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back to article Senator slams DHS boss over border laptop searches

A US senator has accused the head of the Department of Homeland security of “blatant mischaracterization” over the searching of laptops at US borders. Following an article by the Washington Post, America suddenly realised last week that border agents were pretty much free to sequester and rummage around their laptops when they …

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Dan
Silver badge
Pirate

War on tourism

Why isn't it obvious to Americans that the same laws should apply to tourists and residents as it does to Americans, i.e. every one within or at their borders should be treated the same way?

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Coat

Oblivious Americans .. @Dan

It IS obvious to many of us that the same laws should apply to all. It's just not obvious to our current leadership.

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Thumb Up

I like this

A senator woke up from dreamy land and realised why people have a problem with that country. Then thought... what... it applies to the US people as well...

Now they consider it wrong, now they are bothered.

(Insert an applicable swear word here to best describe the US...)

I wonder if it was one of the few senators that owns a passport that thought this...

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Bronze badge

only if...

You're only subject to the whims of US Customs and Immigration if you actually bother to travel that that pit of lies. Personally, I'd have to be extraordinarily rendered before I'll ever go there again.

There is nothing in the US that can't be had elsewhere either better quality or better price. Often both. Leave the US to the Americans, go visit the real world.

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On the list

Many years ago I had protested and tried with all my might to stand my ground to forbid such a search. At the time it was not 'legal' for such searches to happen without probable cause. Since that time laws have been passed in the name of homeland security.

As a result of my stance for my rights I was placed a 'black-list'. The fact that I was screened every-time I came through (between 24-36 times a year) for 5 years was proof enough. My odds for winning the lottery could never be that dismal. Now... after the 5th year... I seem to be in the clear as I have not been screened.

The biggest problem is that HS and those controlling the border believe and boast that American laws do not hold for those at the border. You accordingly are not in the country until you pass through.

The fact is that American Rights and Freedom could not be at an all time low. And you tell me.... what are the odds that these inexperienced and untrained 'professionals' have in being able to crack encrypted data in a mere few minutes that they have. The whole entire concept IMHO is rather a joke. I mean... come on... grow up and use your brain HS... get some people who understand reality and what is really needed without tramping all over our freedom.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Dan

Because (and I have lived my entire life here as an American citizen) we are Xenophobic and fear outsiders.

Why? Dunno. Considering aside from Native American Indians we are all outsiders (a fact most Americans conveniently forget) it doesn't make a lot of sense.

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Stop

Secondary?

"we only put you into secondary when there is a suspicion, when there is a reason to suspect something"

Customs agents' definition of a 'reason':

You're not white.

You're white, but not between the ages of 30 and 55.

You're travelling alone.

You're travelling in a suspiciously large group - say, four or more.

You look nervous.

You look tired.

You look unnaturally relaxed.

You're carrying drug paraphernalia, such as a a credit card.

You're on a terrorist watch list. Or someone with a slightly different surname to your neighbour's ex-cousin is on a terrorist watch list.

They're bored.

They don't like your face.

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Coat

You wouldn't want to come here...

More often than ever we're looking for a way out. If you are still interested in visiting the US here are some alternatives:

If you want to come here for the high rate of gun violence, try South Africa or just shoot yourself and save time.

If you're lured by our failing economy, plenty of places in the UK would love your tourism and you have a better chance of living when you're mugged.

If you want to come here for the incompetent leadership, well, it's good to know we still do something better than anyone else.

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Coat

@Dan

Dan, as a "Yank", I agree 100% with you. Some much of the rhetoric spewed by our politicians is "land of the free," yet when it comes to offering up the same rights for visitors, they change their minds.

These are travesties against what this country was founded upon; That each person was equal, that everyone had a fair shake, and that these rights were given by our creator (Deity or Dawkins, take your pick). In the ever shrinking world, our government needs to cease this pompousness and pull its head out of its ass. We are not exactly making a lot of friends.

Regarding my initial statement of "Land of the free," I feel I should amend that with "mostly". Soon enough though, there will be no need for that statement at all, as the Patriot Act will get rid of all my freedoms and rights to privacy, and we'll (Americans) be subject to an Orwellian police state, with the Ministries of Peace, Truth (Fox News), Plenty and Love as our 4 cornerstones.

Mine's the one with 1984 and 451 Fahrenheit in the pockets.

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Anonymous Coward

lol

Unlike the war on terrorism and like the war on Drugs, the governments are winning the war on freedom and the war on tourism.

And I for one welcome our new USSA overlords.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: War on tourism

"Why isn't it obvious to Americans that the same laws should apply to tourists and residents as it does to Americans, i.e. every one within or at their borders should be treated the same way?"

Every country since the beginning of the city-state has been suspicious of strangers. Ever hear of that big wall thing they have in northern China? They didn't build it to keep the cattle from straying. There's another big wall in the northern England. How about all those castles dotted across Europe?

You think people get treated the same everywhere outside the US? That's really funny...

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Removable HDD

Might be fun to have the system HDD on your laptop be a removable one.

click *whirr*

...

*beep*beep*

"hey, your laptop won't boot!"

"nothing for you to search, then, eh?"

Could also be fun, if travelling in two cars, to have the HDD, battery and power supply in one vehicle, the rest of the laptop in the other.

Anything to make border patrol's life annoying.

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14th Amendment

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

It says "any person" not citizen when it comes to depriving them of their property. Therefore both US citizens and non-citizens should be treated equally. And it requires due process of law, which I assume is not the whim of some immigration official.

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Silver badge

I'm all right, Jack ... oooh! maybe I'm not

I wonder if this is one of those "it only applies to foreigners" things. That senators and other lofty individuals don't mind putting "other" people to grave inconvenience and loss. However, when they realise that, just maybe, the same rules aplpy to them, too they start to worry.

Just like for King Canute, the tide of restrictions, limitations and curtailed freedoms is coming in. You can either stand in the water and order it back, or you can get off the beach. The one thing you can't do is stop it.

Sadly the speed of thought is slower than the speed of eroding liberties.

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@Dan

It mostly used to be that way, until GWB. The war on terrorism is really just an expression of the neocon xenophobia, and yes that breeds laws that provide rights to citizens alone.

but at the same time, this particular policy (I can't call a blatent violation of the 4th and 8th amendments a law) does apply to everyone. everyone gets screwed....

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Don't you get it?

I have some really snide comments, but I find I don't want to post them because I used my real name.

Which... I guess is comment enough in its own right, sadly.

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Coat

@Dan

As England is already a US territory, simply petition to be elevated to State status so that you are afford the same protections. ;P

(Yes, yes, I know. Citizens of territories are already US citizens. Bloody Limey Septics ;) )

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Black Helicopters

How to get waved through US interror^Hgation^Wimmigration

When I went on a business trip to America the official asked "What is your business?" After a long day getting everything ready followed by a long flight I was not sufficiently alert to come up with "GPS position dependant vehicle locks radio controlled from a secure control centre." Instead the first dazed word out of my mouth were "Its security..." I was then told "Don't say another word" and waved through. I spent the next half hour waiting for the person I was supposed to meet wondering if I was about to be questioned by the NSA for using the wrong phrase when I was tired.

Try it at your own risk - I have not been there since Guantanamo bay.

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me
Stop

Heil Bush!

US <---> Nazi Germany, circa 1930

Nuf said

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Black Helicopters

'Homeland Security'

'Homeland Security' translates as 'Staatssicherheit' into German.

Now where did I hear that word before?

Oh thats right, the infamous East German 'STASI' (Abbreviation of 'Staatssicherheit') was called exactly the same...

is that a coincidence or what?!

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Re: 14th Amendment

"[...]No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Sadly, the key words there are "no State" and "any State". However, the Federal Government apparently is free to do as they wish.

-dZ.

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Silver badge

Chertoff

Let us remember that Abdul Chertoff came up with a spreadsheet that apportioned scarce (though apparently not scarce enough) HS monies to Omaha on the grounds the stockyards were a viable terrorist target, while reducing New York's allotment because it possessed "no significant high profile terrorist targets".

This man is fundamentally dishonest, and doesn't care who knows it.

As for you and your "clever" advice, Michael, if your laptop won't boot airport security will take you into a back room where you'll miss your flight just like they would before 9/11. I have to wonder how often someone travels by air when they aren't familiar with the standard "please turn it on" line. Advice from such a person is about as dubious as Chertoff's List.

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Flame

@ac

"Considering aside from Native American Indians we are all outsiders (a fact most Americans conveniently forget)"

you must have been missing part of your history to not have understood that THEY came over here from somewhere else, too. So they were only earlier immigrants to the same continent. sheesh...anglo bigot...

ohhhh, we're so awful...we took it away from the "native americans"; who took it away from the peoples who were here before them.

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Silver badge
Pirate

Open Source Season

This is what can and IS being done in every country I imagine, which really does make a mockery of Anyone, including Governments and their Secretive Service watchers, thinking that there is anything which can be kept secret and/or secure. ...... http://www.ncix.gov/publications/reports/traveltips.pdf

Any "precautions" which one might take are Virtually, practically useless, and purely delude one into a false sense of security...... which is very convenient for anyone into Security, whether White Hat or Black Hat, allowing as IT does, a litany of evidence to be assembled for Future Shakedowns/Leverage/Blackmail.

There are no Anonymous Cowards in CyberSpace, only Sheep being Groomed for Markets?

And you cannot erase your History, which must be quite worrying for many with little secrets that they would rather hide.

Or maybe that is what we are supposed to think. Suck IT and See with some Novel BetaTesting?

And if asked what you are doing, you could always try ....... White Hat Red Team Penetration Tester, for a Reaction. :-)

Although, that could have you perceived as a Pinko Liberal Hippy type.

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The US Air Force motto

'Homeland Security' translates as 'Staatssicherheit' into German.

The US Air Force motto translates as "Uber Alles."

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Coat

@by me

nazi germany ca. 1930 Would have been... Well not _nazi_ germany, would it?

Already got my coat, thank you.

Mobile's keyboards suck for text entry, sorry

@moderatrix: choosing an icon in opera for symbian s60 is... Interesting. Maybe someone might be interested in investigating that.

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Linux

@Dan @ Micheal @all

Thats how I managed to get a "free pass" through three sets of customs twice...

yank the HDD's... seal the computer with NO fixed storage and carry the fixed

storage (the HDDs) in hand-luggage... it shifts some weight but also gives

customs a brilliant "oh shit" moment when they actually realise the HDDs are

useless outside the box they were taken from ( works well when the HDDs are

"linear set" material )... you ARE co-operating with them... they just need

equipment they will *never* have and I doubt a customs agent wants to become

a bottleneck for any international airport when you ARE co-operative with them.

just gives the officer a headache he doesnt want and you just need to sit and smile

Tux and Linux... just more "headache" inducement...

especially the part where windows needs 3rd party extensions to read *other* fs

everytime a govt catches up to "latest and greatest" its still 2 generations behind

recently released from the lab kit...unless it owns the lab and who trusts that? :)

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Native Americans

------"ohhhh, we're so awful...we took it away from the "native americans"; who took it away from the peoples who were here before them."------

Except that there wasn't anybody here before them.

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2 things

regarding the 14th amendment, as i recall the courts ruled that the govt has a fundemental right to search inbound items...and while its nice to yell about search warrents, how would you like to be held as a "guest of the govt" in a small room in the airport over the weekend waiting for a judge to be found to issue the order? DHS would rather deny you entry than let ppl in unsearched. and the court ruled that it was inpraticle to get search warrents for this, due to the time sensative nature of airports.

as for native americans, what we call the native americans wernt the first group, at least 2, and some argue as many as 4, mass migrations happened in prehistoric time, and each group tended to wipe out the ones already here.

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Gates Horns

Hypocrites

You all live in stinking piss-holes yourselves, with incompetence in leadership, swindling politicians, stupid laws and moronic ethics. Get over yourselves.

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Alien

Welcome to the United Police States of America

What way to many people are clueless about, more so here IN the states probably then outside of the states is that we are headed for a Socialistic Dictatorship as we slowly watch our civil liberties erode away in the name of the "War on Terror".

This is quite similar to the last few wars some of you might have heard of. "The war on drugs" This is probably the longest running and most expensive war in existance. Nixon used the term in 1971 but Reagan really kicked things off. Between the 8 years of Reagan and the 4 of Bush senior they spent over 3.1 trillion dollars. The only thing that change was the number of people in prison.

Less people to pay the tax. Honestly the oldest war was started by Johnson, its was called the War on Poverty, never got the funding the war on drugs did though. Now we are fighting a War on Terrorism. Sad part is its still the same enemy, You and Me! In reality its more about funneling money into the hands of the rich at the expense of the poor. We are no longer the Land of the Free.

The founding fathers did everything they could to keep this kind of thing from happening to most of the US population is to apathetic to give a shit. Its not them they are going after, Think a few people in Germany said that till they themselves got picked up.

If your a US citizen and consider yourself to be "Not asleep at the Wheel" and actually do care, go look up Naomi Wolf, Letter of warning to a Young Patriot.

Go lookup Zeitgeist Movie, Freedom to Fascism and start learning what money really is. Its Debt and we are paying over 4 bucks a gallon because of it, not because of how much they are pumping or not pumping overseas.

Its rediculous, most US citizens think the Federal Reserve System is a branch of the Government, Its a PRIVATE CORP, owned by international bankers who are bleeding the US and the rest of the world dry. Or i guess you could just watch dancing with the stars instead. Pathetic!

Take the Red Pill, the Blue Pill is the media and this is why most of the people in this country are asleep. To much shiny stuff to pay attention to reality is everything slowly slips away.

And yes, i used my real name, cause i want them to know I'm mad and refuse to take it any longer, anyone else?

Tnt

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@Michael

"""Could also be fun, if travelling in two cars, to have the HDD, battery and power supply in one vehicle, the rest of the laptop in the other."""

Actually if you're driving across the border the most inspection you're likely to get is a hand wave. I live near the Mexican border, and you don't even need a passport to wander over.

The most sane plan I've heard for avoiding checks is to fly into Mexico or Canada, then drive or walk across.

Most of the time that sensitive data isn't terribly large, so tar it, encrypt it, put .mp3 on the end and save it on your phone or mp3 player. And people have mentioned how trivial it'd be to stuff 8gb of information onto a Micro SD card and hide that somewhere, though I have no idea if it'd show up on xray through other objects. However, I doubt that they'd have enough metal in there to set off a metal detector. Just in case, tape it behind a rivet in your jeans or something so that the hand scanner has a good reason to beep at it.

I wonder if you could manage to distract the inspector by autoplaying some softcore porn when your laptop boots. That way at least the experience will be pleasant for both of you.

Well, I'm off to go fill my spare SD cards with entropy, as I'll be traveling tomorrow...

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Flame

@Native Americans

Buffalo were there before them...

If there were people before them then they were either wiped out or both peoples interbred so much before Europeans came over that they became the same people. That's INTER, not IN, they're not European royalty.

And you are "so awful". The American govt. (and/or states) have broken virtually every one of the 800 treaties made with the native tribes.

Oh, but here's a casino so everything's okay.

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Bronze badge
Coat

Mwahaha!

My new Asus eeepc's in Finnish. Up yours, USA! Especially as my home directory is on SD card...Which I can pretty well hide in a cigarette packet. (Was going to say 'fag packet' but as it's USA....)

That'll fuc*k 'em!

Cunch of Bunts.

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Silver badge
Joke

A few comments...

"..The fact that I was screened every-time I came through (between 24-36 times a year) for 5 years was proof enough...."

Let me get this straight - you object to the searches, but you kept going through about 150 times? Why didn't you just STOP GOING THROUGH????

"If you want to come here for the incompetent leadership, well, it's good to know we still do something better than anyone else..."

Yet another American boasting that his country is the best!!! What about Zimbabwe and North Korea??

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Alien

Just don't go there!!

Ever since a cousin of mine was detained for three hours for daring to be a Consultant Cardiologist travelling to, of all things, a medical conference.Nobody in my family travels to the US.

While a friend who also had to travel there a for work was detained for four hours in Miami even though he was there as part of two thousand convention goers and had been travelling to the US for nearly twenty years. When he got back he asked for his contract to be changed so that he never had to travel to the US again!

Until the recession/downturn hits and they start craving those tourist dollars, nothing will change.

So just don't go there......

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@Belxjander and others

I always thought that asking you to turn on a laptop and boot it was primarily to prove that it was a laptop and not a cleverly disguised bomb. Only recently has the quick rummage through your data been introduced.

Yanking the hard disk so that it wont boot sounds like a good way to be "detained" while a specialist unit is brought in to blow it up under the assumption that it's a bomb.

I also assume that a customs guard will not respond well to "I just pulled the disk out, all you need to do is insert this metal, magnetically shielded box into it, and connect it to the power supply. It will prove it's a laptop, honest!"

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Happy

@hypocrites

Yes, but we don't claim otherwise. Do we?

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Paris Hilton

Native Americans - Outsiders????

It is ironic that the supposed cradle of humanity that gave rise to the populations of the world is also the worlds poorest - Africa

Why Paris: She values the benefit of who comes first

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Coat

So ... the cloud wins?

I take it that this is where the international border check free cloud computing will come in handy, then?

Mines the one with the gun in one pocket and a single bullet in the other.

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@ Stevie

"As for you and your "clever" advice, Michael, if your laptop won't boot airport security will take you into a back room where you'll miss your flight just like they would before 9/11. I have to wonder how often someone travels by air when they aren't familiar with the standard "please turn it on" line. Advice from such a person is about as dubious as Chertoff's List."

I don't believe I've ever seen someone so unable to take note of my tongue being firmly planted in my cheek. I didn't think I needed to explicity state that what I said was in jest, but apparently, unless you tailor your comments to the lowest common denominator, some poor sod won't get it.

I thought my mention of vehicles of the automotive variety implied that I wasn't referring to airport security. Apparently, I wasn't nearly explicity enough here. Clearly my mistake...

Secondly, I thought my mention of Border Patrol was also sufficient to indicate that my comments were not regarding airport security, which is run by the Transportation Security Administration, not by US Customs and Border Protection. Again, clearly my mistake for not completely spelling it out.

Thirdly, even if I was referring to air travel, you apparently missed the part where the computer turns on, and beeps twice. The unsaid part here is that the screen would display something to the effect of "No Boot Volume Detected. Press Any Key To Restart." When TSA asks you to turn it on, their purpose has nothing to do with making sure your OS installation operates normally (like they'd know what to do with anything other that Windows anyway). It's to make sure it really is a laptop, and not some C4 molded and painted to LOOK like a laptop. Powering it on (click *whirr*) satisfies that request. Before you say "but you talked about separating the powercord and battery from the laptop", please note that I referred to separating them into two vehicles (of the automotive variety, again), and last I checked Border Patrol doesn't ask you to turn on your laptop, just TSA.

Lastly, what part of "Might be fun to..." led you to believe I was giving advice?? If you think that's giving advice, you probably think playing GTA leads people to petrol-bomb cars...

But again, it's obviously my fault for not clearly spelling out every aspect of my comment for those whose brains are only partially functional. In the future, I'll do my best to make Captain Obvious look positively cryptic in my postings. Thank you kindly for this learning experience!!

Now take your ball and go home.

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On overerstimating patience & intelligence of TSA...

I don't know about you, but when dealing with airport security people (TSA), I would try to deviate from what they're expecting to see as little as possible. Would let my laptop boot (via Grub) into the purely-for-show Windows XP partition, with the microSD cards in my wallet.

In my eyes, anything that the TSA aren't familiar with (e.g. 'No Boot Volume detected', or possibly even Linux), I would cynically expect them to regard as suspicious, and would want to avoid...

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