CBP, NKVD, or Gestapo?
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Question Reference #080517-000016
Subject: Why are you searching laptops and other data storage devices
and media at the…
Type of Problem: Abuse/Excessive Use of Authority
Ports of Entry, Pre-Clearance or Border
Country Code Number:
Issuing Country: United States
Trusted Traveler ID#:
Dist Field Office:
Border Patrol Sector:
Submitted: 05/17/2008 10:44 AM
Last Updated: 05/19/2008 11:31 AM
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2 of 2 5/19/2008 4:23 PM
Problem solved was the response of the Customs and Border Protection Agency. Here was my complaint, or harangue:
Why are you searching laptops and other data storage devices and media at the borders? It has no efficacy, balanced against violating the rights of citizens, for discovering miscreants, either terrorists or other criminals. It is a behavior, I believe, more suited and practiced by the like of Nazi Germany, the old Soviet state, and other police states. Your behavior and the courts decision, the reversal of a lower court’s decision, have finally convinced me to buy strong encryption to
protect my information. I have also joined a group, quickly growing in number, to voluntarily grow a fund to retain lawyers to fight in
court, all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary, any confuscation(sic; the danger of writing in a web form on the flipflop and fly ) of any of our information carrying devices. Your behavior has increased the bottom line of the PGP Corporation, and more people are considering using encryption.
I do not like the expense of encryption to protect my family photos, personal information, and sensitive data, like Social Security Number, banking information, emails, and other personal documents which are none of your dang business. So if my devices are confiscated and accessed at any border all you can expect is encrypted data that would take even the N.S.A., using all the computing
in the world, until the sun goes nova to decrypt. PGP Corporation should thank you for your action. No one else, no American who regards the Constitution and liberty should. I ask myself: Why is my government behaving like fascists? Why is it behaving like fascists that America fought in World War Two and Korea to defeat? I will fight in the courts and politically to restrain such fascist impulses and behaviours. It is the American’s duty to resist tyranny, to defeat enemies foreign and DOMESTIC. I want the officials in the U.S.Customs and Border Protection Agency who conceived this policy fired. We may have to fire some politicians first.
This was the response of the Customs and Border Protection Agency:
Response (Frederick) 05/19/2008 11:31 AM
Thank you for contacting CBP. We appreciate your comments on the issue of laptops.
CBP is charged with facilitating legitimate trade and travel while at the same time enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws. All persons, baggage and merchandise arriving in the United States are required to participate in CBP processing. As part of the process, CBP strives to facilitate the routine processing of all travelers while determining admissibility. It is not the intent of CBP to subject travelers to unwarranted scrutiny. However, unless exempt, all travelers entering the United
States, including U.S. citizens, are required to participate in CBP processing. As part of the process, CBP Officers are verifying admissibility and looking for possible terrorists, terrorist weapons or narcotics. Laptop computers may be subject to detention(sic) for violation of criminal law such as if the laptop contains information with possible ties to terrorism, narcotics smuggling, child pornography or other criminal activity. CBP Officers adhere to all requirements to protect privileged, personal and business confidential information.
Customer 05/17/2008 10:44 AM
Auto-Response 05/17/2008 10:44 AM
Title: How do officers decide which passengers to examine or search?
Title: Why did a CBP officer search me?
Title: Authority, right to search
Title: Transgender Personal Search Procedures
Title: FACT SHEET – Air and Marine
And this is my response to it.
I could understand, somewhat, doing the searches of media devices and media storage of non-citizens, perhaps of people suspected, probable cause, of smuggling narcotics or possessing child pornography, but you do random searches or searches of all without probable cause.
What is your reaction if I have the data on my computer encrypted and refuse to decrypted it for you? I will do this unless the congress and/or the courts do not stop this practice. I will, if this occurs to me, fight this in the courts and congress for the remainder of my life if necessary. I am a Republican, patriotic, but a libertarian in political ideology, so you know where I am coming from. Stop giving me the programmed spiel
"There are many reasons for deciding to examine someone. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has a program of random checks that helps us calibrate our information regarding smuggling trends. In addition, CBP officers will occasionally observe something that fits a smuggling characteristic. They will then want to conduct a search to see if anything else in the passenger’s goods or answers would provide information that would indicate whether or not there is additional need for concern. Many people think that Officers only target people who look disreputable or suspicious, and are therefore offended when they themselves are singled out. Please be aware, some of CBP’s biggest seizures have come from inspections of "respectable looking" people, such as grandmothers, corporate executives, college professors, etc. Everyone is subject to a CBP inspection when they arrive in the U.S."
You are infringing on the privacy and abrogating the rights of the many to catch a few. To extend your logic, the police departments should search every apartment and house in the cities; I am sure that they would catch some criminals by doing this. But this is the United States of America and we have a Constitution that constrains the use of government power. These constraints keep us free. If this practice of yours continues you may lose the respect, trust, and cooperation of the American people. When that happens your job will be impossible. Random searches is the problem. Do you have any people in your department who understand the internet? All a terrorist needs to do is upload plans outside the country to online storage encrypted and simply download when in the country. Or they can simply use a lowtech approach and send someone with a photograpic memory with the plans memorized, or someone with the plans written in code in an innocent looking notepad whereas it appears to be a diary, travelogue, or other notes. You plan to confiscate all these? I fear for this country when the people who are supposed to protect us are bumblers, who don’t know the Constitutional protections or even care, and cannot or will not do the real, hard work of valid, none intrusive intelligence to protect us.
Americans have to protect themselves from enemies foreign and domestic. You are increasingly becoming the domestic enemy. Take a civics course!