DHS Clarifies – At The Border The Constitution Doesn’t Apply

The US Department of Homeland Security, never known for their respect of the Constitution, has clarified the policy that allows them to search your laptop and other digital devices when you cross the border into the US. No longer content to simply copy your data and return the device to you, the DHS now claims that they can keep your laptop for an ‘indefinite period’ and enlist the help of outside agencies for the purposes of analysis and decryption. How those outside agencies are supposed to deal with, and/or protect, your sensitive date is not specified.

But the policy goes further. The fact that searches and seizures can be conducted without probable cause is now codified in the policy, and the definition of what can be seized for analysis has been broadened to include: “…any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form… including hard drives, compact discs, DVDs, flash drives, portable music players, cell phones, pagers, beepers, and videotapes.”

The implication of this Constitution-busting nonsense is clear: Either encrypt everything you plan to take cross-border—and be prepared to be fight with Uncle Sam over your encryption keys—or simply find a way to get at your data once you’re outside the US.

Foreign national may as well forget about coming here in the first place.

7 thoughts on “DHS Clarifies – At The Border The Constitution Doesn’t Apply”

  1. I think what they really fear is that somebody will smuggle in some Bruce Cockburn mp3’s. If Americans get a taste of “If a Tree Falls in the Forest” or “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” the very fabric of society may well be in peril.

  2. Yeah it’s like the good old days when communist countries confiscated my “unauthorized books and currency”. These guys just want a reason to snag my iPod. I think they’re in league with the RIAA & MPAA.

  3. At a time when much is being made of Chinese censorship in light of the Olympics, how are we any more different than that communist dictatorship, or any less of a police state?

  4. SBT… Doesn’t really matter whose MP3s they are, right? But better own them. Remember ACTA? Gonna turn all the Border Patrol agents into copyright cops.

    These guys just want a reason to snag my iPod.

    Frogette… Man that’s gonna boost Apple’s profits! ;-)

    You’ll have to have your good iPod for when you’re at home and your “beater” iPod for when you cross the border.

  5. I’m going the Heston route, “You can have my MacBook when you pry it from my cold, dead hands”. I think this is going to *make* internet cafes. It’s just the kind of legislation they’ve been waiting for. Maybe we could start an underground railroad with laptop weigh stations around the world. Who’s with me?

  6. Lew, Frogette… There was interesting article on another blog likening encryption to a sealed container that US officials couldn’t examine. They pointed out that using an encrypted connection to access anything cross-border was tantamount to taking contraband (real or virtual) through a US border check point and postulated that this was the real thrust of DHS policy: To lay the groundwork for an assault on the use of encryption.

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