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Laptops Searched and Confiscated at U.S. Border 527

An anonymous reader writes, "According to an article in the New York Times, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives is asking the U.S. government for more detailed guidelines on when and why a laptop gets confiscated at the U.S. border, which, anecdotally, is happening more often. The story includes a report from a business traveler who had her laptop confiscated over a year ago and has yet to have it returned." According to the article, a knowledgeable lawyer said: "[Border guards] don't need probable cause to perform... searches under the current law. They can do it without suspicion or without really revealing their motivations." And an ACTE exective is quoted, "Potentially, this is going to have a real effect on how international business is conducted."
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Laptops Searched and Confiscated at U.S. Border

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  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:12PM (#16569060) Homepage Journal

    "Sir, please place your laptop computer on the table for inspection."
    "Please turn it on, Sir."
    "Um.. er.. ah.."
    "Turn on the laptop, Sir!" (Suddenly it grows quiet as everyone stares, particularly some armed security personnel)
    "Er ah, OK." Click. zwinnngg zwikka zwikka bweet.
    "Pornographic wallpaper, no problem. Thousands of mp3's, no problem."
    sniff sniff sniff Arf! whine Whine Arf! Arf!
    "What's this then!?!"
    "Sir, we're going to have to confiscate this laptop computer, our highly trained canine has detected the presence of a banned and extremely dangerous substance!"

    Read about it here [nzherald.co.nz] and here [news.com.au]

    • Oooooh, vegimite. And here I was thinking it'd be Dihydrogen Monoxide.

      Anyway, this is a good thing. All those materials and chemicals that end with -ite are probably dangerous.
    • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:30PM (#16569374) Homepage
      "Sir, we're going to have to confiscate this laptop computer, our highly trained canine has detected the presence of a banned and extremely dangerous substance!"

      I realize that Aussies love their vegemite, and Brits love their marmite, but for those of us who didn't grow up eating it, it's a substance worth confiscating at the border.

      That stuff is just nasty. :-P
      • Ahh, but Vegemite is full of all the goodies that make Red Bull so cracktasticly delicious.

        As a Canadian who learned to love the stuff living down under, I suggest trying it sparingly with old cheddar and toast. Treat it less like peanut butter and more like salt and it's pretty good.

        Costs a fucking fortune here though :(
      • I realize that Aussies love their vegemite, and Brits love their marmite, but for those of us who didn't grow up eating it, it's a substance worth confiscating at the border.

        That stuff is just nasty. :-P

        I prefer Vegemite to marmite my self, but find it easier to find marmite. I'm quite american... and I enjoy the stuff. It has a beefy character, and does make a fabulious diatary suppliment. As a bonus... it's a sure fire cure for hangovers. Add it to a stew, use it for breakfast, use it for those times
    • Whats so special about a laptop? Why not search the CD-ROM in my mp3 player or my USB keychain? Or better yet, just scan my freaking mind by doing the FBI psyche battery exam.

      Have all those exploding Dell/Sony batteries been reclaimed yet? Perhaps we could all carry those laptops to the airport and then see how much they like to search these things. But then we'd probably be put on terrorist watch lists or something.

      I think I'll be having my wife bring the laptop hard drive in her purse from now on.
      • by aplusjimages ( 939458 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @11:05PM (#16571642) Journal
        Oddly enough the laptops get convinscated when the border patrol has a birthday or anniversary coming up. They call it the Homeland Security Special Discount.
  • by QCompson ( 675963 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:14PM (#16569086)
    Captain Encryption!
    • by failure-man ( 870605 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `nameruliaf'> on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:21PM (#16569190)
      Yes but, can Captain Encryption get me my computer back?
      Better yet, can Captain Encryption keep the G-men from stealing it in the first place?
      • If that guy from Half-Life steals your laptop, there are more important things than encryption.
    • From the article:

      One remedy some companies are considering is telling travelers coming back into the country with sensitive information to encrypt it and e-mail it to themselves, which at least protects access to the data, if not its privacy.

      It's kind of ridiculous that it's come to this, but encryption and self-emailing will at least get the porn^H^H^H^H information where it needs to go. How to keep your laptop from being seized is another matter. My tentative plan for next time I'm crossing the border i

    • by Abreu ( 173023 )
      Sounds to me that encrypting your laptop or placing other obvious obstacles in it is a sure-way to get it impounded...

      More likely i would suggest that when the airport guard asks you to turn it on, you boot it into a default installation of windows xp, with a few excel and powerpoint files in the desktop...
      • With lots of spyware so it takes a long time to come up,
        and is basically unusable.

        They'll move you along quickly with your piece of junk.
  • by sith ( 15384 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:20PM (#16569174)
    My laptop requires a password to wake from sleep or decrypt the contents of my home directory. Since this is seemingly not a search-warrant situation, am I in any way legally required to type / provide my password? What are they (legally at least) able to do if I refuse?
    • by jmv ( 93421 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:23PM (#16569234) Homepage
      What are they (legally at least) able to do if I refuse?

      In the US? Probably confiscate your laptop, bang you on the head with it and send you off to Guantanamo for sleep deprivation and beatings. But anything else would be considered abusive and thus forbidden by law.
    • by joebp ( 528430 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:23PM (#16569236) Homepage
      What are you trying to hide? Why do you hate freedom!?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:24PM (#16569274)
      What are they (legally at least) able to do if I refuse?
      Anal probing.
      • The border guards can detain you for 3 days, or until things move.
      • by bky1701 ( 979071 )
        Just remember: smile and yell in "pleasure". It'll get some guards sent to a psychologist, maybe even scar them for life!
    • by nurb432 ( 527695 )
      They detain you for hindering an investigation and put you under suspicion for the rest of your life, once they do finally release you.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:36PM (#16569452)
      My laptop requires a password to wake from sleep or decrypt the contents of my home directory. Since this is seemingly not a search-warrant situation, am I in any way legally required to type / provide my password? What are they (legally at least) able to do if I refuse?

      If you are a US citizen I suppose the US criminal code and possibly anti terrorist legislation act apply. If you are not a US citizen they can pretty much do whatever they bloody well want with the worst case scenario being that you get dragged into a Learjet sporting a fake civil registration which flies you to some US allied country in the Middle East or one of those covert jails in E-Europe for 'harsh interrogation' [wikipedia.org].
    • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @08:40PM (#16570290) Homepage Journal
      My laptop requires a password to wake from sleep or decrypt the contents of my home directory.

      First of all, don't put it to sleep. Turn it off, so that the password they ask for will be a login password rather than some kind of state-restoration password.

      Next, when they ask for a login password, give it to them. Give them a username too.

      Now they log in. They see a very boring directory, which is very easy (and here's the important part: quick!) to search through. They yawn after a very brief investigation, give the machine back, and you go on your way.

      Why did everything work out? Because you gave them a username and password that you don't use everyday, so all your personal stuff isn't sitting in there, needing to be sorted though looking for stuff related to kiddie porn, terrorism, drugdealing, and .. (oh damn, what's the 4th horseman? I forgot.)

    • by p0tat03 ( 985078 )
      Can I refuse to hand the laptop over, turn around, and go home? If I was heading down 'cross the border and the Americans tried to take my work laptop, I'd probably turn around and go home. I'm pretty sure my boss would rather not have a copy of the product's source floating around god knows where, even if it is encrypted.
      • by russ1337 ( 938915 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @09:38PM (#16570910)
        >>> "I'm pretty sure my boss would rather not have a copy of the product's source floating around god knows where, even if it is encrypted"
        I was expecting to see plenty of debate around this when I saw the article but no, most people were focused on hiding their mp3's and pr0n....

        I travel the border occasionally and have carried commercially sensitive information that my employer would not like released - i.e tender documents / competing bid information / commercial contracts. I'm 100% sure the customs guy isn't willing to sign the NDE before he searches my laptop either!!

        If someone is serious about smuggling illegal pr0n or ITAR restricted data, they're not going to have it on their laptop. And the Customs guy better be looking for a 'Blue pill' or making sure he's not in a Virtual Machine setup just for him.

        If I was a customs agent I'd be looking for people partitioning half a 60GB iPod and encrypting the other half with the data on it: "hey its a 30GB iPod". Then you better be looking for the the USB stick key-chain, ear rings, cufflinks, wristband, watch etc. Also the customs guy would have to rely on others (NSA) to catch e-mailing that encrypted file to yourself....

        Someone above discussed exporting encryption technology... well if a 'bad man' has their hands on it - its already too late. I'm sure most of you have heard of Truecrypt - its free, open source and available world wide. Truecrypt also offers reasonable plausible deniability. Its also pretty hard to break. Just use that, then hide the data on a CD-R in your CD music album inside some files labelled "me_singing_creative_commons_songs.mp3"

        Sure, they might catch some careless fools, - which goes toward justifying the laws and the processes. But its all just part of the 'security theatre' that Bruce Schneier talks about. It makes everyone feel safe because the TSA are doing something. Its the wrong thing, but its mighty comforting...... (to those that aren't under the magnifying glass.)
        • by ancientt ( 569920 ) <ancientt@yahoo.com> on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @10:36PM (#16571378) Homepage Journal
          I use TrueCrypt for my laptop. I don't have a password, I use a key on the work network protected by VPN (if you're not on the local network.) I literally cannot be forced give access to someone without setting up the VPN connection. Anything sensitive is on the encrypted partition. If I have to travel overseas, I will ask that they disable my VPN access until a mutually trusted aquaintance at my destination requests it be restored. I might go so far as to ask that I not know who is the responsible party.

          If my laptop is confiscated, it will be a pain, but not terrible since the encrypted partition is backed up when I'm on the work network. If they must decrypt it, then they have to go through my company's security officer and the company's lawyers. If they take the laptop, then its my company's problem and they can decide if it's worth the legal fight.

          Why? I handle other people's sensitive personal data (and try to keep even that at a minimum on my laptop.) I do what I can to protect the privacy of anyone who has trusted us to keep it private. If I'm dealing with someone who is trying to legally obtain the contents of the drive, they are forced to go through a legal process that protects our clients and by extension myself. If I'm dealing with a personal criminal with a gun, hopefully I can just hand over the laptop and valiently try to run away.

          No lying to officials is necessary. I don't think I'd volunteer to explain that there is an encrypted partition, but if asked directly I can tell the truth.

          If you're worried about it, you could probably set up the same with friends instead of a company and have most of the benefits.

          If the climate is really nasty, then I'll probably just ship the drive. Boot? Sure, that's knoppix by they way, let me know if you need help finding the games.
    • by _KiTA_ ( 241027 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @09:39PM (#16570926) Homepage
      What are they (legally at least) able to do if I refuse?

      In the United States, I presume?

      Well, the current law that Bush and his rubber stamps passed allow them to arrest you, hold you indefinately without a trial, rape you (injuries during torture up to but not including death are perfectly OK -- Rape is perfectly acceptabe under the word of the law and has already went on at Abu Ghraib), and prohibit you any contact with any outside sources.


      According to current law, they could make you disappear, and you'd spend the next 50 years in solitary confinement, only being let out long enough to torture for your password. Of course, having given said password, they would just throw you back in and forget about you. You have no rights to a lawyer, no rights to contest your confinement (this is what Haebus Corpus is all about. It was one of the cornerstones of our society, and the founding fathers assumed that no one would be stupid enough to ever try to overturn it -- nor none of their decendants stupid enough to accept it).

      Essentually, no rights at all, since they can simply lock you up and you CANNOT FIGHT IT if they do not want to let you. Want to use your 1st Amendment rights to free speech? Sorry, you can't because you're behind bars in some secret European prison. All other rights are trumped by the loss of the right to contest your imprisonment.

      (BTW, think it only applies to "brown people" like Jose Padilla or random "Terrorists"? Think again -- the law SPECIFICALLY STATES that it applies to US Citizens.)

      If your family protested, they'd either be arrested too, or simply ignored, or the government, when needing a political football, would make something up about you -- like what they did with Mr. Padilla, who they originally accused of having plans of blowing up a dirty bomb in the US. 4 years later, they've never bothered to charge him with that, only even bothering to charge him with anything when he got thiiiis close to getting the US ruled out of line for it. (He's currently being held, still without trial, for "conspiracy to murder, kidnap, and maim people overseas.")

      Pardon me for waxing political, but... I felt this was important, since there's not NEARLY enough outrage going on about this.
  • Canadian Customs has "searched" my laptop twice. Once I sat at the border for about four hours while the tried to figure out how to use the finder. U.S. customs took my laptop (a MacBook Pro) out of the case and looked at it, but I think they decided they didn't want to spend the time with it.

    I shudder at how long it would take the good customs folks to work their way through a Linux box, or a decently encrypted hard drive.

    In both of the Canadian searches, I was asked questions specifically based on email messages cached in my mail client. That was awful disturbing.
    In the "long search" case they apparently also spent most of their time browsing the iPhoto and Photoshop albums and asked me a lot of questions about other places I had been.

    • by s20451 ( 410424 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:45PM (#16569566) Journal
      So customs authorities have the power to inspect the data on your laptop, or presumably any other data-carrying device, without warrant or even cause.

      But an obvious way around this search would be to transfer the data electronically, and perhaps rent a laptop in the US to retrieve it.

      So my question is this. If searching files on a physical device is legal, would it not also be legal for customs to "inspect" all electronic data that crosses international borders? And in the same way that it is legal for the authorities to sieze a laptop for more intensive analysis, would it not also be legal for customs to "embargo" electronic transmissions until they can be analyzed? (Perhaps compelling the sender or receiver, whichever one is on their soil, to disclose the key?)

      Think about the implications for a couple of minutes. This would put the Great Firewall of China to shame, and you have to know that somebody in the justice department is thinking about doing it.
      • So my question is this. If searching files on a physical device is legal, would it not also be legal for customs to "inspect" all electronic data that crosses international borders?

        As I understand US law (IANAL, I'm not even an American) there's a difference legally between data that's in transmission and in storage. One falls under wiretapping laws, one is just under search laws (if I remember).

        Here's an mp3 of the talk where I heard about it at HOPE Number Six: http://www.hopenumbersix.net/mp3/16/network_monito ring_and_the_law.mp3 [hopenumbersix.net]

        Incidentally, the same conference that I had my laptop searched coming back from. Canadian customs officials, I'm a Canadian citizen. They used spotlight for a couple minutes in a back room and then returned it. I would /love/ to know if there is some legal info about this, since I would have been willing to assert my rights, I'm just not sure what they are in that situation. I figured that they have roughly the same rights as if I was carrying a stack of (paper) notebooks and wanted to read through 'em, but that'd be logical, and I've rarely seen the law work logically where a computer was involved.

  • Stateless client (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mikaelhg ( 47691 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:22PM (#16569222)
    Just use a stateless thin client laptop [tadpole.com], no need for hard drive encryption and no way to intrude.
    • I was kind of thinking, with how cheap notebooks are (compared to the data) just have one ready over the border and leave it behind, use VPN to get to your data.

      Overkill, yes but better than losing my data to the goons.
  • I had this happen to me last winter coming back from Canada. The officer had me turn on and log into my computer and then looked through my files for about 30 minutes. He only had me login as one account on the system, which isn't very smart if they're actually looking for anything. Also, if I had been doing something illegal and he found it, it would have been inadmissible since he was working on my laptop directly, not an imaged copy of my hard drive. Oh, and he didn't bother checking my iPod either.
    • Also, if I had been doing something illegal and he found it, it would have been inadmissible since he was working on my laptop directly, not an imaged copy of my hard drive.

      You think so, eh? In this day and age of warrentless searches and guilt by profile, you think that would make any difference at all? Why not manufacture some "documents" and give it a try?

    • And didn't bother to check, I don't know, the whole fucking internet.

      Seriously, why would anyone with anything serious to hide be dumb enough to carry it through customs on a laptop when there are all sorts of ways to slip it through the internet with 100% security and anonymity? The whole searching of laptops thing reeks of political grandstanding and fear mongering. In a sane world, proving that my laptop isn't a bomb should be enough of a routine check for the border.
  • Security (Score:5, Funny)

    by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:24PM (#16569262)
    Whether a laptop is seized or not depends on size and brightness of the screen, and if it might have DVD rom and good speakers.
  • by Skuld-Chan ( 302449 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:24PM (#16569276)
    So say its a company laptop and has an encrypted disk and company policy forbids you from giving your passwords to anyone. What then?
  • by BeBoxer ( 14448 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:26PM (#16569294)
    For all the love that the US government and big corporations seem to have for 'free trade' and 'globalization', they don't seem interested in open borders. I wonder why not? It's OK for corporations to ship jobs around the world to wherever labor conditions are the most favorable to them. But if workers try to migrate to where the hiring conditions are better, they are demonized as 'illegals'. It's OK for corporations to buy supplies from any country, getting the best deal in the process. But if consumers try to buy products from other parts of the world, that's a no-no (witness Lik-Sang). True globalization demands open borders. Fire the border guards. Tear down the fences.

    Some will reply and tell me this is crazy. How it can never work. That somehow we just have to have walls. Why? And if walls are so good and necessary, would you support building them between the States? Why not?
    • by bunions ( 970377 )
      It's actually the Canadian border guards who gave me a hard time with laptops. About every 2 or three times I go through, I've gotten lightly grilled (sounds delicious!) over the contents of it - they ask about pirated movies and software, never mentioned anything about porn, probably because they're Canadian and too polite.

      So that makes the pointless annoyances at border crossing score something like US: 496 Canada: 2.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Grishnakh ( 216268 )
      True globalization demands open borders. Fire the border guards. Tear down the fences.

      Some will reply and tell me this is crazy. How it can never work. That somehow we just have to have walls. Why? And if walls are so good and necessary, would you support building them between the States? Why not?

      It is a bad idea. Borders are good for keeping your citizens safe from external problems, be they illegal aliens that your economy can't cope with, or unfair competition from foreign companies that don't follow th
  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:27PM (#16569316) Journal
    Last week, an informal survey by the [Association of Corporate Travel Executives], which has about 2,500 members worldwide, indicated that almost 90 percent of its members were not aware that customs officials have the authority to scrutinize the contents of travelers' laptops and even confiscate laptops for a period of time, without giving a reason.
    Customs can scrutinize & confiscate almost anything that isn't a diplomat or under diplomatic seal.

    Don't like it, get the law changed.

    Otherwise, all they'll get is a policy change... which is the equivalent of a "I promise" but without any garauntee or accountability.
  • Scary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:27PM (#16569320) Journal
    It's getting so that I don't want to travel to the States any more. They're getting waay too uptight.
    • Re:Scary (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Simon Garlick ( 104721 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:57PM (#16569742)
      I've declined three employer-funded trips to business meetings and conferences in the USA in the past couple of years. The thought of having some jackbooted stormtroo^H^H^Homeland Security officer with a German shepherd on a leash screaming at me to produce my "PAPERS! PAPERS!" just turns me off. The USA just isn't a place I want to visit any more.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dravik ( 699631 )
      I certainly hope this article doesn't figure into this. This is done by every customs department in every country. If you take a trip to the US you will run this risk when entering the US but you will also run this risk when you reenter wherever you came from.
  • Blah Registration (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 )
    Guess i wont be reading the rather potentially disturbing story.

    I wonder how long it will be before local police start stopping people at random to do searches of laptop/mp3/pda contents. Much as they do now for random drug/seatbelt/terrorism/etc searches.

    "its random so we arent violating anyones rights".. my ass.

    Time for total encryption of anything you carry. Too bad i cant encrypt my ipod, or PDA.
  • I work for a company that has several managers who travel almost constantly between our headquarters in the US and our subsidiaries in Europe, China and Brazil. Because of the risk of theft (but also applicable here), they are not allowed to store any corporate data on their computer; it's all on our corporate server and they need to either VPN or FTP (depending on firewall rules) into their directory if they want to get anything. Everything is then saved back there.

    For the same reason (in my case prima

  • So you just put a backup on a internet accessable site, just in case your killer presentation is eaten by customs.. ( and be sure to email home your priceless family trip pictures )

    A little planning is all that is needed.
  • by rev_sanchez ( 691443 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:44PM (#16569556)
    stealing. The US border guards are stealing computers. How about we make them stop stealing things?
  • Dumb move USA.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by zytheran ( 100908 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:46PM (#16569580)
    For many people outside of the USA having an encrypted HD is a matter of good business sense or national security, depending on where you work. For those who work outisde the USA in the defence area, and work colaboratively with people in the USA, this is now a major hassle. When crossing the border the software needed for decent security is now effectively banned from leaving the country and your laptop will be confiscated. The fact the software came from another country in the first place and the person is actually working for a friendly government and helping the USA government is seemingly irrelevant. The solution to this problem which many are taking is quite simple, limit helping the USA with any classified or confidential work. And before people reply "the USA doesn't need anyone else", please think about why you have huge national debt ...
    I thought that after 911 the government departments were meant to be 'beating to the same drum' for national security and yet here we are, 5 years later, with a case of the geniuses that run border security stuffing up other government departments.
    • Re:Dumb move USA.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by purduephotog ( 218304 ) <hirsch.inorbit@com> on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @10:08PM (#16571162) Homepage Journal
      We solved this problem the easy way: We ship everything FedEX overnight to the destination.

      Have had equipment confiscated in a number of places, had to pay 'import' taxes on company owned equipment with access tags (got it reimbursed after 8 months)... but FedEx gets it there, no hassles, no problems.

      Best of all? I travel for the government. So in essence, I'm charging them cost plus to ship my equipment so that it won't be confiscated by their agents.

      &*shakes head*&
  • by Puk ( 80503 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:48PM (#16569608)
    Funny that this article should come up right around the time the first federal judge addresses the question, and find that they do need to have reasonable suspicion.

    law.com article [law.com]
    opinion [uscourts.gov]

    Of course, this is not the end of the matter, but highly relevant.

  • by revolution1901 ( 774077 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @08:00PM (#16569800)

    I'm a u.s. citizen and had my laptop confiscated at the canadian border when re-entering the u.s. about three years ago. They also held me in a cell for a few hours until a person from ICE (immigration and customs enforcement) could arrive to interrogate me and my friends. After a few hours they let me through, turned around my canadian friends, and kept my laptop. They returned the laptop to me about four months later (with a burned copy of an EnCase [guidancesoftware.com] client cd left in the cd rom drive).

    I had nothing to hide and there was nothing I could imagine useful to them on that laptop. If I thought I had something to hide or a reason the government would think I was up to something that would warrant their taking my laptop (something more than my political activism), I would not have carried it across the border. In any event, this taught me me a few things: 1) always encrypt entire partitions, including one's root partition, not individual files as I had been doing, 2) don't carry one's private encryption key when crossing borders [or in any obvious way the rest of the time], 3) always keep plenty of encrypted backups in different physical locations so that you can be back up to speed as soon as possible if your laptop is taken, 4) avoid carrying electronics across the border at all if one can't afford to replace the hardware soon afterward.

    Personally, it made me happy to know the government spent time and resources copying and possibly picking through my innocuous files while there were other people out there busy with bringing an end to a government that found such activity useful.

    Funny side note: my canadian friends, after being turned around and having to cross back to the canadian side a few hours later, were asked by the canadian border person, "why were you there at u.s. customs so long?"

    My friends told them, "they said our friend was a suspected terrorist."

    The canadian border person *laughed*, said "those americans are crazy", and let them on their way without any further hassle.

  • So, why wouldn't I just have two partitions, dual-boot, and on the plane make sure it's setup to boot the 'boring' partition?

    Think the customs guys will notice that dmesg shows the drive has more space than df -k does?

    They _are_ comfortable with emacs in a text window, right? That's what _I_ boot into :-)
    • by RajivSLK ( 398494 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @08:41PM (#16570314)
      They _are_ comfortable with emacs in a text window, right? That's what _I_ boot into :-)
      ::Pop quiz::
      If the customs officials have no clue what your computer is doing, their likely reaction would be to:

      A) Pat you on the back, apologize for wasting your time, and send you on your way.
      B) Put you in a holding cell while they spent hours attempting to figure out your notebook.

      How does appearing like you have something to hide help you at all? Best to make it boot into an innocuous windows partition.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I have told this story a few times on /. but here it goes again

        Last year I went with my wife and son to Adelaide for a short holiday. Coming back I left my laptop in the checked in luggage (having too much stuff to carry on board). At the time it only ran Mandrake. The laptop was fully charged because I always ran it on mains power.

        Boarding time arrived and thw airline announced a delay to "change a wheel". I could see the plane right outside the windows. Adelaide airport is pretty small. No wheels got chan
  • 5th Amendment (Score:3, Insightful)

    by troll -1 ( 956834 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @08:06PM (#16569882)
    Article contradicts itself by first saying US Customs can confisicate without reason and then saying the a Federal Court ruled it needs at least "reasonable suspicion". I would have thought the latter to be correct according to the wording of the 5th Amendment that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, which is generally held to be at least reasonable suspicion.
    • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Wednesday October 25, 2006 @01:12AM (#16572478)
      No person shall... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law

      It does not apply only to US citizens, and it does not apply only within the borders of the US. The US government shall not do this to anyone, anywhere. Full stop. End of fucking discussion!

      Why the fuck is this so damn hard for everyone -- including federal judges -- to understand?!!!

  • by Jack9 ( 11421 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @09:04PM (#16570598)
    A couple companies ago I ran into some Canadians who stole US data then simply put the data on harddrvies that they carried across the CANADIAN border, mailed them to an address, went back to Canada. Went through customs normally, got visas (1 of the guys got delayed 2 weeks for no given reason), and came into the company, opened their package. Viola.
  • DHS Reasoning (Score:3, Informative)

    by duplo1 ( 719988 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @09:25PM (#16570800)
    My father is an immigration attorney (MFIAIA) near the Canadian border and we were chatting about this several weeks ago as it occasionally happens to his clients. Apparently, border agents largely trawl through people's email inboxes searching for evidence of work outside the scope of their current visa. People entering the US on valid visas have few options but to submit their laptop or face denial of entry and possible revocation of their visa and denial of pending applications.

    Even if people utilized file or disk level encryption, I wonder if they would force people to surrender encryption keys and passwords. I suggested that he advise clients to look into that sort of solution, but it may not do any good. It would also be interesting to know how and where the information is stored and for how long.
  • by misanthrope101 ( 253915 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @10:06PM (#16571140)
    Since the government doesn't need warrants/probable cause/oversight anymore, it would be easy to set up a business to sell "confiscated" laptops second-hand. With no oversight, there is no need for record-keeping, no way to see if someone is abusing their power, etc. Just yell "You hate America!" at anyone who questions how you bought your new house. It's worked so far. The only people who believe in old-fashioned due process are apparently terrorist appeasers, if you believe the dominant Republicans and Fox News. Can anyone think of an argument FOR government oversight, warrants, and due process that would be considered persuasive in the current political environment? We seem to have given up altogether on the idea that government is dangerous to freedom.

    What happened to all the "conservatives"? Am I the only conservative who actually believes in limited government? That may be the most tangible benefit of a Democratic victory in an (any) election--the conservatives would be (ostensibly, if dishonestly) anti-government again. Right now we're stuck with the dichotomy that government-funded healthcare is creeping totalitarianism, but government torture is innocuous. Strange world we live in.

Economists can certainly disappoint you. One said that the economy would turn up by the last quarter. Well, I'm down to mine and it hasn't. -- Robert Orben