Friday, August 01, 2008

Is this really necessary? A Senator says " The policies . . . are truly alarming."

Nesting Dolls
Originally uploaded by andyi.
I keep wondering if we are giving up way too many civil liberties. Actually, I don't keep wondering, and haven't for years. Because we are.

Ellen Nakashima from the Washington Post, tells us today that Travelers' Laptops May Be Detained At Border: No Suspicion Required Under DHS Policies. Check it out:
Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop computer or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed.

Also, officials may share copies of the laptop's contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies . . .
And if you thought this doesn't apply to you, Mr. and Mrs. American Citizen, think again. These policies "apply to anyone entering the country, including U.S. citizens."


And, if you think this only applies to laptop computers, think again.
The policies state that officers may "detain" laptops "for a reasonable period of time" to "review and analyze information." This may take place "absent individualized suspicion."

The policies cover "any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form," including hard drives, flash drives, cellphones, 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.' "

Reasonable measures must be taken to protect business information and attorney-client privileged material, the policies say, but there is no specific mention of the handling of personal data such as medical and financial records.

When a review is completed and no probable cause exists to keep the information, any copies of the data must be destroyed. Copies sent to non-federal entities must be returned to DHS. But the documents specify that there is no limitation on authorities keeping written notes or reports about the materials.

Even the Coast Guard, with its broad search powers (many based on the notion that boats can move and therefor one can't actually wait around for a warrant) can't examine computers and pocket litter.

What have we become, America? What have we become?

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