back to article Of laptops and US border searches

Recently, I was going through an airport with my shoes, coat, jacket, and belt off as well as with my carry-on bag, briefcase, and laptop all separated for easy inspection. I was heading through security at the Washington D.C., Ronald Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, or "National" as we locals call it. As I passed …


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  1. GremlinUK

    It's simple...

    I won't be taking my tourist dollars into the US whilst such unconstitutional behaviour persists, regardless of whether I'm carrying my laptop with me or not.

    Will they be copying the contents of the memory card in my phone next? Or my SIM card address book?

    Clearly, it is control-freakin' idiots that run the theatre that is airport security.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Which user//

    Are they going to log on as? If I create a new user (no admin rights) and log on as that then its not going to give them much at all is it?

    As its a work's laptop I can always say that I do not have admin privs (or access to the administrator account) so they can't see anything that doesn't belong to the user they've logged on as.

    I guess they'd just seize my computer and lock me up

  3. ichi

    Florida v. Royer

    the US Constitution applies... even in US airports.

  4. Tom

    Dont take your laptop on holiday!

    Given the FBI is planting 'dodgy' links and if your browser, like mine pre-loads links on a page to 'give a better browsing experience' the chances of not having something 'illegal' on your PC is pretty slim. Someone could slip a file of white noise onto a web site and you'll be hanging upside down having your feet beaten in GBay until you tell them the encryption keys for it!

    It seems like the only way to function these days is to have all you data on a secure web server that can be accessed by a browser!

  5. ichi

    Florida v. Royer

    the US Constitution applies everywhere in the US.. even airports.

    you may also wish to review (especially all footnotes, or start at #10):

    peace NOW!

  6. ichi


    there are no legal probably causeless or warrantless searches allowed.

    there are no 'suspicion' searches except as prescribed by Terry v. Ohio: (outter garnet pat down for weapons only. detention must be brief and in place and no responses may be compelled.)

  7. wim

    NDA ?

    What would happen if you have information on your laptop that is under a Non Disclosure Agreement ?

    Letting the customs see it will violate the NDA not letting the customs look through it would be making yourself a likely candidate for government harassing untill you give in.

  8. Richard Barnes

    One possible solution

    If you run an operating system that has some sort of security then you could:

    1. Create a dummy account containing a number of unimportant files. Give this account the minimum number of privileges.

    2. Use this account when stopped at the border with your laptop and asked to start the machine.

    3. When asked to provide access to other files, you can reasonably claim not to have sys admin rights and refer the enquirer to your corporate IT department (if you have one), hoping that they aren't going to bother. Of course, they might bother and corporate IT might give them the sys admin password over the phone, but how likely is that?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We should decriminalize tertiary unpaid possession

    Making of kiddie porn, make it a crime it is the primary crime. Distribution of kiddie porn, keep it a crime it is a secondary crime, but nevertheless may encourage the primary crime. Possession of unpaid kiddie porn, not a crime. Where kiddie is defined as puberty, not this stupid 18 year old rule that has us locking up 16 years olds for photographing themselves having sex.

    If 14 year old girls aren't sex objects why do they use them as fashion models?

    I know it's common to get an emotional argument to conflate these things into 1 thing, but there was only a marginal case to ban distribution, it already was a secondary crime. Possession is a tertiary crime, it's already 2 times removed from the actual crime and was argued that *buying^* created a market. Distribution is what the FBI did recently, so distribution was already viewed as minor enough for the FBI to do it.

    The argument ran that by obtaining child porn you were paying for it, which created the market that drove distribution, which in turn created production. That can't work if it isn't purchased. So the ban on possession should be changed to a ban on *purchase* of kiddie porn. If you watched a murder on TV then you are not encouraging murder, if you paid for a snuff video you would be encouraging murder indirectly.

    So if FBI views distribution of child porn (a secondary crime) as acceptable to catch people for possession (a tertiary) crime then it clearly casts a question over whether that tertiary crime should actually be a crime.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Don't go to the States

    This appears to be yet another reason not to go to the States.

    US border patrol clearly don't want people to visit the states.

  11. Edward Miles

    Another pointless law...

    ...Anyone bringing anything they truly fear into the country on a laptop is going to have it encrypted. Thus the government can look at the laptop all they want, they ain't going to get anything off it.

  12. Mr B

    Search, not copy.

    Fair enough customs officers are entitled to search. But copying the contents of my HDD would be the equivalent of taking away my clothes (DNA filled) or making photocopies of my (paper) address book (friends or foes).

    Are they allowed to do so?

    I doubt the searches are occurring at random, I'm pretty sure the Arnold's case was a matter of opportunity, he was on "a" list and him getting in from the Philippines made it a perfect timing. As you said your inspection was "cursory".

    I know the have a got a propensity to leave loaded laptops unattended but personally I don't and believe no one should, PCs get lifted & looked at. But I'm glad the pervs are doing so, that way there is a chance they get caught.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    in short

    Anon rodent says: "Terrorists win, again"—if you still believe this is all about terrorism.

    While you focus primarily on personal privacy issues, what about business? You might be returning from a field-research trip, some conference, contract negotiations or whatever, your computer might be filled to the brim with critical business or even NDA-material, or maybe your latest novel or critical analysis of modern-day fashism that makes government X look bad. Now would you please hand that over, decrypted, for reasons of national security, to be copied, analyzed, stored?

    Invasive searches like the ones described lead to people no longer carrying any data of any value whatsoever, thereby curbing travellers' work efficiency -> "Terrorists win". So if you bother to take along a computer at all, you will have all data on some secure remote sever, and you will rather not put the server data (and no encryption, no hidden partitions, no nothing) on the machine but in your head. If you believe in secure remote severs that is. Now if that machine got inspected, you would be suspicious as hell, and you know what happens to suspicious people who will not admit. They get special treatments, sometimes even a free vacation in an interesting place. Like Syria. So you might better fill your machine with some random "identity" bull in order to make it look "pure". Thereby, being denied privacy essentially promotes a culture of lies and deception. I am not even touching on the inherently connected issues of classism and racism that determine who is searched and who is not.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    A laptop is exactly the same as a briefcase with respect to documents contained therein. If you wouldn't wish to go through border control with a briefcase full of child porn then why should you expect to do so with a laptop full of the same.

    Just because a laptop is more convenient for storing documents and in greater quantity than a briefcase should not make it the equivalent of a diplomatic bag. In fact for these very reasons it should be more of a focus for investigation.

  15. paulc
    Black Helicopters

    Johnny mnemonic

    the premise doesn't look quite so far fetched anymore... data-smuggling using brain implants...

    anyway, I'm off to find some smooth USB keydrives... no sharp edges...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes, but...

    Thanks for pointing out another indignity / loss of privacy we have to suffer when going to the land of the free and the home of the brave.

    I think it is necessary, though, to stop the warrantless searching of devices at just booting the things up. Even a cursory glance for kiddie porn or similar should be off-limits for border guards.

    One reason is the fact that governments already have ample powers and abilities to track traffic in what you could call illegal data online. Unlike other contraband, the government already has plenty of opportunity to nab you before you reach the border. The ability to disrupt the possibility of extensive international traffic in illegal data by physical devices alone (i.e. a sneaky sneakernet) is more than sufficiently taken care of by the hoarding of all other personal flight and border control data by the goverment.

    Furthermore, how do you limit a 'cursory inspection'? 1 minute, 5 minutes, an hour? Can you be present while the inspection takes place? Can a borderguard boot your laptop off a special inspection CD, or download or otherwise install some search programme of their own (NSA rootkit anyone?) Can they ask for root access, and if they can, what if you don't have it yourself?

    Basically, border guards shouldn't ever go there. Literally.

  17. Bhavin Desai
    Paris Hilton

    The Arnold Search

    Although I am not a lawyer, I think the search on Michael Timothy Arnold was reasonable and justified because:

    "They were also suspicious because Arnold could not remember the name of the company where he had once worked as a night auditor and appeared "fidgety." "

    Probably a lot of material in other laptops has already got through because the carrier stayed calm. Although a knowledge of Body Language is useful, the theory sometimes breaks down in a real life stressful scenario.

  18. Nomen Publicus
    IT Angle

    stupid criminals only?

    The question is, why would a bad person keep incriminating data on a laptop when online storage is easily available and accessible over a secure web connection?

  19. Jacqui

    warranty period

    When I worked for a US computer manufacturer we used to travel to team meets in the mid-west. Company laptops had only started being xrayed at this time and we noticed that managers making frequent flights had major disk issues. Thier brand new laptops suddenly started to fail at the same time as older issued laptops. This made us BOFH types think outside the box.

    After running disk analysis software we determined (we wrote the software to do PM on disk clusters) that the xray machines were fragging the disks.

    We had the first few laptops replaced under warranty but after the first ten or so the supplier would no longer provide machines under full warranty - "flight warrany" terms reduced warranty period from two years to six months.

    Basically some of the antique luggage hardware at US airports will end up trashing your kit, as cheaper and dirtier sources mean cheaper detectors/displays.

    P.s. we tried sending a couple of ROM/EEPROMS through the airports - they were trashed after six months of bi-weekly travel - so your lovely Nikon you take to on that trip to disneyworld is being slighlty trashed every time you go on holiday

    IMHO You may as well take a hammer to any electronic equipment in your luggage - the cheap ass holiday destination airport kit will fry it for you anyway.

  20. Ash

    God bless America...

    Killing the tourism and international travel businesses since Sept 2001.

  21. Justin Clift

    Very well thought out article.

    Slow (sorry), but well worth the read. Very well thought out. :)

  22. Pete Silver badge

    old fashioned thinking

    so a government needs to think you're suspicious before it can search your laptop. OK - what's more suspicious than refusing a request of "can I juist have a look at your laptop, sir?" They've got you both ways: damned if you do, damned if you don't.

    So far as being searched on your way into a "secure" facility. Maybe unreasonable, but what IS reasonable is having all your data scanned on the way out. If you can't think of a reason why, I'd have to ask what you're doing reading an IT forum.

    Now while I agree that software won't blow up a plane, and that a self-respecting ponographer will have any dubious material stored safely away in an online backup facility - or stored on micro SD cards that will simply not get found (even if you don't swallow them), or recognised for what they are. However, we have to realise that governments feel a paranoid, driven, imperative to make sure that no-one has any dodgy stuff on them. They've got us used to submitting to degrading enough investigations of our person and our property, it's not too far to expect them to go after our data. They'd want a brain-dump if they had the technology.

    The old-fashioned thinking is that they'll find anything. As I said, any decent terrorist will have their data squirreled away where it won't be found - but this new act of security theatre will make the grannies feel a little easier about flying - until of course they're found in possession of some data they didn't know they had.

  23. Ian Stuart
    Dead Vulture

    how to search a laptop

    If you want to search a laptop in the same way you search a piece of luggage, or indeed the fuel ('gas') tank of your car: You get out a screwdriver and you disassemble it.... but you better fix it afterwards!

    You are looking for physical objects - objects with can be used to cause harm on an airplane.

    If you want to examine the digital contents of my computer (or my ipod, or my phone, or any of the CDs I have with me), then get an expert in the field and a court order.

    (dead vulture, because our liberties are being killed off)

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simple Solution

    From the article:

    "And some searches, seizures, and copying of computers are just flat out unreasonable. For example, reading attorney-client or priest-penitent privileged and personal files."

    So, I'm a minister and my laptop contains e-mails and other private communications from my congregation, Our Lady of the Encrypted File System.

  25. Shabble

    Why we have border controls

    The justification of a border search is twofold - the first is prevent you transporting prohibited goods accross international borders (hence the right to search your suitcase) and the second is to filter out undesirable people and stop them entering the country (hence the need for a passport).

    By this reasoning, the border control guards should be entitled to search a laptop for child porn just as they would be entitled to search a suitcase for photographs twenty years ago. Likewise, they should be able to confiscate illegal music just as they would if you had a bunch of pirated CDs in your luggage.

    The thing is, whilst carrying a laptop or mobile phone with memory card is pretty much unavoidable for some people, there is no need to store anything suspicious on these devices. If you are crossing the US national border you are just as foolish to take illegally downloaded music on your phone as if you tried to bring cannabis into the United Arab Emirates. If you have a file on your computer called 'how to blow up airplanes' then you should expect to be in as much trouble as if you were carrying a hard copy of the same in your jacket pocket.

    We are going through a social readjustment stage at the moment. Just as record companies must accept that digital music is profoundly different to physical copies of music, so citizens have to learn that a computer full of data in your luggage at an airport is not the same as a safety deposit box in your study at home. It is not the nature of the information that matters - it is the fact that your home is your personal space, but that an airport is the government's personal space. The rule is simple; if you don't want the border guards to see it, don't take it with you.

    I think the real reason behind this understandable (if not justifiable) resentment of laptop searches is the growing lack of trust we US and UK citizens have in our governments (both independently and as a joing force). If our governments were honestly concerned only with child porn, large quantities of pirated music and genuine terrorist suspects then this wouldn't be an issue. However, it seems that we are currently in the middle of a Mccarthy type witch-hunt against anyone who could be considered antisocial. It feels like everyone is under suspicion and that the autorities consider us all to be worthy of continual surveilence. At the moment the phrase 'if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear' just doesn't ring true - many of us in America and Britain are growing increasingly afraid of our own governments! However, we knew this at our last elections yet voted the incumbant parties back in. A country gets the government it desreves (either that, or democracy is massively over-rated).

  26. Robert Moore

    "Land of the free" My arse!

    I have not set foot in that Police State in over 10 years, and will be quite happy to never visit again.

  27. Pete Silver badge

    @Ian Stuart

    but you better fix it afterwards!

    Erm, I've been told that Customs & Excise are under no obligation to hand back working or intact property after a search. One of the scarey aspects of them is they can literally rip your suitcase apart looking for contraband, and you have no recourse for compensation. Likewise, I would expect they would feel quite justified in handing you a bag of parts - that used to be youyr laptop ...... or car!

    Court order? we don't need no steenkin' court order!

  28. Anonymous Coward


    If you don't want to show your digital data when requested in a border search, simple, don't travel or don't take bring it with you. Seems obvious.

    If they think you have something to hide, if you are being a smart ass, if they find you uncooperative, refuse to unencrypt your data or whatever they'll find plenty of ways of making you f*ing miserable.

    BTW, this true for crossing borders pretty much world wide, so don't be naive.

  29. Graham Dawson Silver badge


    Madison stood somewhat at odds with most of the framers of the US constitution in believing that the government should by necessity control the governed. This is a flawed premise to start from, as it assumes that the government allows the governed to remain at its behest, when the opposite is and should be the case. The majority of the US founding fathers were of the opinion that the government should be subservient to the people, who would exert the necessary control over that government, removing the need for the government to control itself. This attitude works as long as your government is composed of people who believe that the government should serve the governed rather than control them.

    The last century has seen a progressive move toward the Madison way of seeing things, placing the governed in a subservient position to the government. The end result is that people go into government believing they have the right to do whatever they want, and the consequence is Dubya (whom I once supported unconditionally), Clinton, Nixon, Blair, Brown, the EU... Stalin hitler pol pot mao the japanese empire and god knows what else.

    Start from the correct premise, that the government stands and falls only by the will of the governed, STICK to that premise, and you will have a truly representative and just government. The mistake came in listening to people like Madison rather than reading the words of the US declaration of independence:

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed"

    A government should make no assumption of an implicit right to control the governed. The reason we're facing all these intrusions into our private life is precisely because people listened to people like Madison and his assumption that the government should have that control.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Quite what do they expect to find?

    Well if i was a terrorist intent on smuggeling some sort of digital contraband (a strange idea in itself as .jpegs dont explode) I wouldnt bother taking it on a laptop, or a mobile phone, or an ipod or any other device.

    Since the value of the US currency has plummeted it would be easier and cheaper to just buy a laptop once i got to america.

    Then go and have a coffee in starbucks and scp all my illegal filez from my terrorist file server at home courtesy of the free wi-fi (or grab it from the attachments in gmail that i sent myself if you dont have handy access to a terrorist file server).

    Then once i have planted my exploding jpegs i can easily wipe the drive of evil, take it back to the UK, lie and say it wasnt bought in the US to avoid tax (if you planting exploding pictures whats tax evasion added to the list) and ebay it once i get home.

    And all the while customs are trying to pwnz your every file I bet they arent looking out for jamjars full of mould.

    Could you imagine the effect a terrorist sucessfully introducing ug99 wheat stem rust to the US could have?

    There are bigger threats to worry about that a laptop full of pirate mp3's and porn.

    Anonymous cause I dont want the blame when ug99 makes its way to the US through natural dispersal :)

  31. Steve Bennett


    Maybe I'm being naive, but AFAIK copyright law applies, even at border controls.

    So they can look at your data, but they cannot make copies of it.

  32. Phil L.

    Inlicensed iPod Songs @ Border --> Jail?

    The author is confusing criminal and civil crimes. The US government doesn't prosecute copyright violations, people are sued by the rights holders.

    Child pornography, on the other hand, is a criminal offense, for which the government does prosecute.

    Dismiss this article as unfounded babbling. Besides the retelling of a story at the beginning, much of the article's inaccuracy has already been exposed in these comments.

  33. Will

    Diplomatic bag

    So, does your laptop constitute a diplomatic bag? If you carry a little black book of phone numbers though border security, they can look though that. So why not your contacts on your email program? What's the difference? The amount of data you can carry? Or that the data can be quickly, and perfectly (sort of) copied? Maybe thats the rub.

    Ultimately, its only diplomats, who have the right to bring things into country without It being searched.

    Maybe this is wrong. Maybe they should require a search warrant. But then it would rather defeat the purpose of Border security...

  34. Taidi

    4GB Mini-SD card

    Easy enough to hide, how much 'confidential' data could you store on that ?

  35. Rodrigo Valenzuela

    Just to add some frivolity

    The famous movie where Marilyn's dress is blown is "The seven year itch"


  36. Rob Desjarlais

    Very nice article

    nicely written piece.

    I agree with the tone of the article too. Americans want security in all things, and from all perspectives. We don't want anyone bombing us, and we don't government sticking their fingers into our things.

    This is invariably a very difficult thing to do.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Nothing to hide

    “… they could compel you to provide them with the encryption key.”

    It's not the encryption key which they need ‒ it's the decryption key and the passphrase, and that I would flat out refuse to tell them. Anything which they want decrypted they'd have to get me to decrypt.

    If the computer's been out of my sight while in their possession for more than a second or two, that opens up the possibility of copying of private keys or installation of, shall we say, unwanted software; I would therefore consider, as a minimum, any keys present on it to be compromised. The same goes if they've booted it up from any media which they provide.

  38. kain preacher

    missing the point

    Some of you folks are missing the fact the courts said no. The courts said you need a court order.

  39. Mike

    Where to start?

    The article baldly states that we all have passwords on our laptops. Not this geezer, unless you count the encrypted ones in my shadow password file, or maybe the one in .ssh that lets me pick up some of my email, _after_ I supply another password to the server.

    Several comments to the effect "can they do that?". Yes, they can. At the very least, they can do pretty much anything if you consent, and despite the bravado of the aptly named "Anonymous Coward" who claims that he would "flat out refuse to tell them", I submit that nearly all of us would consent if the alternative were to be rotting in gitmo while our families wonder where we are. Or being waterboarded (Hey, even McCain has agreed it's not torture anymore). Or maybe a good old fashioned cage full of rats strapped to your face by MiniTrue.

    Yes, there are technological "solutions", but all of them have the unfortunate side-effect of making the thugs even more determined to do you harm, if (when) they find out. The only actual solution is to vote the scoundrels out, if you happen to live in a country where they actually still have reasonably legitimate elections. Let me know if you find one, as I might like to move there. Too bad I only speak English.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @ kain preacher

    Hmmm, now why is the whole thing an issue then? One must oh just wonder... *snickers*

  41. Daniel
    IT Angle

    Hide your data?

    I think we're all reading into this a little too much here guys. I seem to remember reading an article about US customs not allowing a gentleman to travel with his Macbook Air because they couldnt believe it was a laptop... and you think encryption would stop them...? you could just hide the files and they'd probably be none the wiser, Hell you could probably moce any file youd like to hide into a system directory... Sod it just change the file type so it wont open... come on be imaginitive, its not like they're genius'.

  42. Bad Beaver

    @ Taidi

    Roughly 3,9GB of "confidential" data.

  43. Chad Schrock

    Oh and don't forget....

    The US border is not just at the line on the map that divides this country from the civilized world. From previous Supreme Court rulings, the "border zone" extends up to 100 miles from the border itself.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Daniel

    As I understand it, people are not worried about the poor sods who have to go through your mom's dirty laundry upon return for idle packets of marching powder finding whatever is hidden on your disc straight away. It is the copying of all content once they do not like your nose, or the simple confiscation of hardware that is ... ah... bothersome. Because you do not know what will happen to it, and because it is stored forever ever after, with your name on it, auto-scanned and looked at by people knowing that there's only 10 kinds of people and stuff, you know...

  45. Anonymous Coward

    Different worldwide laws

    Some content legally available in the US is banned in the UK (e.g. sexually violent videos) and you could end up in jail. There is no law protecting freedom of an individual to publish in the UK (no First Amendment) - e.g. if you have visited sites with information on bomb making and the data is cached, you could face time in jail. Kiddie porn is one area these seems to be universal agreement (and for good reason - it leads to more horrendous acts as demand for more material are generated).

    Contrary to the article, for content corresponding to traditional published media (e.g. photos, books) you should regard your PC / Hard disk / flash card as a briefcase. Expect it to be searched by an incompetent boarder guard. I'm sure if you renamed a jpeg file with the suffix .txt they would not view it. They would not know encryption if it was explicit (e.g. "Encrypted Volume"). Only if they had a warrant and the PC was seized and passed on to Forensic IT specialists would encryption be futile (e.g. if the NSA can decrypt foreign "military grade" encryption, most of the public products will be able to be broken in a matter of days/weeks).

    In the UK, you are not required to provide the encryption key, just to provide unencrypted the data. Software like TrueCrypt allows you to encrypt a file with another container - if this works no one will know if you've decrypted everything on your PC.

    Lots of comments about not wanting to visit the US any more. "The land of the free" produced a constitution with important amendments to protect its citizens from tyrannical rule (as they experienced under British rule) - freedom of speech/the press/petition (1st amendment), the ability to form armed militias (2nd amendment), protection against searches without probable cause (4th amendment). It seems these safeguards are being negated and a home grown tyrannical Federal government is gradually taking power away from the free States. What a shame, it will only get worse when citizens of that once great country elect a right wing Republican in just under a year. What has amazed me is the presidential right to veto legislation (I'm no historian) which the democratically elected houses (sometimes both) have voted for; it seems worse than the UK anomaly with the Lords.

  46. Geoff Mackenzie

    What kind of idiot ...

    ... would think to themselves: "I need to move a couple of gig of data across into the US. I think I'll stick it on my laptop and carry it through customs."

  47. BitTwister

    @Which user//

    > Are they going to log on as? If I create a new user (no admin rights) and log on as that then its not going to give them much at all is it?

    Ah, bless...

    No logon is required at all to examine any disk physically.

  48. John A Blackley


    Entertaining article - and it would have been a good one too if you'd managed to stay away from the hysteria.

    "They could copy the entire contents of your computer" "They could ....... create a database of your friends and associates"

    Well, no, no-one's claiming they could do that (except, of course, you). The border agencies can look - just as they can look in your diary or address book if you're carrying such ancient things. They have no mandate to copy your diary or address book but, if they find incriminating evidence in your diary or address book, they can confiscate those things and use them as evidence in criminal proceedings against you.

    Must do better. Excise hyperbole and rewrite.

  49. John F***ing Stepp

    I guess I had better start.

    Collecting all the viri and malware and really bad idea links into one encrypted file.

    The password will be YoullBeSorry!.

    Just in case I ever need to go somewhere.

  50. Ken Lord

    It's totally your choice.

    At many Canadian airports, you will see signs that say something similar to: "Passengers are free to decline security inspections by choosing not to fly".

    In other words, you cross the border knowing full well what you are doing, with the expectation of being inspected.

    If you believe anything different, and take risks at the border, you will get what you deserve.

    When crossing international borders, there is NO difference between the contents of your laptop and the contents of your luggage. The same search and seizure rules should apply. If security is not allowed to compile a database from a paper list of friends, then they are not allowed to do so from your laptop ... but if they are, it's your fault if they do. If you disagree, I bet you also foolishly don't believe in copyrights or intellectual property as an excuse to protect your other crimes.

    The author of the article can't even define a clear line of what he thinks is reasonable, stating a laptop should only be inspected for drugs and explosives, that the data is not security's business, then on the last page the author states that it's totally reasonable for some random searches of laptops without suspicion.

    He must really mean: Go ahead search everyone elses, but it's wrong to search mine.

    The real problem regarding Americans and Security is how fast you let George Bush destroy your constitution in the name of 911. You ignored your constitutional responsibility to overthrow Bush for taking away your rights. Having done so, you have nothing to complain about when crossing the border.

  51. kain preacher


    its an issue cause the court told them no and they are pissed off.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    meh, I'm not worried about it...

    A) They make me power it up to prove it's basically a laptop

    B) I've had to take out a battery & CD Rom to prove that it wasn't just a shell.

    C) The hard drive is encrypted.

    D) The legal department in the company I work for, would probably insist on one, if not two conditions being met:

    1) Probable Cause

    2) Search Warrant naming either me or my employer as suspects in an investigation.

    Since I am the only one being inconvenienced, I have no problems sitting in a holding cell being questioned about the contents of my hard drive, but I will not give them unrestricted access to it unless my employer allows me to. If they don't, and my laptop may or may not contain company sensitive information, then I don't have a choice.

    After which I will happily send a bill to DHS for the hours of my time, they wasted, and if it's not paid within 30 days, I'm going to find the sleaziest trial attorney and file a civil suit for unlawful search and seizure. And I'll register a serious beef with Human Resources because legal hung me out in the wind to twist. So, I view it as a potential win/win... Unless there's a cavity search, then all bets are off.

  53. PunkTiger

    How about this...

    I don't know how far this will get you, but if you're taking your lappy on holiday, perhaps some variant on this idea will work.

    Bring along a CD of a live system of your choice (Knoppix, DSL, Mepis, etc.), making sure it will work properly on your laptop. The day before your flight back, move whatever sensitive information you'd need onto a convenient USB flash drive, then remove your lappy's hard drive and mail it back home using your carrier of choice (taking into consideration that if you're going to an area/land/country where you wouldn't trust the mail service as far as you could throw a stamp, then leave either the lappy and/or the hard drive at home) after you've Then put the live CD distro in the CD/DVD drive.

    At the Airport, if the TSA wants you to boot up your lappy, the Live CD will boot. If questioned, say that the hard drive connection is "fried," so there's no hard drive in it. Explain that your lappy is very secure (because the system can't be written to), as well as undesirable (because of the "blown hard drive port") and you haven't seen the need to repair it yet. The TSA can't "plant" any dodgy URLs into your browser, because the system can't be written to. The laptop boots up and is fully functional. There's no danger of having anything untoward for them to find, so you should be home free. When you get home, maybe a day or so later, your hard drive is delivered safe and sound (hopefully) with all your sensitive information intact.

    It's not a perfect plan, by any means, but it's at least one way to protect yourself from unconstitutional searches.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    this is why

    we have a clean drive and a dirty drive and we swap them before embarking on trips involving airports.

    The dirty drive of course containing delicious pornography, warez, p2p software, and other things that destroy ones moral fibre and the clean drive containing a rather uninteresting operating system and a copy of failfox.

    As an aside I think searching of data devices is bollocks. If only because you're at the mercy of Neanderthals who've been sitting on their arses getting grief all day.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    @John F***ing Stepp - Pandora.rar?

    How exactly are the border control people planning to take a copy of everything on my HDD? If they plan to do it on a routine basis, then they'd need a) a *lot* of staff b) a *lot of their own capacity and c) a magical method of data transfer that is both OS-independent and bloody quick. 200GB over 100Mb/s (or even gigabit)? Some of us have a plane to catch! As for putting the drive in another machine, fair enough, but still not that quick - and requires taking the damn laptop apart. Plane to catch!

    Saying that, the idea that they have unlimited, suspicion-free, non-refuseable access to everything you own is a bit scary, especially as most of them would have difficulty with anything more complex than a pencil.

  56. Malcolm Weir Silver badge


    Regarding damage to equipment allegedly caused by airport screening machines...

    a) newer security systems are smarter and use lower dosages, thereby invalidating sample sets using older systems,

    b) how do you know the problem was with the security regime, not the travel regime? e.g. maybe it was the use of laptops on aircraft (in turbulence) that was killing the disks, not the travel through the x-ray machine?

    I'm not saying that the security at airports ISN'T bad for laptops. Just that we don't know that it IS!

  57. Elf

    Neat, only with my laptop, a government search is illegal.

    To search my laptop violates NDAs signed by myself and my clients. It is illegal for any entity to go through my laptop's contents because simply, I have data on that laptop that is under Non Disclosure to no less than a dozen individual companies with whom I have signed a contract with, and one entity that is an intellectual property firm specializing in protecting the IP of ALL of it's clients (I atually hold two years of EMail between my client and THEIR clients during a domain transition). Under IP laws, I would guess, that by default it would be illegal the government to search my machine. My Email is not subject to inspection just because I cross a border, especially coming to the US, my natural "home".

    Frankly, a border inspection agent is little more than a Rent-a-Cop and does not have the right or privilege or training to search my machine. Nor are they to be trusted to be bound to my own promises to protect the data I'm carrying. Additionally my data IS encrypted and I simply won't hand over my keys *TO PROTECT MY CLIENT'S INFORMATION FROM A VARIATION OF "INSIDER TRADING" OR "INDUSTRIAL ESPIONAGE"* to a rent-a-cop. I WOULD be happy to hand over my keys to an FBI or Homeland Security agent because I have nothing to hide, but not an idiot not trained in such things.

    Ken Lord makes a fine point : Travel is optional and a privelage once you leave the States. BWS and I agree on the points. Punk Tiger raises the best solution : FedEx works. (Now where did I put my Knoppix CD?)

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I am somehow amused

    about posters boldly stating they would argue along the "plane to catch" or even "intellectual property" line in a situation where for some reason their constitutional rights are voided, especially since not allowing "suspicious" persons either to board their plane or back into the country is the official purpose of all this. Rent-a-cop X doesn't care whether you get your plane, but he will happily escalate you to the next level of security to get your froth out of his face—because that's his job.

  59. Leif
    Black Helicopters

    missing the point

    a) Resetting Focus: many laws are deliberately held vague, so that you can apply them when you want against the people you want. The Al Capone story is a nice counter example that illustrates what happens in the absence of FlexiLaw

    b) The Means: War on Terror is all nonsense - it's not about the contents, it's the package. Who can politically refuse to secure the homeland? You can't be against law that improves the security of your constituents. Your adversary will see to that. The content is another matter. Create FlexiLaw to address your needs, wrap it into War on Terror packaging that no one can refuse and you are guaranteed to have your law passed. (Consider all the ridiculous things that money was spent on to improve security)

    c) The Goal: no one cares about pedophiles or you stealing music (think storms in tea cups). When these issues go national it's because they are the flavor of the month. [Consider the number of pedophiles really out there, the number that are caught/convicted, the number that receive national attention, and the size of the budgets granted to hunt for these issues.] The goal is that governments want to spy on each other, and in this case the Europeans are still well within focus (, i.e. they are as corrupt as ever. (see for example “The arms deal they called the dove” or “SIEMENS CORRUPTION SCANDAL”. So you create background noise of random searches so that the targeted seizure/search of a laptop is statistically coherent. FlexiLaw will ensure that you can do what you want, when you want to do it, targeting who ever you want. Things like torture in Guatanamo are a just work-around when FlexiLaw is not available.

    From what I hear, the solution is newly imaged laptops that only contain the data absolutely required for the purpose/transaction/trip at hand.

    Trade secrets have no reason to be on a laptop, unless you are bringing them to your US business partner as part of the purpose of your trip.

    So if the laptop were seized, you only reveal what your business partner (and the host country) already has. If it is bugged, no matter - it gets wiped and will not be re-used for "secret" information.

    This applies to all countries – some go about it in a more round-about way and try to keep it quiet (US), some are more direct (Google: Hans Buehler Tehran).

    But back to the article: the outcome of the review is immaterial, because other FlexiLaw will fill the gaps when this is no longer the flavor of the month, to return any lost flexibility.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the other thing is

    If America can do it so can anyone else. It's all kind of oo but, yes but when it's the USA but if it were China saying they wanted unfettered access to peoples laptops at boarders most of the people for laptop investigation would be having a fit.

    As an aside interesting situations where X is legal in nation Y but gets you stuffed in nation Z.

    You'd be shafted taking hardcore uncensored porn into Japan, but perfectly fine tacking in a junior idol disc. Where as here in Britain the uncensored porn is fine however the junior idol disk would get you nicked (or at least you'd have your life ransacked whilst they looked for cp.)

    I'm sure there are other examples - gay porn and a large number of nations would get you in the poop. Porn in general and China, as well as any pro-democracy stuff. Pro-jihadist stuff would get you a one way trip to cuba in the USA or UK.

    Seen as data/images/stories is largely about opinions, ideas, thoughts and fantasies it is very different to having a bomb, a suitcase of cocaine or a few automatic weapons.

    Of course opinions, ideas, thoughts and, fantasies are probably far more dangerous in this day and age.

  61. Jared Earle
    Dead Vulture

    Nice Strawman

    "The consequences of the government's argument would be that they could, at the border, seize your daughter's iPod and lock her up if they thought the songs were not licensed."


    As we've seen how customs agents deal with trademark infringement (counterfeit goods) for personal use, why should we think they're more severe with mere copyright infringement?

  62. Anonymous Coward

    Go'mint Property

    I heard that after presenting a software/powerpoint to a US agency , this act transferred the copyright of such material to the G'mint and in one case a traveller was denied permission to LEAVE the US with his laptop as it now contained confidential material. Allegedly. Sanitise, take presentations on CD-ROM, eeePc's or just stay at home to help defeat terrrorrizm?

  63. Cambrasa

    This will only catch the small fish. And a whole bunch of innocents too.

    Real criminals are not stupid enough to go through customs with an unencrypted hard drive.

    This will do very little to fight crime while eroding the right to privacy.

    False posities (eg naturists who have harmless family photos on their laptop) will be main ones to suffer from this, not criminals.

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    News flash

    And your average USAian is in bewilderment when they realise what the rest of the civilised world thinks of there country at large. This should not be a news flash really

  65. Nick Askew

    Travel less is one option

    Personally I am choosing to travel less often to the US. This way I do not need to worry what is on my laptop, mp3 player, various memory cards, or even the state of my underwear.

    I have nothing on these devices that I wish to hide and I totally respect the rights of customs to inspect the devices in the name of security. The reason I want to keep away has nothing to do with with the nature of the laws but everything to do with the way they are enforced.

    Perhaps it's just bad luck on my part, but every one of the customs officials I've encountered at US airports has been an utterly objectionable tyrant that seems to want to inflict the missery that is his or her life onto the travelling public. Yet somehow their neighbour to the North seem able to employ well adjusted happy people to perform the same job.

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Clarification needed

    "They demanded that Arnold power up his laptop, which the agents then examined for child pornography - which they ultimately found."

    I think we need clarification of exactly what happened here. He powered it up and then what? Was there a login required? Was he asked to log into some kind of administrative account? How was the examination actually conducted?

    If I was asked to power up my laptop I would do so, but I would not allow them past the pre-boot authentication. Better still use a token and have that waiting at your destination. I wonder what will happen on the day when somebody tried to take a Sun Ray laptop through - they are stateless rendering devices and completely dead without their respective network.

  67. Paul
    Thumb Down


    I don't understand somthing...

    Why do people seem to think that:

    1) NDA's matter to Law enforcment?They don't. For a start most of them have a clause in them about only revealing the infomation to "autorised persons, including law enforcment agencys" and even if they did not, they should.

    2) That UK C&E need "Reasonable cause" to stop people. I know the artical was about the US, but people seem to be applying it to the UK. The UK has no such laws. Law enforcment can stop anyone any time.

  68. Pizza


    Game over

  69. Dam

    Re: NDAs

    Instead of trying to be a smart ass, get this in your head:

    People think -with reason- that NDAs apply because to bypass them a *warrant* is required.

    See the big picture here ?

    The asses at customs try to play cowboy and act bullies, and now they're pissed cause the courts told them off.

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The same should apply.

    If they can look at paper documents then it's reasonable to think that they can look at electronic documents. Whether or not you agree with them looking at either is a different matter. I'd be a bit miffed if my laptop was paid more attention than my paper documents.

  71. Harry Stottle

    Thought Crime

    One could raise all sorts of legalistic objections to these searches but they're all secondary. The real issue here is that a laptop (or home computer) is now becoming an adjunct to your brain; a place where you can - and many people increasingly do - keep your most private thoughts. Invasion of your private thoughts is about as totalitarian as we can get. Furthermore, penalising someone for material found in such a search is, by the same logic, a straightforward "thought crime".

    If there are any woolly minded authoritarians out there who think there are any circumstances under which such a search could be considered reasonable, let me ask you to stretch your imagination forward a few years to the point (and very real prospect) where we no longer need laptops but instead have implants which serve the same purpose (and a lot more besides) and which we can address with pure thought. Would you also consider it reasonable for the various police states to open you up to get at your implant? Why not have done with it and simply insist that on entry to the country, we must all submit to having our minds read by the new generation of brain readers? Where, in other words, would you draw the line?

  72. Daniel B.

    @Pete - Right to rip apart everything

    "One of the scarey aspects of them is they can literally rip your suitcase apart looking for contraband, and you have no recourse for compensation."

    Very, very true. Thats what happened to my dad, he went to South America only to find his Samsonite ripped open on arrival, and a TSA note inside his luggage noting something along the lines of "This suitcase was pried open for security inspection reasons, and we are not responsible for missing and/or damaged stuff". This was one of those suitcases with "combination locks" which we had since the early 90's. Thing is, post-2001 suitcases now have "DHS approved" locks that can be opened by TSA and save them the hassle.

    For subsequent trips, my dad bought the aforementioned approved locks, new suitcases ... and decided to make all flights from across the border, in Mexico. It's more expensive, but at least it isn't as annoying as flying from the US. Guess why "no US stop" flights are getting more popular these days...

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ AC: News flash

    "And your average USAian is in bewilderment when they realise what the rest of the civilised world thinks of there country at large. This should not be a news flash really"

    At the risk of setting myself up for open hostilities and a load of abuse, it's not that I'm bewildered, more like mildly amused and saddened at the same time. You can say what you wish about the US government, because as an American, I'm still in absolute awe at the insanity that is displayed at all levels of our government and each respective branch and department.

    Trust me, of all the various government entities I've dealt with over the years, I can't say I can think of one that couldn't fuck up a two car parade.

    But for you to insinuate that the American population is indicative of the pinhead policy makers in DC is roughly the same as saying all subjects of the UK abhor and reject dental hygiene, all French are pompous, offensively smelling ass bags, all Russians are drunk and corrupt, Australians are just drunk (not like that's a bad thing), all Japanese are a bunch of uptight social retards and all Chinese would lie to your face then stab you in the back.

    People are people... Stereotypes, no matter how silly, are just another way of showing the world just how monumentally uninformed you are. Believe me, I know as I've been guilty of and falling into the same trap with regional stereotypes, here in the states; Lord knows we've got a bunch of them. Chances are, you've got them, too, where ever you're from. Or are the thought police so far up your ass that your only outlet for your frustrations is outside your own borders?

  74. Anonymous Coward

    @Elf and others...

    It may very well be illegal for un-sworn, unbonded 'security personnel' to violate your NDAs. So? What's your point? This is the government of what was once known as the "United States of America" we're talking about here. Why do you think they'd be more law-abiding or even law-aware at Kennedy Airport than they'd be at Karbala?

    Remember the famous quote from ("our") George II back in 2000. "If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, as long as I'm the dictator." Well, "9/11" gave the people who tell him what to pretend to think carte blanche to be American versions of a much less competent and compassionate Stalin. We Yanks more or less woke up in 2006 and elected a bunch of people to Congress who promised to put things right. Unfortunately, the leadership (particularly in the House, where it matters) remain in the pseudo-Stalins' back pockets, handy when an ass-wipe is needed.

    What once was the United States of America is no longer a free, democratic country with a government representative of the majority of its people's interests, and those of us who *do* care about the "old" America would greatly appreciate it if ordinary folks (and their Governments) around the world would get that through their heads and act accordingly. As long as the situation remains somewhere between Orwellian and Kafkaesque, the presumption of any beneficial, rational behavior by "Those In Charge" is not only completely invalid, but for those who do care about the rule of law, at best counterproductive.

    For at least a quarter-century after World War II, the US at least sold its people on the idea that it was helping people in other countries stand up to unjust, repressive governments, that oftentimes "we were the only ones big enough to help." Now, unfortunately, it's we who need the help. As with the early Soviet Union, as with pre-WW II Germany, many of us who can no longer countenance what is being done to us and to others, in our name, have left our homeland with the hope of returning one day, but with no presently reasonable expectation of ever doing so. Some thought the Soviets could never be contained; they were. Some thought that countries like apartheid South Africa and drug-lord Colombia could never change; they did. They did because the people and governments of the world stood up and said "If you want to have anything to do with us, you MUST change. You WILL change." It's time to fight that battle once more, against an even bigger, more powerful and seemingly implacable foe than the USSR. The current régime has repeatedly proven its contempt for honor, decency, the rule of law, public opinion. Those whose interests it DOES serve have proven, repeatedly, that they have no intention of changing. It's time for the world, instead of waiting for "America" to lead the cause of freedom, to rally together until America is free once more.

    AC because I know and can prove that I'm on the TSA no-fly list; know and can prove that my communications the last few years I lived in central North America were routinely intercepted, and therefore decline to give the régime yet another club to beat me about with, without them at least doing a LITTLE work for it.

  75. Tony Paulazzo

    Oh man

    Someone build me a rocket so I can get the Phuck off this planet, everyone is clearly insane. The ice sheets are melting faster than anyone expected, the sheep are bleating about privacy invasion by their governments, China are murdering anyone they want, Vista SP1 rollout is hardly a blip on the news and BT want to target advertising at me (by selling my confidential information) as the world goes to hell in a handbasket.

    I thought the world was supposed to get better when Russia dissolved into squabbling neighbour states, but turns out America really was no better than them, how many wars are they running at the moment? Afghanistan, Iraq - and maybe Iran?

    The alien 'cos I really need a lift somewhere else...

    Tony F Paulazzo.

  76. dervheid

    Yet another reason...

    a huge proportion of the rest of the world hates and/or mistrusts the USA.

    The forces of "law and order" in the (former) Land of the Free have completely and utterly lost the fucking plot. I am still surprised by every new story along these lines (though I shouldn't be by now!).

    I truly believe that the vast majority of the American People are now so wrapped up in their own little world that they are unable to see that the 'freedoms' their forefathers fought and died for are not being eroded, but DEMOLISHED.


    Before you end up living in a society where the 'Orwellian Nightmare' is actually a freedom-filled fantasyland by comparison to your own.

    PS. We Brits need to take a long hard look at what's being proposed by our "leaders" before it's too fucking late too!

  77. amanfromMars Silver badge

    After the Big Sleep ....

    "The question is, why would a bad person keep incriminating data on a laptop when online storage is easily available and accessible over a secure web connection?" ..... By Nomen Publicus Posted Monday 24th March 2008 12:15 GMT

    Nomen Publicus,

    I think it safest if everyone realised that a secure web connection is really a secured web connection and all are most likely susceptible and/or vulnerable to tapping.

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed" ... By Graham Dawson Posted Monday 24th March 2008 16:52 GMT

    The important power word to explore and polish there would be "just", Graham. What you give is what you get is a simple failsafe yardstick by which to gauge likely reaction to any decision ..... which is just some Imaginative Role Reversal Thinking coming into Play whenever you jump/switch places with the victims/recipients of your thoughts to feel the Power and the Pain for Real, even though IT is a Virtual Processing of Imagination in your Mind.

    "Steganography ... Game over" By Pizza Posted Tuesday 25th March 2008 14:04 GMT

    .....and New Games Start, Pizza? :-) I concur with your comment, too.

    If Yin is Cryptography, ITs Yang is Steganographic.

    "The alien 'cos I really need a lift somewhere else..." ... By Tony Paulazzo Posted Wednesday 26th March 2008 07:06 GMT


    Mosey on over/come on down and grab yourself a beer in the Departures Lounge ..... "Reading from the Same Page ...." .. Posted Wednesday 26th March 2008 10:05 GMT ....

    "PS. We Brits need to take a long hard look at what's being proposed by our "leaders" before it's too fucking late too!" .... By dervheid

    Posted Wednesday 26th March 2008 08:38 GMT

    What leaders? Although it is pretty cheeky of Gordon if he is to plead with Uncle Sam to show some Lead that can be followed. Some would maybe posit that a forlorn hope and he would do better showing IT himself .....

    Unless he does, it means that no one is in Government either capable of providing it or of advising where to get it .... which would be dire and pathetic and an affront to all that they are in Lead Offices.

    Civil Serfs rather than Civil Servants or if you are into todays Future Virtual Reality Fields ....Civil Servers.

  78. xjy

    Thought crimes

    The Inquisition and the Index of Prohibited Books. Bigoted medieval torturers and one of their excuses for torturing and burning the Unpalatable. The Department of Homeland Security (and its clones elsewhere) and Child Pornography/Bomb Recipes. Bigoted present-day torturers and a couple of their excuses for abusing the Unpalatable. Authoritarian, sadistic, religiously-motivated enemies of humanity.

    Reading, observation, discussion - all equated with immediate Will to Action. What if the Thought Content of your lappy is contradictory, or multidictory? How many pix of Dubya are needed to neutralize pix of kiddy porn? What crimes could you be suspected of if you had pix of say Che, the napalmed girl on that road in Vietnam, or the Pope, or Ken Lay, or Hitler, or Dag Hammarskjöld, or Mandela in jail, or Mandela as president of RSA, etc.

    Or Philip Roth's novel The Conspiracy against America, or any one of any number of dystopian films about corrupt US leaders or governements? Any one of which you could have been force-fed as in-flight "entertainment" before being searched.

    Last time I went through an airport departure check was Heathrow. I was stressed and fuming. I said as much to my travelling companion. The good lady between passport control and the x-ray machine (how many bloody layers have they got??!!) immediately asked me why I was stressed and if it was due to

    a) dislike of flying;

    b) dislike of security;

    c) medical reasons.

    I said it was cos my luggage was too bloody heavy and proceeded to the queue to remove my boots.

    "Dislike of security"!! Wait till they get remote heart-beat and sweat sensors installed!

    Tux cos of the ease of including a command line boot option...


  79. heystoopid
    Paris Hilton

    Easy Fix

    Easy fix , when you know how !

    The ways around this are legion can range from using hidden partitions on installed hard drives to installing a new hard drive replete with factory fresh image and all the back up software on SD flash memory cards in your digital camera bag (think of the possibilities with the newer model digital movie cameras that use hard drives for a recording medium ) and so forth !

    To hide in plain sight is the oldest con job on the book too !

    Don't forget with all major international hotel chains explore the possibility of express mail forwarding to your next destination too within the chain group as an option !

  80. Bob


    Those who wish to harm can and will.

    "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

    - Benjamin Franklin ?

  81. James

    Reminds me of the old story...

    There was a man who regularly flew to the US. Every week, for work (or so he claimed), he landed at JFK with his laptop.

    And every week, the customs officer at the airport searched the laptop, convinced this man was smuggling something. But every week, there was nothing illegal on the laptop.

    This went on for years and years, with the customs officer never finding anything.

    Some time later, both men had retired. But they happened to meet. The customs officer turned to the man and said "Look, I know you were smuggling something. But I have to admit, I've no idea what! I don't work for customs any more, so can you PLEASE tell me what it was!!"

    The man replied "laptops".

  82. Bob

    @ Anonymous

    <Quote> As with the early Soviet Union, as with pre-WW II Germany, many of us who can no longer countenance what is being done to us and to others, in our name, have left our homeland with the hope of returning one day, but with no presently reasonable expectation of ever doing so.</Quote)

    Clearly I don't know every aspect of your life or your family's lives but it seems to me that if you want change in the USA you should participate in that fight in your home land. Leaders and soliders don't accomplish much with overseas telephone calls. If you are truely being harassed and have proof then fight the good fight. You'll have to sacrafice to make your children's children's lives better.

    Nutt'n but love for ya baby.

  83. Mike Dailly
    Thumb Down

    What is reasonable?

    I think the big difference is that when they look through your luggage, they dont keep the contents. I suspect no one would mind if they ask you to flick through files/folders, but copying it and keeping it is too much.

  84. Christopher Martin
    Black Helicopters

    A more interesting question...

    Can they hook your laptop to an Internet connection when they search it? Say my file browser automatically mounts a remote filesystem - they're now, perhaps inadvertently, searching someone else's server which never even crossed any border.

  85. Dave Bell

    But are they competent?

    There's a risk that a careless search could damage a system, and it seems that Customs agencies around the world claim that they have no liability.

    "Oh dear, did I just delete the Windows folder? What's that for, anyway?"

    Do these people have _any_ documented competence in using computers? There are some incredibly easy qualifications available. and I've seen people struggling with the courses, even after over a decade of a British education system that is supposed to be crammed with computers as tools.

    And if they don't have documented competence, couldn't a lawyer demolish their evidence in court.

    "So there was something that 'looked funny', Mr. Jones. And what was that?"

    "I didn't see that Windows thingy when the computer started. There was some sort of cartoon penguin, and then a lot of words covering the screen. Obviously, it had been set up to hide something."

  86. VampyreWolf


    Just set xorg.conf to init 3, give em a CLI with an unused user account and hand it over off a fresh boot.

    "no sir, I have not encrypted anything on here, have a look"

  87. Martin Usher

    The precipice was making content illegal

    If we stop thinking of 'kiddie porn' and abstract to 'information of a specified type' then what's been building up in front of our eyes is a global effort to criminalize the possession of 'information of a certain type'. Since it would be difficult to outlaw political material straight off implementors of this type of system will initially choose a class of information that's indefensible. Kiddie porn's perfect because you can use emotional arguments to drown out more technical objections.

    Once the system is in place then its straightforward to define the prohibited class of material to be anything you choose it to be.

    The giveaway is that it never existed in the old days. Its too surreal (and it would only exist in the US because the line between 'child' and 'adult' is your 18th birthday which is well into adulthood for many cultures). (There are lots of things you can do in the UK at 16 that would get you into big trouble in the US.)

    So, figure, what's going to be next? We've already had some tentative feelers about possessing illegal terrorist type information in the UK (whatever that is).

    Never give an inch if you're asked to surrender your rights because the government will take a mile and then some.

  88. zach

    Another Common Misconception

    Many people miss this one

    In the U.S. if an officer comes up to you and asks "May I search your laptop?", he is asking explicitly for your permission, not for you to fork it over. The first thing to do is ask what his grounds for searching your laptop are. If he doesn't provide a reasonable excuse, by law, you have every right to answer with a resounding "No you may not!". If he does, however, you're kinda screwed.

  89. ichi

    at Bhavin Desai

    really? then read Royer v. Florida.

  90. ichi

    at zacn

    read the caess i listed far earlier. if consent is requested you can say no, they can only search (other than as prescribed in Terry) if they make an arrest or have a warrant or there is immediate articulable danger (clear and present). in a Terry Stop they may detain only in place, you are not compelled, nor can you be punished, to answer. they may "frisk" only your outer clothing (no bags) ad they may only remove in that "feeling" frisk a weapon that would put them or the public in jeopardy, e.g. a gun.

    anything more requires arrest or warrant. they courts (higher courts) will NOT look favorably on BS stops and arrests.

    i know, i've been there (court).

    and most of all...

    also see:

This topic is closed for new posts.