1 or 2 retarded terrorists, but not any dangerous ones.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 10:49 PM  

  • this is the most depressingly clumsy, patently idiotic, and unbearably invasive procedures the US government has ever adopted. frankly i am shocked that the DHS would try to slip this one past us. how insulting.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 8, 2008 11:40 PM  

  • "apply the same search authorities to electronic media that we have long-applied to physical objects--including documents, photographs, film and other graphic material"

    So you are saying that you have previously disobeyed the Bill Of Rights and that makes it all right to expand it even more?

    "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."

    If you would be so kind as to study these easy to remember rules the next time you want to instate a policy


    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 9, 2008 12:28 AM  

  • Anyone with ill intent could just cross the border, why would they want to risk airport security when they could just hitch a ride with the thousands of illegal immigrants that cross daily?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 9, 2008 12:33 AM  

  • This is a terrible and shockingly invasive policy that threatens everything this country stands for, has ever accomplished, and even potentially compromises our future national prosperity.

    Frankly, as an American, I'm disappointed.

    By Blogger jason, At August 9, 2008 1:00 AM  

  • Whilst I don't so much mind your looking at my laptop on-site and in my presence (as happens with the scanning of bags), I do mind your giving agents the ability to confiscate the laptop without probable cause. Not only is this inconvenient (especially for business travelers and students), but it is also comparable to theft.
    In addition, the fact that the laptop may be taken for unspecified amounts of time is even more of a problem, as a traveler may never see his/her computer (and the important data on it) again. I have all of my financial data on my computer, and were I to have my laptop confiscated and then be audited by the IRS, I would have serious problems, as there would be gaps in my financial info between the date of my last backup (which would most likely have been before my travel) and the date of the confiscation of my laptop.

    Additionally, as has been pointed out by other commenters, programs such as Truecrypt can place hidden encrypted volumes inside of other hidden volumes, thus making it impossible to find data inside those volumes without the consent of the owner of the computer.

    However, the most annoying feature of this is the fact that my data can be handed, without my consent, to private entities. I don't mind as much the government having my data because the government is (at least in theory) supposed to be accountable to the citizens. Private entities, however, have no such limits, and could easily wreak havoc with the data from private (or business) laptops.

    By Blogger Lengau, At August 9, 2008 1:08 AM  

  • I'm a photographer, and I have client photos on my laptop. Some of them are nude. I take my clients' privacy very seriously, but I also need my laptop with me because it's an integral part of my livelihood. What's a girl to do?

    This is a ridiculous policy. What an absolute waste of time and money. Why not direct the effort and the manhours to more baggage screening or something that's more fruitful?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 9, 2008 1:37 AM  

  • Not a problem, simply triple encrypt your hard drive and watch the monkeys try to break it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 9, 2008 3:09 AM  

  • I wonder about the methodology of your searches.
    Most others have commented on the rights issues. I would like to comment instead on the feasibility.

    How much training is given to these agents? If they are like current TSA staff, I doubt that they'll be particularly effective. I'd think you would need computer forensic and security specialists to thoroughly investigate a computer.

    I'd think it would take a long time too, no? How long will you keep the devices you confiscate to search? I can't imagine this process being quick enough for a walk-in and walk-out border service, unless it is a complete travesty.

    What is being checked? It is trivial to label a file as something else, will you attempt to go through all files on the computer? What about encryption? Will you detain all travelers until they give up their key? What about hidden drives, steganography, and other such ways to obscure data? Will all your agents be trained to test computers and recognize these things?

    I am extremely skeptical that you can implement a comprehensive, effective, and quick program to do this.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 9, 2008 3:24 AM  

  • Reading through all the comments here, there is a recurring theme: No matter what Homeland Security (how Orwellian!) does, there is no way to protect the country at the borders from a determined criminal. Please remember this word: 'criminal'. A terrorist is merely a criminal with what he thinks is a political agenda. Makes no difference. He/She is still a criminal. Before 9/11 the US had plenty of laws to prosecute criminals...even those stupid enough to go around blowing up buildings. But Bush and his puppet masters have manipulated the law to bring in draconian laws to control YOU THE PEOPLE. Worse, YOU have let them. So you only have yourselves to blame.

    HS is a political tool dedicated to carrying out the wishes of its political masters. Will the next President have the gumption to wipe out organizations like this created in the aftermath of 9/11? I would say that is the litmus test the next President must pass.

    Further, I assume people at HS are reading these comments on their own website. But is anyone taking notice of the sentiments here and realizing what a lousy job they have? Are they lobbying the politicians to review and change the laws to stop penalizing innocent Americans for the actions of a few criminals? Unless HS, FEMA and all the other spaghetti named organizations are doing their utmost to PROTECT AMERICAN CITIZENS RIGHTS, then their job is worthless.

    If Americans want to stop this madness they can do just one thing. Vote for a President willing to stop it. Will McCain or Obama do it? I seriously doubt it. They are both pawns of the machine and constricted by the people who really set policy...puppets just like Bush.

    Lengau said...Whilst I don't so much mind your looking at my laptop on-site and in my presence (as happens with the scanning of bags), I do mind your giving agents the ability to confiscate the laptop without probable cause.

    Not good enough. You should mind people searching through your personal property. Would you like it if they invaded your home and did it? So what makes it any different at an airport?

    Wake up America! While you let this continue don't whine that it's just not fair. It will only continue if you let it.

    By Blogger Marc, At August 9, 2008 9:21 AM  

  • This policy ensures that we will catch on the stupidest and most incompetent "terrorist" plots.

    There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can be transported safely on a laptop that can't be transmitted over the internet.

    This policy is simply more proof that DHS procedures are merely "security theater," and are not in any way serious about catching potential threats.

    By Blogger John Cromartie, At August 9, 2008 9:50 AM  

  • The first inside page of my passport, reads thus:

    "Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State Requests and requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to offer the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary."

    Seizing my laptop, counts as "hindrance" - all I'd need to do would be contact the nearest British Consul and drop a couple of names, and we can take it from there...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 9, 2008 11:45 AM  

  • Rest assured that I will not be travelling to the United States any time soon.

    If I was a terrorist looking to transfer data to the states...unencrypted on a laptop is pretty much the last place I'd put it.

    I could:

    1) Upload it to one of any a thousand places on the internet to download upon passing customs.

    2) Encrypt it.

    Either of these things render your stupid border searches totally worthless. You're not protecting against terrorism...you're taking away the reason the terrorists hate us in the first place - our freedom.

    (Not that my country is much better. I'm sure Britain will be doing to same next. The Government usually can't wait to mimic the US Government in every way.)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 9, 2008 12:02 PM  

  • Really?!, really. Really?!.

    Its like the ppl in charge of DHS knows nothing about the digital age and the transmission of data.

    Lets take laptops at the border and look for nude pictures of the traveler's spouse tee hee.

    Just as I sit in my office chair in NYC and am posting information to this server, I can send information, friendly or malicious, anywhere in the world. I do not need to carry it over the boarder.

    This is merely an attempt by the DHS to control information that can be used or not used by the government at a later date. Shameless and would be un-acceptable in a free country, like Canada or England, or any other democracy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 9, 2008 12:32 PM  

  • Searching laptops is ludicrous. Anything that can be transported over the border in a laptop can be easily transmitted digitally over the internet. There is simply no reason to treat digital files the same way that you would treat some physical tangible contraband.

    By Blogger jdp, At August 9, 2008 1:04 PM  

  • DHS' laptop search policy is very dangerous to our national security. It convinces people not to visit the United States, and not to travel here. I personally know several people in foreign countries who have avoided coming to the US because of our paranoid, unreasonable, police state border policies. I'm not being hyperbolic: that IS how people view our border polices, and it's why they cease coming here.

    Tourism is down. Enrollment of foreign students is down. Tours by foreign bands, cancelled. Collaboration between American & foreign researches is down.

    This is going to have a devastating long term impact on our economy and our technological, scientific, and cultural leadership of the world, which in turn will weaken our national security in many ways.

    The Department of Homeland Security is currently posing a greater long term threat to the United States than any terrorist could on their own, by playing a major role in structurally weakening the country.

    By OpenID cos, At August 9, 2008 1:25 PM  

  • So you can't testify about interrogations because terrorists might hear something and train themselves to resist, but they won't know about this policy? This is just another government power grab. No, you can't have my laptop. No, you can't have my cellphone or ipod.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 9, 2008 2:15 PM  

  • There are so many reasons why this is wrong.

    1. If you're going to have someone go through my stuff, they better be properly trained computer forensics / IT experts. Otherwise keep your hands off my equipment.

    2. A hard drive is a LOT different than a backpack. It contains more than a book and pair of shades. You can have your entire life on there. Its not the governments place to peer that deep into your life. When you cross the border they don't do gene analysis and interrogate you for 5 years to find out your entire life. They shouldn't be going through your data either.

    3. You seriously don't understand technology if you assume that you'll be finding all sorts of terrorist secret stuff in laptops at borders. Data zips through the internet way faster and can be stored in so many places. No reason to have it on a laptop as you cross the border. If the main reason for doing this is the assumption that "terrorists" are using more and more technology then you automatically have to assume they already know enough to not leave their sensitive information on a laptop.

    4. I wouldn't want my tax dollars spent training all the people needed to run these proper searches when I know its useless and an invasion of my privacy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 9, 2008 3:00 PM  

  • Hello??? Have you heard of the Internet? FTP? Web Hosting? Cloud Computing? Information can be securely uploaded and downloaded and web services can be used for processing. DUH! Or Terrorists can use a VM to access thier home computer. Besides, valuable data can be hidden on any device that can connect to your computer such as in MP3 format. i.e. Cell phones, digital cameras, MP3 players, USB drives, SD flash drives, even toys.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 11, 2008 12:37 PM  

  • *I agree with the many other posts which point out the futility of searching laptops. Any person who can get sensitive data onto a laptop which should not be exported/imported will also be able to upload that data to any number of free file storage websites. Any half-competent "bad guy" will be able to encrypt that data and "anonymously" transfer the file after they have arrived in / departed from the US. I'd really like to see your numbers. Anyone who wants to transfer data to another country will do it, and nobody at DHS can stop them.

    *Out of all electronics searched, how many contain illegal material? I've only heard of one case, in which an American attempted to bring in child porn he got in SE Asia. As vile as child pornography is - is that a national security threat? And for the reasons outlined above, child pornographers will probably not get caught in the future.

    *Even if the powers of DHS are not being abused now - and it may be too late to say 'IF' - we know from the history of people and bureaucracy that it's just a matter of time before these powers WILL BE abused.

    *Searching laptops is not the same as searching luggage - laptops can be much more personal than clothing. Business people have the right not to let the government snoop on their company's information.

    Instead of leaving open this ineffective gaping privacy hole which can and will be abused, why not just close the hole so you guys can focus on higher priorities - like keeping bombs off of planes. During tests, TSA screeners only find hidden bombs the vast MINORITY of the time.

    By Blogger Chris, At August 11, 2008 3:59 PM  

  • What a shame.
    As an ex-pro-american european I will never travel again to the US or use any of its airports as transfer connection to my final destiny. I feel safer and invidually more protectect in most arab or african countries than in the fatherland of democracy....
    shame, shame, shame...
    I feel sorrow for you american citizen. You do not deserve something like this as the problem may not be outside your borders but rather inside them. I feel so sorry for you !!!!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 11, 2008 4:23 PM  

  • Telling us that you're doing it for our own safety doesn't make it any more welcome. There are better ways to fight crime than seizing private property at will. How many criminal convictions have resulted from your searches? What percentage is that of total searches conducted? Do you provide travelers with a "secure" laptop to use while you have theirs detained? I really do not trust this government.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 11, 2008 7:59 PM  

  • Dear DHS,

    A previous poster described you guys as having a "messiah complex". I think it's more accurate to say that you've got a "Jack Bauer Complex". You all seem to suffer from a collective delusion that you're characters on the TV show "24". That's your justification not just for stealing laptops, but other, more serious abuses - such as the brutal torture of prisoners.

    You are aware that "24" is a work of fiction? An increasingly implausible work of fiction, I might add - a parallel universe where the US seems to suffer a new president every 12 months! A world where ludicrous terrorists are idiotic enough to kidnap cabinet members as diversions for their real missions? A world where the preposterous "ticking time bomb" occurs with amusing regularity - (the hoariest movie cliche of all...) and one that of course, necessitates the constant use of torture and a plethora of abuses of our rights.

    "What would we do if there was a nuclear bomb with a ticking clock? Wouldn't we have to torture someone to prevent it exploding?"

    POPPYCOCK, gentlemen, POPPYCOCK!

    This has no analog in the real world. In reality, torture doesn't work - you end up with a pathetic wreck of a human being who will say ANYTHING and accuse ANYONE just to make the pain stop. And yet, on it goes...

    Not because it works...

    Because it makes you feel powerful.

    Eternal shame on the lot of you.

    Dermot O' Connor.

    P.S., here are some quotes from the great Anglo-Irish Conservative statesman Edmund Burke, an early supporter of the American Revolution. I doubt that he would be impressed with your dubious efforts at preserving your Republic. You might, if inclined, take them to heart:

    "No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear."

    "The people never give up their liberties, but under some delusion."

    "The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 12, 2008 3:40 PM  

  • This sets a dangerous precedent.

    If the US seizes laptops at random from travellers arriving at US border control then other countries, using reciprocity as an argument, will be able to stop US nationals at their borders and seize their laptops for similar searches and the US can not say a word about it.

    This will compromise the interests of US companies that use VPN or other file serving software as their passwords may be revealed when their laptops are seized whilst travelling.

    China for instance may target a US executive travelling for sensitive negotiations and search for information that would aid the Chinese business partners if it were revealed.

    This is a total nonsense. The world does not revolve around the US. Even if US border staff are above board (a big IF) those of other countries may not be.

    Close that option and don't search laptops - then you can occupy the high ground and object when others do it to US nationals.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 13, 2008 10:47 AM  

  • I normally support DHS in its efforts; however, this action is not well thought-out, for all the reasons above.

    Additionally, the fact that you have announced such a policy means that true terrorists will never move their data in such a way. It's just like taking airplane passengers as hostages--no terrorist is ever going to do that again, because now the airplane passengers know that they are likely to die, so they'll kill the terrorists with their bare hands if need be. The terrorists know it. If they ship anything, it will be stuff to throw you off target--think disinformation.

    This is simply not well-thought-out. Go back to the office, sit down, and THINK for a while rather than reacting emotionally. That's what we expect from you.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 20, 2008 12:51 PM  

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