Crossing the line at the border

If you’re looking to get outraged by a government’s intrusion into the electronic lives of its citizens, you don’t need to look all the way to China. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently revealed its current border policy on laptops, iPods and other gadgets carried into the country by returning travelers or foreign visitors, and it boils down to this: Without explanation, we can seize your laptop or any device capable of storing information (including cell phones, thumb drives, video tapes, and old-fashioned analog paper). We can keep it as long as we want. We can look through the contents, and we can share them with other agencies or private entities. And we can do all this whenever and to whomever we want — no reasonable cause needed, not even a vague suspicion of wrongdoing. And, of course, this is all OK because we are protecting our treasured American freedom.


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  • Bazza


  • Fredd Flamm

    This is a great argument for abolishing the Department of Homegrown Security anjd sending all the Gestapo storm troopers working for it off to get useful jobs. Assuming, of course, that there are any jobs left in this broken down economy.

  • TransientAlias

    so from now on i travel naked….

  • Senator Brownback is worried about Americans’ sacred privacy while attending the Olympics in China but not at home despite your report of Homeland Security’s policies of search and seizure.

  • Horrors! The door is open to governmental dirty tricks!

  • Geez I make films about quilt conventions in Europe, I don’t think anyone in the NSA quilts, do you? Probably not textile people.

    I better put some more interesting stuff on my laptop in that case.

    Do you think I can get a disk of ‘State Secrets’ down at Fry’s?

  • Bluevoter

    NSA, ICE, Stasi, CIA, KGB, TSA, SSD (Third Reich).

    I’m getting all of these agency acronyms confused. It looks as if their leaders are
    completely interchangeable too. No problem seeing how totalitarian leaders can
    easily assemble armies of storm troopers to exert power over the powerless.
    Then you get AT&T, Equifax, ChoicePoint, and others to help with wiretapping and
    data mining on behalf of the secret agencies. Next, you get the “Justice” Department to give an official OK to “enhanced interrogation techniques” (a great
    Newspeak term) and to the various assaults on civil liberties. Finally, you lock up some perceived “terrorists” indefinitely, and create military tribunals to eventually
    try them. Each day, “We, the People” loses more of its meaning.

    In the meantime, the majority of the country worries about whether Obama is too
    thin to be President (really! WSJ August 1st), the adventures of Lauren Conrad,
    or some other insignificant issue. Let’s just hope that the Bush/Cheney thugs crowd don’t try to cancel the 2008 elections, a possibility that they discussed in
    2004, according to Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff (July 19, 2004, issue).

    Time for everyone to wake up and smell the smoke.

  • Jeannie-o

    Completely agree with Bluevoter.

    And the point, Sarah, is that we shouldn’t sanction behavior that violates human rights, and especially not to placate paranoid delusions. (That being that everyone hates us and is out to get us.) People love to point out to us “naive” people that “this is just how it works” or “what are ya gonna do? That’s just what government does.” Well, that’s naive. As a human race, we need to work toward civility and enlightenment. Accepting corruption as the status quo is only going to get us more corruption.

  • Dickon

    ….and the morons voted for him and his henchmen for a second term. More damage done in 8 years than we’re going to be able to repair in 20. I weep for the future of my country….

  • We had the chance to get rid of Bush and his goons in 04 and blew it spectacularly. We reap what we sow.

    As for the laptops and all that, have a second, blank laptop for international travel loaded with only essential programs and data. If it gets confiscated, your real laptop is still safe at home. Same thing for cell phones, PDAs, MP3 players.

  • Maggid

    We pack to suit the TSA’s needs, dress to keep from being hauled over for a tighter frisk, and use elbows to keep people from jumping ahead of us to the gray bins. And now duplicate devices just for travel. Isn’t this the very definition of a totally out-of-whack policy. Travel naked indeed. I already travel in pajamas and ftp my files.

  • Ira David Levin

    If anything smacks of Nazi Germany, it is certainly this. It’s not only appalling, but utterly staggering. The entire Homeland Security Department, especially Immigration & Customs needs to be swept clean & started over. But Homeland Security itself should simply disappear.

  • BeeGee

    This is a clear violation of the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. If the ACLU is not already all over this, they’re missing a loud call to action.

  • JC

    Am I the only one who read this line? “on laptops, iPods and other gadgets carried into the country by returning travelers or foreign visitors”

    You dorks, it’s NOT targeting citizens traveling within our borders. It’s people from OUTSIDE the US bringing data INTO America. Hell, you can’t bring fruit in, and I WANT TO KNOW what the hell foreigners are bringing in here.

  • John Murrell


    The rules apply to all incoming passengers, whether foreign nationals or returning U.S. citizens.


  • Mark D

    I’m outraged. “Absent suspicion” they will take your documents, essential electronics and entertainment devices and keep them for as long as they want, forward them around to “subject matter experts” to search for who knows what. This is the Gestapo in America, operating without restraint and writing their own rules. Thank you G.W. Bush! You and your black booted thugs can’t be gone soon enough! Homeland Security is a redundant agency that is simply Bush’s and Cheney’s Secret Police.


    ULALALA !!!!….I love my latop ans my electronic stuff it is imposible live without them.