Agents Can Search And Seize Laptops At U.S. Border

Probable cause not needed

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U.S. federal officials have disclosed that agents at the U.S. border may seize a traveler’s laptop or other electronic devices with no limits on how long they can hold them and without any suspicion of wrongdoing.

The Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed the new policies that allow agents to search a laptop’s contents and share the information with other agencies and private organizations for language translation, data decryption or other reasons.

Russell Feingold
 Russell Feingold

"The policies that have been disclosed are truly alarming," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.). "After seeing them, I am more convinced than ever that legislation is needed in order to protect law-abiding Americans from this gross violation of their privacy. I intend to introduce such legislation soon."

The DHS said the policies apply to anyone entering the country, including U.S. citizens, and are needed to prevent terrorism.

The policies have long been in place but were not disclosed until rights groups and business travel groups pressured the government to release information on its procedures after more travelers reported that their laptops, cell phones and other electronic devices had been seized at the border and held for months in some cases.

The policies cover "any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form," including hard drives, flash drives, cell phones, iPods, pagers, video and audio tapes. It also applies to written documents including books, pamphlets and "written materials commonly referred to as ‘pocket trash’ or ‘pocket litter’."

"They’re saying they can rifle through all the information in a traveler’s laptop without having a smidgen of evidence that the traveler is breaking the law," said Greg Nojeim of the Center for Democracy and Technology.


Agents Can Search And Seize Laptops At U.S. Border
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  • http://www.ssrichardmontgomery.com ron

    This is another piece of idiotic legislation like taking paperclips or whatever on an aircraft all it does is alienate the public and make them less inclined to report or have any contact with authorities depriving them of the eyes and ears or the ethnic minorities who are much more lightly to spot something out of place than a college trained agent in everyday situations.
    I  as a part time thing write movie scripts.my character would place the information that they did not want found on a site that
    hosted freewebmail then when inside the usa go to an internet cafe and retrieve it entering the country with a clean computer, or being funded by xxx would be able to buy one after arrival! many other things the character could do but that would spoil the script but certainly will do nothing to stop terror…


  • Chuck Bayless

    Looks as though Russia split up to push their diplomacy here.

  • http://offshorexplorer.com offshoreXplorer

    This is just another example of why the world at large should stop supporting the USA with their tourist dollars and/or business travel dollars.

    The draconian abuse of individual rights under the guise of "national security" is reminiscent of the Nazis.



  • http://www.annuityarrow.com DR

    So much for the US land of the free?

    The rights of Americans and those visiting appear to be diminishing daily. Privacy appears to be dead. The US governement is a law to itself that can virtually do anything it likes to its citizen and does not have to give reason.

    But at least you still don’t have as many CCTV cameras per capita as we do in the UK.


  • Guest

    this is the end of tourism in America and also a chalenge to the democracy in America.  All law abiding citizens should fight against  this dracorian rule

  • Guest

    I’ve traveled all over the world, had items confiscated without any resonable cause from my viewpoint, and it hasn’t changed my life.

    This security is necessary in a U.S. post 9/11. 

    I grew up in a country where someone could be arrested and held for 90 days for absolutely no reason, then released and re-arrested for another 90 days.  I am not sure what American’s have to complain about.  It was the lack of security that lead to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993 and again in 2001.

    When I moved to the U.S. in 1994 at the age of 24 I was surprised at the lack of security when entering through Miami.  I would gladly hand over my laptop or any other belongings for inspection if this would lead to eventually apprehending or thwarting another attack.  The U.S. is still the greatest democratic country to live in, it’s just different and the Law Abiding U.S. citizens need to get used to it.

    • http://www.conservativebuys.com Sally O’Boyle

      It sounds like it hasn’t changed your life because you came from a country where personal privacy was not respected or protected. Having the U.S. become like your home country makes it feel pretty natural to you. It does not feel natural at all to a U.S. born citizen.

      "This security is necessary in a U.S. post 9/11." That is just not so and it’s been documented to be not so over and over again.

      Read the 9/11 Commission Report. It says right there that the reason they came to us to attack was because we keep bombing them. Gave us a little of our own medicine. If they wanted to bring us to our knees, they have certainly been successful.

      It’s been shown time and again (read the script writer’s "solutions" in these comments) that any clever, determined person could get around every security measure now in place.

      The U.S. has bombed and slaughtered more innocent civilians in its quest to spread democracy than any country EVER. We are the terrorists. We’ve allowed this to happen and now we are allowing our government to silence the only people who can stop them: us. Little by little.

      Jump off that pink cloud and look around you. If your home country’s government is so great, why did you leave? Do you really not mind if the U.S. becomes as stifled? Read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The path we are on led to the creation of these two documents and the United States.

      If you don’t fear for your country, you are not paying attention.

  • Disheartened in Georgia

     The Constitution of The United States of America and the Bill of RIGHTS, specifically prohibits unreasonable search and seizure. 

    Does the DHS think it is above the Law? I am starting to think Jay Leno was right when he said: "Lets give Iraq our Constitution, we don’t seem to be using it anymore".

    DHS is not an elected group of representatives of the people. So how can we exert pressure on them to obey and abide by the Constitution? That is the responsibility of our elected Senators and Congressmen. So lets see if those people we elected will protect and defend the Constitution, as they are sworn to do.

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