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Travelers' Laptops May Be Detained At Border. The policies cover "any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form," including hard drives, flash drives, cell phones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes. They also cover "all papers and other written documentation," including books, pamphlets and "written materials commonly referred to as 'pocket trash' or 'pocket litter.' "

Good bye freedom. Nice knowing you.
posted by punkbitch (132 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
No Suspicion Required Under DHS Policies
posted by punkbitch at 9:54 PM on July 31, 2008


"written materials commonly referred to as 'pocket trash' or 'pocket litter.' "

Like, oh, The Constitution?
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:00 PM on July 31, 2008 [14 favorites]


This is part of their continuing "randomly fuck with you" policy?
posted by Artw at 10:01 PM on July 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


Two things:

A lot of people will come into this thread and say "What, this surprises you?" I get that. This administration has constantly pushed my astonishment threshold. I feel stupid for being amazed, surprised, and horrified.

And: what the fucking fuck?

Oh, three things: I am profoundly ashamed of my government. And have been for a while. I'm sick of feeling like that.
posted by rtha at 10:09 PM on July 31, 2008 [9 favorites]


Crap in a hat, Vaterland Sicherheit. At first I thought this was a reference to Chinese policies in the runup to the Olympics.

Regardless, this is bad news. To the point that it makes me have second thoughts about returning after i go on study abroad this fall.
(besides the fact that i don't want to be in this country when it gets what's coming to it)
posted by dunkadunc at 10:12 PM on July 31, 2008


Let's be reasonable folks. From Jayson Ahren's website we can see that this is not that big of a deal:
On a typical day in fiscal year 2006, CBP processed approximately 1 million passengers and pedestrians;

So by examining and detaining (and quite possibly returning) a mere 200,000 items per day we can get a 20% sample which should pretty much shut down the terrorists. Right?
Surely this is not too much to ask to preserve our freedom?

(Crawls into corner, assumes foetal position)
posted by speug at 10:13 PM on July 31, 2008


Easily fixed: Don't go to the USA. No big loss.
posted by pompomtom at 10:13 PM on July 31, 2008 [10 favorites]


Jayson Ahren's website
posted by speug at 10:15 PM on July 31, 2008


Ok, so the lesson is to use strong encryption on all devices when crossing the border. From what I read there, there is no requirement that you actually let them into the data, simply that you surrender the device.
posted by Hactar at 10:15 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Certainly make sure you back everything up (and stash it somewhere online if you might need it on your trip) before you do...
posted by Artw at 10:16 PM on July 31, 2008


Ok, so the lesson is to use strong encryption on all devices when crossing the border. From what I read there, there is no requirement that you actually let them into the data

Of course they get to keep the device until they crack the encryption.
posted by speug at 10:19 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Government and Your Laptop
posted by homunculus at 10:21 PM on July 31, 2008


Chertoff: legislation locking in a particular standard for searches would have a dangerous, chilling effect as officers' often split-second assessments are second-guessed."

Yeah, heaven forbid we require a higher privacy standard than "split-second assessments".
That would mean a terrorist might use a dirty child pornography bomb to blow up our freedoms.
posted by ook at 10:27 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Customs Deputy Commissioner Jayson P. Ahern said the efforts "do not infringe on Americans' privacy." In a statement submitted to Feingold for a June hearing on the issue, he noted that the executive branch has long had "plenary authority to conduct routine searches and seizures at the border without probable cause or a warrant" to prevent drugs and other contraband from entering the country.

DHS officials said that the newly disclosed policies -- which apply to anyone entering the country, including U.S. citizens -- are reasonable and necessary to prevent terrorism.


Pulled these two quotes from the article. Emphasis is mine for maximum cognitive dissonance. I also like how drug war tactics are repurposed so easily for the even more nebulous and equally unwinnable war on terror. Now everyone can be a suspect!

Chertoff wrote. "Yet legislation locking in a particular standard for searches would have a dangerous, chilling effect as officers' often split-second assessments are second-guessed."

Yeah, I can see how having a reasonable set of standards would mess with your ability to impound things on a whim and hamper your ability to just rely on your gut. I mean everyone knows that the first impulse is always right, so no need to introduce doubt or oversight into the equation.
posted by CheshireCat at 10:27 PM on July 31, 2008 [6 favorites]


Yet legislation locking in a particular standard for searches would have a dangerous, chilling effect

On what? This incipient, creeping fascism that's infecting American society? I think I can get behind that.
posted by felix betachat at 10:30 PM on July 31, 2008 [6 favorites]


Unfortunately this right was given up a long time ago. Exactly which date you'd like to pick is open to some argument — some would say 1985, with U.S. v. Montoya, but I've also seen 1790 mentioned as the first time Congress authorized “that all persons coming into the United States from foreign countries shall be liable to detention and search” [source].

The courts have let this happen (as far as I can tell, based on analysis like the one linked above) because of a very broad reading of the Commerce Clause. DHS or the Border Patrol can rectal-probe you, or read your laptop, or do pretty much anything else they want without a warrant, because it's all part of the Government's power to regulate commerce with foreign nations. That pretty much turns border zones into a no-mans-land where normal rights don't apply, so goes the argument in Montoya.

This maximalist reading of the Commerce Clause at the expense of individual rights (and the rights of the states) is, in my mind anyway, to blame for much of the current bloat and intrusiveness in the Federal government. Sadly, it doesn't seem to be going anywhere; the chances of getting a Supreme Court bench that would depart radically from the past two centuries of creeping Federal expansionism is unlikely if the two parties currently in charge stay there.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:33 PM on July 31, 2008 [9 favorites]


Ok, so the lesson is to use strong encryption on all devices when crossing the border.

No, definitely not. That will make things worse.

The lesson is, email all relevant data to yourself at some gmail account created for the purpose, or upload it to a website, cross the border, buy a second-hand laptop, download the data, use it, upload your data, wipe the laptop, sell the laptop, cross the border again, and download your data. Don't even take a phone within reach of these monkeys.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:36 PM on July 31, 2008 [6 favorites]


I know that this isn't the worst offense of this administration, but right now something about this feels like the last straw for me. This is not the America I knew. I hope Obama, if he reaches the White House, actively works to restore checks on executive power and ensure civil liberties. If not--where are we going to be in another ten years? Twenty?

As of today, the government can listen to all my phone calls and read my emails--anytime they want. They can seize my laptop indefinitely at the border, with no cause whatsoever. They could, if they wanted, declare me an 'enemy combatant' and put me in prison without representation. Sure, they won't--not me, a middle class white guy with a graduate education. Not this year, probably not this decade. But if the time comes that I'm perceived as a threat, or not sufficiently supportive of the latest military venture of the Commander-in-Chief (the office we used to call 'President'), the foundation is laid to quietly get rid of me.

Ten years ago I would have thought this could only happen in alternate history novels. But the alternate history is here.

The tell me that the terrorists hate us because of our freedoms. So I guess I should feel safer on that score.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:45 PM on July 31, 2008 [45 favorites]


Elsewhere: Customs in Australia considering searching iPods for "pirated music".
posted by divabat at 10:52 PM on July 31, 2008


5 months 22 days 7 hours 3 minutes 35 seconds
posted by yort at 10:56 PM on July 31, 2008 [8 favorites]


Imagine you could go back in time and bring back a small cadre of Federalist statesmen from the late 1700s to observe and comment on the current state of the nation. If they would be universally appalled by the vast encroachment of Federal authority over the last 200+ years, then the government has gone fundamentally wrong and the nation is in need of another revolution.

There's no reasonable doubt we've crossed that threshold since at least the day Congress authorized war powers shortly after 9/11, and a strong case could be argued that such a point had been reached far sooner. The government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" has already perished from this Earth, but most of us seem to be in denial.

(Every day when I put on my uniform and head out into the blazing middle-eastern sun, this is the stuff I think about. I'm one of the few on this battlefield who remembers that our oaths are to the Constitution, not to elected officials. Senatus Populus Que Americanus!)
posted by mystyk at 10:58 PM on July 31, 2008 [26 favorites]


Those damn Americans... no freedom-loving country like Canada would ever seize laptops at customs. (previously)
posted by Jahaza at 11:01 PM on July 31, 2008


This is part of their continuing "randomly fuck with you" policy?

No, this is part of their "sing the Star-Spangled Banner while I fist-fuck you" policy.

If your voice cracks when singing "the land of the free and home of the brave" while the nice man is tickling your large intestine, you're probably a terrorist.
posted by homunculus at 11:03 PM on July 31, 2008


"I hope Obama, if he reaches the White House, actively works to restore checks on executive power and ensure civil liberties. If not--where are we going to be in another ten years? Twenty?

"As of today, the government can listen to all my phone calls..."


Obama voted up the FISA amendment, letting ATT off the hook for colluding with the government for spying on your phone calls. Or, did you miss that development?
posted by MetaMan at 11:04 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


(Every day when I put on my uniform and head out into the blazing middle-eastern sun, this is the stuff I think about. I'm one of the few on this battlefield who remembers that our oaths are to the Constitution, not to elected officials. Senatus Populus Que Americanus!)

I take great comfort reading that mystyk.

I sometimes wonder if one day it will be the military that saves us from our government.
posted by punkbitch at 11:07 PM on July 31, 2008


> Easily fixed: Don't go to the USA. No big loss.

It's news like this that is making me fly halfway across the world just to avoid going through the US. And it would have been so much cheaper *sigh*
posted by dhruva at 11:11 PM on July 31, 2008


So was Obama just being "political" when he voted for immunity? I mean, I was so pissed off about that...

It would be a great issue to stick into a Mccain video though - much more effective than that ridiculous argument about offshore drilling...
posted by punkbitch at 11:12 PM on July 31, 2008


Man, this sucks. I'm flying into the states for vacation next week to attend a video game convention and visit family. If they confiscate my lappy, that'll pretty obviously make the party suck just a bit.
posted by GoingToShopping at 11:29 PM on July 31, 2008


So this is how Johnny Mnemonic got his start...
posted by X-00 at 11:46 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wrote in an opinion piece published last month in USA Today that "the most dangerous contraband is often contained in laptop computers or other electronic devices." Searches have uncovered "violent jihadist materials" as well as images of child pornography, he wrote.

'So, Secretary Chertoff…'

'Yes, what is it?'

'Um, it turns out that things on computers can go from one computer to another computer without using an airplane to get there.'

'What? That's crazy. Where did you hear about this?'

'Some European blog.'

'Son of a bitch!'
posted by shakespeherian at 11:49 PM on July 31, 2008 [33 favorites]


aeschenkarnos: "The lesson is, email all relevant data to yourself at some gmail account created for the purpose, or upload it to a website, cross the border, buy a second-hand laptop, download the data, use it, upload your data, wipe the laptop, sell the laptop, cross the border again, and download your data. Don't even take a phone within reach of these monkeys."

I do the following:The point of all of this is I'm generally protected in case of theft, and if I'm asked by an official to unlock the system I can do so with little fear (I still think it's an intrusion, but that's a legal fight I don't always have time for). They won't be able to run a data recovery tool, the hard-drive is virtually useless if removed, and even if they knew exactly which file to look for I can input the dummy password.
posted by mystyk at 11:51 PM on July 31, 2008 [9 favorites]


They overestimated the bandwidth of a 747 full of CDROMs.
posted by Artw at 11:51 PM on July 31, 2008


or a memory stick shoved up your bum
posted by yort at 12:04 AM on August 1, 2008


Nothing says "This is the world of the electron and the switch, my only crime is curiosity" like a memory stick shoved up your bum.
posted by Artw at 12:08 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


No, but honestly, how does anyone think border checks will do anything to stop the spread of nefarious digital contraband?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:12 AM on August 1, 2008


What if it's a 40gig flashdrive the size of your thumbnail?
posted by porpoise at 12:19 AM on August 1, 2008


and a false partition (in case of coercion)

it'd be cool if the false partition just booted to

while [ 1 ]
do
echo "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."
done

but I guess that would defeat the purpose
posted by yort at 12:23 AM on August 1, 2008 [12 favorites]


And this is why non-US companies have a policy that employees will not travel to the US carrying digital storage devices (laptops, hard drives, mp3 players, smartphones, etc). You take a blank laptop, if any - more likely acquire one on arrival, and get everything over the internet when you need to do work.
posted by polyglot at 12:59 AM on August 1, 2008


We need people getting themselves arrested for refusing to comply with unwarranted search-and-seizures. We need an organization that civilly disobeys. One that sends Middle Eastern Americans out as bait and raises a ruckus as they face persecution. We need people that throw themselves on the wheels of the odious machine.

Instead we have blogs.
posted by Citizen Premier at 1:04 AM on August 1, 2008 [12 favorites]


I don't like the West anymore.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:19 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


And this is why non-US companies have a policy that employees will not travel to the US carrying digital storage devices (laptops, hard drives, mp3 players, smartphones, etc). You take a blank laptop, if any - more likely acquire one on arrival, and get everything over the internet when you need to do work.
Yeah. Conveniently allowing the NSA to get this "everything" over the wire, which is much more convenient than having to get it from various laptops. Secured by NSA-designed encryption, of course.
posted by vivelame at 1:25 AM on August 1, 2008


punkbitch writes "I sometimes wonder if one day it will be the military that saves us from our government."

Well, it won't. While I admire and respect mystyk's stand, it won't.

Like late Imperial Rome, we're creating an army of mercenaries and convicts: we have Blackwater and KBR's private armies ready to do whatever they're paid to do, and with no oath to the constitution to give them pause. Our regular army has drastically lowered its standards to maintain recruitment goals, and so we're enlisting gang members and sociopaths, while at the same time driving out the middle-ranking officers, the captains and majors who previously served to maintain transmit the institutional ethos of a citizen army. And at the top, the flag officers willing to resist these changes have been driven out in favor of yes-men and believers in making Armageddon for Jesus.

And in the Office of the Vice President, men are discussing dressing our troops up in Iranian uniforms and sending them to attack US Navy vessels, creating another Gliewitz Incident to provide a causus belli to invade Iran.

Imperial nations get Imperial Armies, made up of soldiers who fight not for patriotism, but for their masters and for profit. The military isn't going to save us; and if ordered to, they'll round you up or shoot you down.
posted by orthogonality at 1:28 AM on August 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wrote in an opinion piece published last month in USA Today that "the most dangerous contraband is often contained in laptop computers or other electronic devices." Searches have uncovered "violent jihadist materials" as well as images of child pornography, he wrote.

Oh for crying out loud. This is to protect the children?
posted by lostburner at 1:29 AM on August 1, 2008


What lostburner, you don't know about the pedophile version of the mile high club?

Deniable encryption is your friend. Also, keep all your encrypted data on DVDs (and/or send it to yourself over the Internet or in the mail) so that there's no possible excuse to take your HDD or laptop (they'll do it anyway if they want).
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:39 AM on August 1, 2008


Things are fucked. When are people going to accept this? We all seem to be acknowledging it like we're watching some sort of horrible sci-fi film from afar but it doesn't hit home that this is ACTUALLY going on. America is going to hell in a handbasket. I don't even live in America and it gives me chills on an almost daily basis. These rules are in place now, the bastards that got there first have set the show and we're going to have to play along. For god knows how long.

I try to be confident and optimistic about this but theres this niggling feeling that I cannot shake - that's been around for a few years now - that we're about to experience something very large. Whether it is America being put under total control, or a giant natural catastrophe or Financial Armageddon - I don't know. Either way you look at it - we're fucked and have a tough time ahead. Personally I'd love it to be a mass wake-up where all the intelligent people (and there are so many of us out there!) finally crack and allow the anger that has been supressed for so long bubble up and ACTUALLY do something.

Citizen Premier - Creating groups of civil disobedients will not help - at all. If anything ti will give THEM an excuse to make things even tighter. Thats what THEY want - civil unrest so they can instill martial law. I'm not sure what the alternative is though. You fight and they fuck you, you comply and you're basically bending over and letting them fuck you.

Whoa.....My first comment post and it's a downer. Sorry Guys and Gals. I'll try and make future posts full of sunshine and rainbows. :)
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 2:06 AM on August 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


I really would love to visit America (especially with Europe getting so expensive... damn weak pound/strong Euro)

Just not going to happen. It's getting to the stage now where you'll have to research policies when travelling to Countries once considered "free", "fair" societies.

I'm including Europe in this too. Just as well I love home as much as I do.
posted by twistedonion at 2:37 AM on August 1, 2008


Things are fucked. When are people going to accept this?

Most people are starting to but thanks to nanny states (especially over the past decade) the generation that matters and could effect change are so dependant on the State they won't know how to change things.

We are at the stage now where most people just can't imagine a life of sacrifice. Spoilt citizens the lot of us. There are alternatives to this "democracy" and Capitalist society. No one will consider them though for fear of pissing off consumners. Things will have to get seriously fucked before anyone considers an alternative.

Read a Tom Waits interview with himself last night and one thing he mentioned that he often wonders is "when is this planet going to brush us off it's back" or something like that.

I've often wondered that. Bring it on I say. We're just a bunch of self important, ego filled monkeys who think we're gods. Be good to be taught a bit of humility.
posted by twistedonion at 2:47 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Azza, welcome to metafilter. There is still a strong minority of anti-authoritarian Americans. I suspect the pendulum towards fascism will swing the other way as 9-11 moves to the back of our minds, just as restrictions on civil rights eased after WW2.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:55 AM on August 1, 2008


> Ok, so the lesson is to use strong encryption on all devices when crossing the border. From what I read there, there is no requirement that you actually let them into the data, simply that you surrender the device.

Bruce Schneier wrote about laptops/PDAs/etc and crossing the border a little while back (seems the laptop searching has been allowed since April or so). And noted that while you can refuse to show them your encrypted data that means "the agent can search you further, detain you longer, refuse you entry into the country and otherwise ruin your day."

He recommends using PGP Disk, TrueCrypt or similar, to both encrypt and hide the data. He also links to some other advice about border searches.
posted by bjrn at 3:00 AM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


A good option (for travelling any way) would be to move your files to a secure online host. Then clear all data off your device. Download when you need it.
posted by twistedonion at 3:09 AM on August 1, 2008


The lesson is, email all relevant data to yourself at some gmail account created for the purpose, or upload it to a website, cross the border, buy a second-hand laptop, download the data, use it, upload your data, wipe the laptop, sell the laptop, cross the border again, and download your data. Don't even take a phone within reach of these monkeys.
posted by aeschenkarnos



OK. That's it. This guy with the Greeky foreigner sounding user name must be a terrorist. His head is full of sneaky terrist thoughts on how to circumvent my governments desire to protect me from such sorts. I want him waterboarded. The sooner the better.
posted by notreally at 3:22 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm already swathed in anxiety over my upcoming business trip and this just trebled it.

I barely got to travel at all before they started putting all of these crazy restrictions on it. I loved it, now I'm terrified of doing it.

Which is what they likely want, I guess, but...man, it's just so depressing to remember at least the '70s and be able to contrast it with every decade that followed after. We didn't know how good we had it, how nice all that hope would feel.

I miss America :(
posted by batmonkey at 3:25 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


oops, didn't read all comments, Totally agree with aeschenkarnos.

What's a bit scary is that it covers paper and information. How long before notreally is correct and comments by people such as aeschenkarnos that offer advice on protecting your private information get considered "helping terrorism"?
posted by twistedonion at 3:28 AM on August 1, 2008


Due to my dark skin and hair, vaguely 'ethnic' appearance, and unusual surname that is sometimes assumed to be middle eastern or Arabic in origin (not to mention the fact that I am a US expat permanently settled in the UK), I get lots of shit at the US border. My practical question is this - if they decide to take my laptop, what are the chances that my ill-gained music and movies are going to get me in trouble?
posted by F.Jasmine Addams at 4:01 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


According to Google's calculator, a spindle of DVD-Rs full of the Torgo theme at 64 kbps should last about 356 days.
posted by oaf at 4:28 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Or, did you miss that development?

Hack hack hack.
posted by oaf at 4:32 AM on August 1, 2008


Can't you just mail yourself the hard drive and bypass all of this?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:34 AM on August 1, 2008


As a few people have mentioned in this discussion, America is shooting themselves in the foot, in more ways than one. All of this so-called security is making North America a very hostile place to visit.

The dollar is weak against the euro and the pound. Bring in more tourists to spend more dollars. We want to come over, we really do! Just remind Europe (and the rest of the world) of the vast and gorgeus country you have, filled with honestly friendly and curious people who will welcome people visiting their country with open arms (with the possible exception of New York, who have their own charm). Then, maybe, just maybe, stop treating everyone who visits (or fucking lives in) North America as a terrorist and you might find that global public opinion turns slightly in your favour and increased revenue from tourism boosts some parts of the economy.

Basically what I'm saying is that, America, you used to be cool. Last time I visited I got finger-printed and aggressively grilled on my reasons to visit as well as where I was staying. Hell, my aunt got interrogated for speaking English too well for a foreigner.
posted by slimepuppy at 4:39 AM on August 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


The irony is that this is good news -- the policy of seizing laptop data at the border is now explicit rather than secret.
posted by grobstein at 4:49 AM on August 1, 2008


bjrn: "Bruce Schneier wrote about laptops/PDAs/etc and crossing the border a little while back (seems the laptop searching has been allowed since April or so). "

In a perfect world, we wouldn't need anybody like Bruce Schneier. In our world, he ought to be a special advisor to the President (not that this President would give a damn...). He's one of the few people I've ever had the honor of meeting who actually takes security seriously, and I work in Military Intelligence! (cue oxymoron jokes in 5..4..3..)
posted by mystyk at 4:51 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


A practical question : How do you protect the value of your laptop? What insurance will cover this? I'm not too worried about my own data because I've got numerous copies, and it isn't sensitive. However, I am worried about not having a machine and these idiots losing it.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:58 AM on August 1, 2008


Easily fixed: Don't go to the USA. No big loss.

I *do* consider it a loss. I love the USA, I used to visit several times a year and I have many close friends there.

However, I haven't been since January 2002 and I don't forsee myself returning in the forseeable future. I used to think I might go back again after the regime had changed.

Now, I'm not so sure of that.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:16 AM on August 1, 2008


My homeowner's insurance covers laptops in an addendum that costs me about $5/year, along with other electronics, up to about $5000 total value. I like it because the item doesn't need to be damaged in / stolen from home for this to kick in, just owned by and in the possession of myself (I can't protect a TV if I loan it out, for example). It's from USAA.
posted by mystyk at 5:19 AM on August 1, 2008


I'm having trouble understanding why people can't just leave their "sensitive" data at home, on an external hard drive. In fact, Bruce Schneier agrees with me (linked above):

So your best defence is to clean up your laptop. A customs agent can't read what you don't have. You don't need five years' worth of email and client data. You don't need your old love letters and those photos (you know the ones I'm talking about). Delete everything you don't absolutely need. And use a secure file erasure program to do it. While you're at it, delete your browser's cookies, cache and browsing history. It's nobody's business what websites you've visited. And turn your computer off - don't just put it to sleep - before you go through customs; that deletes other things.
posted by vacapinta at 5:31 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm a citizen of the States, although I've lived overseas for about nine years. I made a joking comment before I left that if Bush won, I'd stay gone until we elected someone decent. I didn't actually intend to be gone this long, but here I am.

A couple years back, I went home to Chicago to visit family. At customs, I was asked how long I'd been overseas, and I said I lived in Japan. The response was alarming. The woman's eyes narrowed, and she said "Why did you come back?" Her voice was so full of suspicion, I was actually stunned.

And now, this? I say this occasionally, and at first it was a joke, but it feels more and more true every day. Nine years ago, I left America, and when I go back to visit, it's gone, and it's been replaced by some country called Ahmurica. I'm not sure I'll ever come back for good at this point.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:52 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


vacapinta: As someone who likes to flee the country every couple years, live the expat life, and then return when I run out of money, sometimes you need to have all your data with you.

Fortunately, there is a solution to this, Truecrypt allows you to create partitions with plausible deniability. When you create this special kind of encrypted partition you give it two passwords, one that is the real password, and another that is the fake password. If you're forced to give up a password, you give them the fake password, which opens the partition to a bunch of decoy files that look important but aren't really important. Since Truecrypt fills the partition with random data to begin with, there's no way to differentiate between a partition that is normal and one that has a fake password.

On the other hand, if you're forced to open up a 10 GB partition and there's 5 megs of word documents in there, that might be a little suspicious, but I think it's safe to assume that Customs isn't THAT thorough. Or would even find the encrypted file in the first place. Or reads Metafilter.

I suspect they're really just running a batch file like:

dir /s "Child Pornography*.jpg"

and calling it a day if nothing turns up.
posted by bertrandom at 5:56 AM on August 1, 2008


I avoid flying through the US whenever I can. Who needs to deal with all this shit? Toronto and Vancouver have a lot of direct flights out of Canada now so it's a lot easier to do.
posted by chunking express at 6:01 AM on August 1, 2008


In a perfect world, we wouldn't need anybody like Bruce Schneier.

I'd love a world with more people like Bruce Schneier. It would be a world where people would think sanely about security. Mmmm. Don't wake me up.
posted by bjrn at 6:05 AM on August 1, 2008


Quoting Chertoff "Yet legislation locking in a particular standard for searches would have a dangerous, chilling effect as officers' often split-second assessments are second-guessed."

There's the problem right there. Good decisions require more than a split-second. Sometimes actually involving the brain in an entire complete thought is justified. The only thing you get out of a split-second examination of a person carrying a laptop at an airport is prejudice and stupidity.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:07 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


It seems like every day I become more and more fed up with the world.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:18 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


refuse you entry into the country

Okay, so this ruins the whole trip for a foreign citizen visiting the US; wouldn't it ruin the whole life of a US citizen returning to the country? If you forget the password to some encrypted file, you'd better hope there's some saner nation willing to grant you refugee status?
posted by roystgnr at 6:27 AM on August 1, 2008


I've never had an iPod inspected entering or leaving the US, or any other country.
posted by smackfu at 6:31 AM on August 1, 2008


"any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form,"

I don't think the lawmakers are bright enough to understand this, but this literally includes every single thing in the universe.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:45 AM on August 1, 2008 [11 favorites]


5 months 22 days 7 hours 3 minutes 35 seconds

Shit's going to magically get better? I don't see the democrats -- even if they win -- falling over themselves to fix all this once they get into office. Sadly, Obama isn't RFK.
posted by chunking express at 6:47 AM on August 1, 2008 [8 favorites]


I avoid flying through the US whenever I can. Who needs to deal with all this shit? Toronto and Vancouver have a lot of direct flights out of Canada now so it's a lot easier to do.

Did you miss the link about Meatbomb's laptop getting taken?

A Canadian friend of mine is of Chinese descent. Every single time he comes back from overseas, he's randomly selected for extra screening and all of his electronic devices are inspected and all the data looked at while he waits at customs. They've searched his laptop, his Gameboy DS memory sticks, his camera memory card, his iPod, etc.

Now, whenever he goes to Vegas, he tries to bring the least amount of electronics possible.

On another airport security note, my roommate has dark skin and gets "randomly" selected for extra screening almost every time. On his last trip, as the security guys were finishing up with him, one of them pointed to another dark skinned guy and said, "There's another one."
posted by ODiV at 7:43 AM on August 1, 2008


"any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form,"

I don't think the lawmakers are bright enough to understand this, but this literally includes every single thing in the universe.


Or maybe they understand it all too well?

"Sorry, we have to confiscate your brownies. They could be sending information to terrorists. Plus, that one kind of looks like a little boy's penis."
posted by ODiV at 7:45 AM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


On another airport security note, my roommate has dark skin and gets "randomly" selected for extra screening almost every time. On his last trip, as the security guys were finishing up with him, one of them pointed to another dark skinned guy and said, "There's another one."

Hmm. I have dark skin and rarely get randomly selected. Also, I fly a *lot*. Not a significant anecdote I guess but just trying to undo a bit of the confirmation bias...
posted by vacapinta at 7:48 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


So, let's imagine we have this dude - we'll call him Bryan - planning a terrorist attack with his pals Harry, Michael and Steve. He's traveling into the U.S. from Canada.

Because he's a tech-savy terrorist, he's written up all of his plans for his nefarious plot and saved them on a file on his laptop.

On that particular day, let's assume that 100,000 people cross the border - a low estimate, I know.

So, what the NSA is hoping here is that by randomly siezing latops, they will get lucky, sieze Bryan's computer (while letting Bryan continue on his merry way) and read and find the files detailing his plot before he takes action?

It seems to me that they might have a better chance by stopping random people on the street and shouting "are you a terrorist?"
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:48 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Joey Michales:So, what the NSA is hoping here is that by randomly siezing latops, they will get lucky, sieze Bryan's computer (while letting Bryan continue on his merry way) and read and find the files detailing his plot before he takes action?

Thats not what the article says at all. It says:

With about 400 million travelers entering the country each year, "as a practical matter, travelers only go to secondary [for a more thorough examination] when there is some level of suspicion," Chertoff wrote. "Yet legislation locking in a particular standard for searches would have a dangerous, chilling effect as officers' often split-second assessments are second-guessed."

They are not randomly seizing laptops. They are seizing laptops of "suspects." They just dont need to justify or define their definition of "suspect" which could theoretically be based on race, skin color, or any other completely indiscriminate judgement. They're saying: We don't have to tell you or anybody why we selected this person. Its not about playing the odds, its about a Federal agency acting like cowboys.
posted by vacapinta at 7:55 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Land of the paranoid and the home of the coward.
posted by LordSludge at 7:55 AM on August 1, 2008


Okay, so, for the paranoid...

Hardware:
-- Commodity laptop (must be able to boot from USB)
-- USB SD card reader stashed with camera that takes SD cards.
-- Micro SD card, 2G or more

On the laptop hard drive:
-- Stock Vista that's been booted once or twice with a few word documents and family photos and bookmarks for weather and news sites.
-- Nothing else. Don't put encrypted data on it.

On the SD card:
-- Small in-the-clear partition carrying Puppy Linux or variant with web browser, never saves state. This partition needs to lie about how big it is, so a free space check won't reveal that it's just e.g. 500mb on a 8G card. Put some boring snapshots on it.
-- Special boot loader that pauses for five seconds, waiting for (but not asking for) password to be typed. If the password matches, it switches the boot to ...
-- A fully encrypted partition with your real system on it.

The idea is to provide several levels of suspicion-free deniability. The laptop? Oh, it's just for browsing. The card reader? It's for my camera. The SD card? A spare for my camera. The card is bootable? I like to use my own little system when I visit friends, I just keep it on this card.

Unless they dump SD card boot loader -- by which time you're extremely detained anyway -- there's nothing to suggest you're anything other than a geek. And if they do dump the card they'll just find a bunch of garbage.

The point of using an SD card for this (rather than a USB stick) is camouflage and size. If you stick it with your camera, it's almost invisible. You can also hide it in the lining of your laptop bag or in some other object with some metal in it to provide additional noise to the X-ray machine.

You could use the hacked partition / password boot loader scheme on the laptop drive, but I'm thinking it won't be long before the first level of detention will include a simple "is it kosher" check of any laptop hard drive using a bootable USB key or CD-ROM that examines the partition table and so on for anything out of the ordinary. Thankfully, this software will be run by guards, not hackers, so all you have to do to get your lappie through is keep it clean.

For getting mass quantities of personal data in/out, never underestimate the bandwidth of a highly encrypted hard drive sent via FedEx. They can copy it, but can't break it. And if it never arrives, you know you've been targeted.

Man, I rarely use that portion of my brain. Kind of disturbing, really.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:56 AM on August 1, 2008 [6 favorites]


5 months 22 days 7 hours 3 minutes 35 seconds

01.20.09 -- The End of an Error.
posted by ericb at 7:58 AM on August 1, 2008


Yeah I totally missed Jahaza. That sucks. I'm not sure it makes America suck less mind you.
posted by chunking express at 7:58 AM on August 1, 2008


Damn that comment made no sense. I missed the link to Meatbomb's ask.mefi post. Canada does all sorts of things that disappoint me too, don't get me wrong. That said, I still feel no real urge to travel through the US.
posted by chunking express at 7:59 AM on August 1, 2008


Other countries will seize computers at the boarder, Russia notably.

When I travel now, we have a policy of not carrying anything sensitive (or even difficult to replace). As mentioned above, if necessary, we connect with a VPN to our files, rather than store them locally. In addition, IT has our systems setup to wipe all temporary files on logout. All that's stored on a local HD is essentially public, usually just reference information.

This is frankly a pain because some materials cannot be stored on a network (certain higher security classes) and are only supposed to be transported on removable storage, disc or flash drive. This is doubly a pain, because the only reason to be carrying such documents across a border is to transfer them on to a partner agency.

So the TSA (and DHS) is making it harder for US allies to cooperate with the US in this respect. Hand couriers are so much faster than waiting for the diplomatic bag, but this means we can't use them anymore.
posted by bonehead at 8:01 AM on August 1, 2008


Solution:

Use two Operating systems:

OS A, preferably windows as a dummy system, boots as soon as you turn the computer on. You have little (but some) personal data an this system. Of cause you can put some easter eggs for the police there like goatze or tubgirl pictures.

OS B, preferably Linux. Your Laptop is set up that it tries to boot from a USB stick first. On you USB stick you have a bootloader that starts Linux from a second HDD partition. Hence your real OS, Linux, will only boot when you insert your USB stick. The whole Linux system is encrypted of cause.

You should be safe...
posted by yoyo_nyc at 8:01 AM on August 1, 2008


vacapinta: Absolutely. Didn't mean my story as anything more than that. Just found the comment a bit shocking, that's all.

Okay, so, for the paranoid... (then info on booting off of SD)

As mentioned before, they can and do check anything on you that can carry data. My friend coming back from Vegas gets his SD cards from his camera inspected.

Of cause you can put some easter eggs for the police there like goatze or tubgirl pictures.

This is a horrible idea. Meatbomb's laptop was apparently confiscated after the agent saw his porn directory. Can you imagine what they'd do if you had that shit on there?
posted by ODiV at 8:21 AM on August 1, 2008


I promised myself I wouldn't cry...
posted by Mick at 8:21 AM on August 1, 2008


"as a practical matter, travelers only go to secondary [for a more thorough examination] when there is some level of suspicion," Chertoff wrote.

Then either I'm on a watch list (and I have a very uncommon name---it's not name confusion with me) or this isn't correct. I've been flagged out several times for secondary searches. This includes times I'm traveling with a (non-US) government passport.

My impression was that they have spot random searches where they pull people aside and do the full monty on them. I've never had trouble "passing" one, but travel enough and the odds seem to be that you'll be singled out someday.
posted by bonehead at 8:29 AM on August 1, 2008


OS B, preferably Linux. Your Laptop is set up that it tries to boot from a USB stick first. On you USB stick you have a bootloader that starts Linux from a second HDD partition. Hence your real OS, Linux, will only boot when you insert your USB stick. The whole Linux system is encrypted of cause.

Taking it a step further, you could use this watch as your bootable USB stick. I have one, wear it every day, and nobody ever realizes it's not an ordinary watch unless I go out of my way to show it off.
posted by COBRA! at 8:39 AM on August 1, 2008


vacapinta - thank you for highlighting that. When I read the article, my outrage filter must have been down because I missed that entirely.

None the less, if my fictional terrorist, Bryan, did have his laptop siezed, and he was dumb enough to leave his plans on his laptop, he's still free to move about the country doing whatever terrorist things he wants to do while the feds take (up to months) to process his computer.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:44 AM on August 1, 2008


I'm eligible for Canadian citizenship; have been for a year. I think I'll file those papers next week. I don't need to, having a Permanent Residency card, but it would really feel quite nice to have a Canadian passport.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:58 AM on August 1, 2008


This really just an abuse of the terror fears to catch a few child porn users and in the meantime inconvenience lots of innocent people. If the Bush administration could enforce a police state as strict as China's they would do it in a heartbeat.
posted by caddis at 9:12 AM on August 1, 2008


None the less, if my fictional terrorist, Bryan, did have his laptop siezed, and he was dumb enough to leave his plans on his laptop, he's still free to move about the country doing whatever terrorist things he wants to do while the feds take (up to months) to process his computer.

No, because you see, his plans are on the laptop -- which HE WON'T HAVE -- so he won't know what to do! IT'S BRILLIANT!! :D

::thud::
posted by LordSludge at 9:16 AM on August 1, 2008


Just wait til they start doing this on domestic flights.
posted by desjardins at 9:25 AM on August 1, 2008


mystyk writes "My homeowner's insurance covers laptops in an addendum that costs me about $5/year, along with other electronics, up to about $5000 total value. I like it because the item doesn't need to be damaged in / stolen from home for this to kick in, just owned by and in the possession of myself (I can't protect a TV if I loan it out, for example). It's from USAA."

It seems highly unlikely they'll honour a claim for a quasi law enforcement misadventure. Especially if officially they haven't taken the laptop permanently but instead are holding it for inspection.
posted by Mitheral at 9:31 AM on August 1, 2008


honestly, what bothers me isn't that they're going to find something on my laptop. what bothers me is that they might take it from me for 6 months. unless they plan on deleting my diablo ii save files, i don't give a fuck what they do with my laptop, I just don't want it taken from me and not given back until sometime after I've left the airport. all this nonsense with USB booting, or encryption and all the rest of it, is just that: nonsense. The point is not that we should somehow try to frustrate some overworked government techy. The point is that they shouldn't be taking the damn things in the first place. If I thought it would accomplish something, I would happily back up my hard drive before I went on my approaching business trip to toronto, wipe it clean of anything but the bare OS and change my desktop background to a picture of a dick and balls with lolcats style text at the bottom saying "FUCK YOU, COPPERS!" But it won't do anything. They'll still have my fucking laptop, and I won't get it back till they decide to give it back, and shit like that will just give them reason (even petty meaningless reasons like "fuck this guy, now I'm really gonna hang onto this thing") to keep it longer. I don't want them taking it in the first place. You show me the USB watch that'll keep them from taking it in the first place, then I'll be impressed.
posted by shmegegge at 9:41 AM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


ODiV writes "Did you miss the link about Meatbomb's laptop getting taken?"

It's still prudent to avoid US customs if possible when you do have to fly. If I'm going to Mexico I'm going to take a direct flight rather than one that connects in LA if at all possible without question rather than run the risk of an extra set of customs inspections. Especially since said inspection, besides possibly losing me my laptop, could end up with my being deported to Syria.
posted by Mitheral at 9:43 AM on August 1, 2008


Here's an article describing how to set up yoyo_nyc's suggestion. (I used LUKS instead of dm_crypt when I set it up). Boot with a USB key and you get prompted with for a password that unlocks your real (Linux) system that's wholly encrypted. Boot without the key, it goes straight into Windows.

Windows doesn't have the drivers to read the Linux partitions, so they don't show up on My Computer. A naive examiner would have no reason to suspect another system exists. This is by no means deniable encryption -- a sophisticated examiner looking closely would be able to conclude there are encrypted partitions. But I expect it's enough to pass under the radar.

You're on your own for whether you want to risk how suspicious it would look it if were discovered, though.

The USB key itself doesn't have anything interesting looking on it -- just the normal contents of a Linux system's /boot partition. You can remove the key when you're done booting -- unless you want to read or write to the /boot partition during your session, you don't need it any more.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:18 AM on August 1, 2008


Man oh man oh man. If I ever stop posting on Mefi, look for me in the custody of the feds. Once upon a time, just before Y2K, I accompanied not one but TWO PCs across the ocean to my then-employer's office in Germany...I was chosen to go because "hey, you speak German, you can totally talk your way out of things at customs if you need to, right?"

Clearly I am a dangerous, dangerous person.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:31 AM on August 1, 2008


Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing

I ask this entirely non-rhetorically: How the fuck is that legal? Seriously, if anyone here can explain this to me, I'd be immensely grateful.
posted by EarBucket at 11:06 AM on August 1, 2008


Okay, so this ruins the whole trip for a foreign citizen visiting the US; wouldn't it ruin the whole life of a US citizen returning to the country?

No. U.S. citizens cannot be refused entry into the United States. I suppose they could confiscate all your stuff and make you strip naked, but they have to let you in.
posted by oaf at 11:11 AM on August 1, 2008


It sounds to me like we need a test-case for the constitutionality of this measure. This is what I propose: any MeFite who regularly travels across the U.S. border, don't shy away from taking the electronics with you. If they let you pass, great. If they intrusively search, lawsuit time. I'd go so far as to say spread the word among all people you know. I'm not proposing that we deliberately try to cause a scene, but just live like people in the modern age with all our gadgets on us and challenge the feds if it happens. If it ever does, we can start a "MeFi Constitutional Challenge" fund for them, and help out the ACLU in bringing a case.
posted by mystyk at 11:11 AM on August 1, 2008


How the fuck is that legal?

Short version (which is all I know): because it's Customs at a border-crossing and the rules are different from what applies internally. Any lawyers or anyone else with more of a clue care to cite relevant law and judicial decisions?
posted by Zed_Lopez at 11:16 AM on August 1, 2008


Zed, that's basically it.

wikipedia has a writeup on the border search exception.

I ain't got no legal training but ISTM that Constitutional limitations of the ability of the state to pry into personal communications were jettisoned starting with the 1970s escalation of the war on drugs.

From Justice Stevens' dissent in the 1977 Ramsey case:
First, throughout our history Congress has respected the individual's interest in private communication. The notion that private letters could be opened and inspected without notice to the sender or the addressee is abhorrent to the tradition of privacy and freedom to communicate protected by the Bill of Rights. I cannot believe that any member of the Congress would grant such authority without considering its constitutional implications. 2 [431 U.S. 606, 627]

Second, the legislative history of the 1866 statute unambiguously discloses that this very concern was voiced during debate by Senator Howe, and that he was assured by the sponsor of the legislation that the bill would not authorize the examination of the United States mails. This colloquy is too plain to be misunderstood:

"Mr. HOWE. The second and third sections of this bill speak of the seizure, search, and examination of all trunks, packages, and envelopes. It seems to me that language is broad enough to cover the United States mails. I suppose it is not the purpose of the bill to authorize the examination of the United States mails.
"Mr. MORRILL [sponsor of the bill]. Of course not.
"Mr. HOWE. I propose to offer an amendment to prevent such a construction.
"Mr. EDMUNDS. There is no danger of such a construction being placed upon this language. It is the language usually employed in these bills.
"Mr. HOWE. If gentlemen are perfectly confident that it will bear no such construction, and will receive no such construction, I do not care to press it.
"The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Wisconsin withdraws his amendment."
In the hunt for contraband goods entering the country the Congress used to be circumspect about violations of privacy.

Perhaps we can get back there, uncaught child pornography and all.
posted by yort at 11:46 AM on August 1, 2008


If they intrusively search, lawsuit time.

I now travel regularly with a laptop belonging to my employer. I can't give consent for their laptop to be searched, so I won't, and I'll let them send the government's lawyers home crying if necessary.
posted by oaf at 12:02 PM on August 1, 2008


"It sounds to me like we need a test-case for the constitutionality of this measure. This is what I propose: any MeFite who regularly travels across the U.S. border, don't shy away from taking the electronics with you."

Well, I have the lucky lucky task of emigrating to the US later in the year (hopefully anyway, processing time for my visa is taking forever), and I regularly travel with a laptop, professional looking camera, SD cards, USB stick, mp3 player and a Nintendo DS. So I'll let you know how that goes. I am betting absolutely nothing will happen, because I'm white, female, British, and have entered the US at least four times with no great event. A fair test would involve a variety of genders/ethnicities/citizens of various countries.
posted by saturnine at 12:37 PM on August 1, 2008


Carry no data. Instead, download it from the Internet.
posted by kalessin at 12:44 PM on August 1, 2008


I now travel regularly with a laptop belonging to my employer. I can't give consent for their laptop to be searched, so I won't, and I'll let them send the government's lawyers home crying if necessary.

And you'll no doubt be detained until they receive your company's permission. Hours, days, even weeks, if necessary. Good idea, but I can't see it working in reality.

So now we have a choice between getting fired/sued for violating a confidentiality agreement and being detained indefinitely by the government.
posted by LordSludge at 1:49 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


And you'll no doubt be detained until they receive your company's permission. Hours, days, even weeks, if necessary. Good idea, but I can't see it working in reality.

As I mentioned above, they can keep the laptop, but they cannot hold me (a U.S. citizen) indefinitely.
posted by oaf at 2:29 PM on August 1, 2008


oaf writes "they can keep the laptop, but they cannot hold me (a U.S. citizen) indefinitely."

Ya, I didn't think they'd be deporting Canadians to fricken' Syria either until it happened. And isn't there at least one American citizen in Guantanamo Bay?

A browse of wikipedia revealed the Pentagon reclassified suicides as "manipulative self-injurious behaviours". Just wow!
posted by Mitheral at 3:09 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ya, I didn't think they'd be deporting Canadians to fricken' Syria either until it happened.

Maher Arar was and is a citizen of Syria. It's deeply, deeply troubling, and probably just as illegal, that he was deported to Syria instead of to Canada, but it's not like he was deported to some random country in which he held no citizenship. U.S. citizens can't be deported from the U.S., and even Salim Hamdan couldn't be held indefinitely.

There is one former American citizen who is a former inmate at Guantánamo, Yaser Hamdi, but he relinquished his U.S. citizenship in exchange for being let go and being allowed to return to Saudi Arabia, where he still holds citizenship. Perusing a list, I couldn't find any others.
posted by oaf at 3:20 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Can a "sleeper" software sit on the laptop and, if not treated to the correct password in a timely manner, set about overwriting all the data with useless crap? So over written that the detective snoopers find zero of interest? Sort of a self destruct that leaves little to show what even happened?

Of course the best thing in the world would be if it also could shoot a virus at the server they use to tap into the drive as well.
posted by Freedomboy at 3:43 PM on August 1, 2008


The movie Hackers is not real.
posted by oaf at 3:46 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


FYI man, alright. You could sit at home, and do like absolutely nothing, and your name goes through like 17 computers a day. 1984? Yeah right, man. That's a typo. Orwell is here now. He's livin' large. We have no names, man. No names. We are nameless!
posted by Artw at 3:54 PM on August 1, 2008


As I mentioned above, they can keep the laptop, but they cannot hold me (a U.S. citizen) indefinitely.

They'd simply hold you for "disorderly conduct" -- i.e., getting upset that you're being illegally detained. I really hope you're right, but there's a wide gulf between what *should* happen according to law and what actually happens on the street at the border. And a really good way to piss off an authority figure is to start telling him what he can and cannot do.

(Went to jail once for declining to produce my ID for a police officer. The "charges" were invented later.)
posted by LordSludge at 3:55 PM on August 1, 2008


shmegegge beat me to it, but seriously, folks, we can show of the size of our computer geek muscles until we're blue in the face. There's two problems with that. Half of the things you do are beyond the abilities of most users.

The more important issue is that we shouldn't have to have this discussion at all! This is another instance where the spirit of the law (and hey, the constitution) is being twisted around, and the letter of the law is being abused in the name of "Tera," and there's little to nothing we seem to be able to do to prevent it. I've seen (on other sites) people proudly proclaiming their blue-blooded Amurican-ness as a reason they see no problem with this gross invasion of privacy. At some point, we'll be hearing the "if you haven't done anything wrong, you won't have anything to hide" argument, and that, too, misses the point.

You go through customs, and they take your laptop, or your SD card, or whatever. What if, like probably a good number of people, your livelihood is on that? Photographers, for instance, who get paid for the digital contents of their laptop? Yes, people can say "Store it online," but the point is, we shouldn't have to.

This of course, is ignoring the point that law enforcement people are trained to keep pushing until they find something, anything illegal that a person might have done.

Of course, there's the lovely story on Gizmodo.au about the Australian govt. looking (at the request of the RIAA, a non-governmental body) into scanning iPods for pirated music in customs. At this point, living in a country where I have permission to live and work, but have to get fingerprinted every time I come or go, while that disgusts me, I feel it's nowhere near as invasive as this.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:36 PM on August 1, 2008


You wanted to know who I am, Ghidorah? Well, let me explain the New World Order. Governments and corporations need people like you and me. We are Samurai... the Keyboard Cowboys... and all those other people who have no idea what's going on are the cattle... Moooo.
posted by Artw at 4:44 PM on August 1, 2008


Tell The Bush Administration: Hands Off My Laptop
posted by homunculus at 5:52 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


i'm so going to get a job as a data smuggler.
posted by onya at 6:25 PM on August 1, 2008


Artw

You (by your comment) obviously (or perhaps you do) have no concept of what the term "samurai" entails. A samurai was a servant of a lord. Do you wish to be a servant of governments or corporations? If so, shame on you.
posted by Falling_Saint at 6:31 PM on August 1, 2008


Also ... Keyboard Cowboys? Give me a fucking break. I've been dealing with computers since they filled ROOMS and were programmed with punch cards. You've been reading too much William Gibson, Mister.
posted by Falling_Saint at 6:41 PM on August 1, 2008


And a really good way to piss off an authority figure is to start telling him what he can and cannot do.

I wouldn't be telling him what he can and cannot do—I'd be telling him what I can and cannot do. I can't presume to speak for our lawyers.
posted by oaf at 7:04 PM on August 1, 2008


You've been reading too much William Gibson, Mister.

On the contrary, it's obvious he's been hacking too many Gibsons.
posted by ODiV at 7:30 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't want them taking it in the first place. You show me the USB watch that'll keep them from taking it in the first place, then I'll be impressed.

Exactly. I still have my laptop sitting in the Indiana Jones warehouse somewhere in Ottawa. My dad, bless his heart, is still wrangling with customs. We've told them to feel free to delete any of the evil porn that is readily downloadable from the Internet, and some day I will get my laptop back, but this has been months now.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:41 PM on August 1, 2008


Falling_Saint writes "Keyboard Cowboys? Give me a fucking break. I've been dealing with computers since they filled ROOMS and were programmed with punch cards. You've been reading too much William Gibson, Mister."

It's a quote from the deliciously bad movie Hackers.

oaf writes "Maher Arar was and is a citizen of Syria"

Only because like the US they won't let you not become a citizen. He hadn't set foot in Syria since moving to Canada, was travelling on a Canadian passport and wasn't even trying to enter the US except technically in order to switch planes. 'Course we'll never know what the US government was thinking in his case because, despite having been released without being charged with anything, the US goverment considers the reason for his "extraordinary rendition" a state secret.
posted by Mitheral at 9:58 PM on August 1, 2008


In a perfect world, we wouldn't need anybody like Bruce Schneier. In our world, he ought to be a special advisor to the President posted by mystyk at 7:51 AM
Time for a write in campaign to get Bruce Schneier as head of DHS? Would he be interested in public sector work?
posted by acro at 10:12 PM on August 1, 2008


Doesn't matter what citizenry Arar had. Shipping people off to be tortured is wrong.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:35 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Answering a question about his approach to combatting crime, John McCain suggested that military strategies currently employed by US troops in Iraq could be applied to high crime neighborhoods here in the US. McCain called them tactics 'somewhat like we use in the military...You go into neighborhoods, you clamp down, you provide a secure environment for the people that live there, and you make sure that the known criminals are kept under control. And you provide them with a stable environment and then they cooperate with law enforcement.'
posted by EarBucket at 7:08 AM on August 2, 2008


Only because like the US they won't let you not become a citizen.

The U.S. will let you renounce your citizenship. You can't do it if it leaves you with no other citizenships, and you still owe taxes if you renounce it to try to get out of taxes, but you can renounce it.

'Course we'll never know what the US government was thinking in his case because, despite having been released without being charged with anything, the US goverment considers the reason for his "extraordinary rendition" a state secret.

Oh, we might know, given that U.S. authorities were acting on a tip from the Mounties.

The U.S. government has been using the state secrets privilege far too broadly lately, and it's had to do more with CYA than the CIA.
posted by oaf at 8:32 AM on August 2, 2008


Chertoff Misleads on Laptop Searches, Feingold Charges
posted by homunculus at 3:01 PM on August 7, 2008


NYC Panopticon Plans Take Shape
posted by homunculus at 9:35 PM on August 12, 2008


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