Feds Say They Can Search Bradley Manning's Friend's Laptop Because They Can

from the leave-us-alone dept

Back in May, we noted that Homeland Security's ICE group had taken David House's laptop and had kept it for 49 days because he's friends with Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking the State Department cables to Wikileaks. House was traveling back to the US from a vacation in Mexico and Homeland Security has long held that it can take your laptops at the border for any reason whatsoever. House (with the help of the ACLU) sued the government over this. Not surprisingly, the Justice Department is defending the actions of ICE, basically using the "we did it because we can, so shut up" argument.
There is no basis for the Court to conclude that searches of laptops or other electronic devices at the border should be subjected to a different standard than that for other closed containers. Nor is there a basis for the Court to conclude that Plaintiff’s First Amendment rights were violated by the routine search and detention of his devices at the border.
This is, at best, disingenuous and, at worst, dishonest. There is a tremendous "basis" for a court to conclude that searches of electronic devices differ than searches of a closed container. That's because, as we've discussed at length before, what's in your laptop and what's in a container at the border are entirely different:
  • You mostly store everything on your laptop. So, unlike a suitcase that you're bringing with you, it's the opposite. You might specifically choose what to exclude, but you don't really choose what to include. With a suitcase, you specifically choose what to include.
  • The reason you bring the contents on your laptop over the border is because you're bringing your laptop over the border. If you wanted the content of your laptop to go over the border you'd just send it using the internet. There are no "border guards" on the internet itself, so content flows mostly freely across international boundaries. Thus if anyone wants to get certain content into a country via the internet, they're not doing it by entering that country through border control.
More to the point: the reason why ICE is supposed to be stationed at the border is to stop those who should not be in the country and to prevent items that should not be in the country from getting it. It is abundantly clear that taking House's laptop furthered neither of those goals, but instead it was done solely in an attempt to further an unrelated legal claim by the government (the case against Manning). It seems crazy to me that the courts do not seem to take into consideration the purpose of a border search in determining whether or not they are appropriate. This border search had nothing to do with the border and everything to do with the feds using a questionable opportunity to seize data that it could not otherwise get access to via legal means. If House's laptop were really crucial to the case, then the Justice Department should have gotten a warrant to view it, rather than use this loophole at the border. The fact that they did not get a warrant shows pretty clearly that they knew outside of the border situation, they had no right to look at the contents of House's hard drive.

On a separate note, the reason given for having to keep House's laptop for so long? Because the laptop ran both Linux and Windows and the tech geniuses at Homeland Security had trouble understanding how to deal with that.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:10am

    "There is no basis for the Court to conclude that searches of laptops or other electronic devices at the border should be subjected to a different standard than that for other closed containers."

    When the feds search a closed container. They open it up, search it, and then immediately give it back.

    When the feds search a laptop or other electronic device, they send it to a computer foresnic division and they search it for months.

    That's a huge fricken difference, nimrods!

     

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  2.  
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    jimbo, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:17am

    House (with the help of the ACLU) sued the government.

    so what was the outcome, or isn't there one (yet)?

     

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  3.  
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    johnjac (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:18am

    Because I said so.

    "Your Honor, I'll like to reference the case of Your Mother v You, which clearly states that 'Because I said so' is a valid defense"

     

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  4.  
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    deane (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:23am

    I wish the courts rule on this really soon. be nice if somebody would start screaming "everyday that you keep my laptop YOUR MAKING ME LOSE MILLIONS!"

     

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  5.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:27am

    Because the laptop ran both Linux and Windows and the tech geniuses at Homeland Security had trouble understanding how to deal with that.

    I can see this scenario playing out in my head with a confused forensic tech muttering:

    "For some weird reason, our Windows based forensic software isn't reading half the hard drive."

     

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  6.  
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    James Plotkin, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:27am

    "In Re: shut up hippie liberals."

    Seriously...To say with a straight face that a person's laptop is the same as a suitcase as far as searchability is just ridiculous.

    I agree hat a balance must be struck between the legitimate rights of individuals and the ability of law enforcement to do their jobs. Still...8 weeks of detention is simply ridiculous and in my mind, doesn't represent a fair limitation on peoples rights for the benefit gained by law enforcement...

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:27am

    I also noted their "technical difficulties" with a dual-boot system

    But I'm split on whether or not that's the truth.

    Surely an forensic analyst worthy of the job title knows enough to boot House's laptop from external media and copy the hard drive (byte-for-byte) onto analysis media. They should also know how to perform differential comparison against a stock install of the operating system(s) involved in order to determine what's installed, where, how, etc. before then moving on to data (documents, email, bookmarks, web browser cache, IM logs, etc.). None of this is hard -- just tedious. (Although automated tools do help quite a bit.)

    So are they really so miserably incompetent? Well, maybe. They're certainly incompetent at lots of other related things (see GAO report referenced in TechDirt article earlier today).

    Or...

    Was House clever enough to encrypt files of interest or perhaps an entire disk/disk partition with something like TrueCrypt? And is the delay therefore not for the reasons stated but because they've been busy trying to break the encryption and haven't managed to do so? (Note in passing: this wouldn't stop them from copying the drive(s), though; they'd just end up with copies of the encrypted material.)

    So I don't know. I was inclined at first to just chalk it up to incompetence, but after considering just whose laptop this is and why they wanted to get it, I have difficulty imagining that House left anything interesting unencrypted. And I'll bet the feds really really really want whatever's in there.

    I hope he left them a nice cache of midget clown goat porn.

     

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  8.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:27am

    SOP

    ...the routine search and detention of his devices at the border

    So it is routine to detain peoples devices?

     

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  9.  
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    Donnicton, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:29am

    Re: SOP

    You know, my daughter would absolutely love an iPad 2 for christmas...


    Oh! Look at what just happens to be crossing the border right now! What luck!

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:31am

    Re: I also noted their "technical difficulties" with a dual-boot system

    Obligatory XKCD

     

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  11.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:32am

    Title error

    Ugh. The original title said "Bradley Manning's Friends'" but the "friend" part fell off... I've added it back. Sorry for any confusion.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:33am

    Re: I also noted their "technical difficulties" with a dual-boot system

    so now House brings a dumb terminal across the border and accesses his deadly documents from a secure site once across.

    the feds are incompetent. they will catch no competent terrists

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:36am

    When you bring something across the border, it is pretty much fair game. There is no presumption of legality in anything being imported into the US, rather it is a process of "check and allow", not "assume it's all good".

    If for any reasons that border guards suspect that you are carrying something illegal with you, they have the rights to detain you, they have the rights to seize the item(s) in question, and they have the rights in investigate.

    When you bring a laptop over the border, you are presenting yourself at the border with the laptop and all that is on it. It is pretty much on par with showing up with boxes and boxes of paper with all of the same information printing. The border guards have the right to inspect every piece of paper you are bringing over the border, so why would they not have the right to check your laptop?

    It is, at best, disingenuous and, at worst, dishonest to suggest that the border guards do not have the right to inspect anything and everything coming into the country. Oh yes, btw, they can (and do) check cell phones as well.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:43am

    Because the laptop ran both Linux and Windows and the tech geniuses at Homeland Security had trouble understanding how to deal with that.


    Makes one wonder how they would handle virtualization. I have more than half-dozen different virtual systems on my mac, mainly different linux distros, FreeBSD and a couple of windows versions. And now that Apple's Lion license allows for virtual installs, I could really mess with the DHS geniuses and have OS "Inception" for them to unwind.

     

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  15.  
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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:45am

    Re:

    So how is working for ICE these days?

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:45am

    Re:

    "If for any reasons that border guards suspect that you are carrying something illegal with you, they have the rights to detain you, they have the rights to seize the item(s) in question, and they have the rights in investigate."

    Ah, there's the BIG IF. IF they suspect anything, they can do the searches and the detentions. They can't just go around and bother every citizen with idiotic searches, and there should be BIG penalties for doing so.

    Last I checked, the US is a democracy, and you don't treat your citizens as criminals in a democracy. Or maybe it's time to admit that it isn't so anymore?

     

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  17.  
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    Dan (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:47am

    Physical searches make sense if your already spying...

    "If you wanted the content of your laptop to go over the border you'd just send it using the internet."

    At which point, the NSA has it.

    I know this isn't the point of this particular topic, but Mike keeps rolling out the 'this makes no sense' argument. With the NSA tapping the cables, physical searches make sense (to the feds, at least).

     

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  18.  
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    A Dan (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:48am

    Re: I also noted their "technical difficulties" with a dual-boot system

    Maybe his Linux filesystem is in a format (i.e. not FAT32 or NTFS) that their forensic software can't recover deleted files from.

     

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  19.  
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    Overcast (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:50am

    On a separate note, the reason given for having to keep House's laptop for so long? Because the laptop ran both Linux and Windows and the tech geniuses at Homeland Security had trouble understanding how to deal with that

    LOL, so what's the point?

    I mean, obviously if THIS was a problem for them - then the possibility of hidden data being found is pretty much Zero.

    But again, if you have data you don't want found on your laptop - put it on a flash drive and put it in the mail.

     

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  20.  
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    DannyB (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:53am

    Friends of anyone suspicious are automatically suspect

    And this rule applies recursively.

    See: McCarthy.

     

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  21.  
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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:56am

    Re:

    I believe it was Lupus.

     

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  22.  
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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 8:57am

    Re: Physical searches make sense if your already spying...

    At which point, the NSA has it.

    Encryption doesn't exist in your world? =P

     

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  23.  
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    el_segfaulto (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 9:01am

    Re:

    From my experience (and as always your own mileage may vary) most of the forensic techs at local police departments and FBI field offices have enough technical knowledge to slap in a preconfigured CD and run a suite of software. They have no idea what's going on in the backend. I was asked once to figure out why their proprietary scanner wouldn't read a particular partition, turns out the owner had used EXT3 combined with a Windows driver to act as a shared drive between his two systems. The fact that they were stumped by the fact that it was neither FAT nor NTFS was a real eye-opener.

    That isn't to say that the real guys at the main offices and research labs don't know their stuff...they do. It's just that data forensics is not exactly an entry level job and most of these guys only get a week of training and don't bother to keep up with the state-of-the-art. Not to mention the fact that often, they're handling a ton of other projects.

     

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  24.  
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    HothMonster, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 9:04am

    Re:

    everyday is another lost laptop, and 10 lost word documents, and 5 lost pdfs, and 100 lost websites...

     

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  25.  
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    HothMonster, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 9:07am

    Re: Re:

    "That isn't to say that the real guys at the main offices and research labs don't know their stuff...they do."

    Unfortunately they have to spend all their time refining the "preconfigured CD, suite of software and manuals" for the chumps instead of doing any actual investigating

     

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  26.  
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    HothMonster, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 9:11am

    Re:

    "Makes one wonder how they would handle virtualization."

    I imagine a lot of swearing and a little crying

     

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  27.  
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    HothMonster, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 9:13am

    Re:

    watch out they are training the dogs checking mail at the border to sniff out dirty 1s and 0s.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 9:17am

    Rules

    1. Maintain factory disk drive, with almost-virgin(*) Windows install.

    (*) Put some soft-core pr0n on the factory disk drive, so no-one gets too suspicious.


    2. Do NOT ever devise your own encryptation algorithm. You are not a cryptographer (**). Use only carefully scrutinized implementations of well-regarded algorithms.

    (**) If you are a cryptographer, then this only applies to operational use. And you know why.


    3. ALWAYS generate your own random numbers.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 9:25am

    Re:

    Wonderful, another ignorant dipshit who doesn't know what kind of rights are supposed to protect them from government intrusion of privacy. Please don't vote, many thanks.

     

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  30.  
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    ComputerAddict (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 9:29am

    Welcome to the Cloud

    What will be really interesting is when you bring your ChromeOS CR-48 laptop across the border.

    Nothing is stored on it, but when they boot it up and you checked "remember password" should they get to search all your data that isn't even "on" the laptop as you crossed the boarder?

    I bet I know their answer...

     

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  31.  
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    FuzzyDuck, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 9:31am

    Re:

    Hey AC, how does it feel to be a tool? It's only thanks to people like you that our liberties can be eroded away by governments.

     

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  32.  
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    aldestrawk (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 9:47am

    Re: I also noted their "technical difficulties" with a dual-boot system

    I may get into trouble saying this, but once a forensic analyst copies the hard drive they can give the computer back. Copying the hard drive should nearly always be the very first step. If the computer is turned off when law enforcement obtains custody, making a copy should always be the first step. Since a copy is made at a very low level without booting the target system, there is no consideration, at this step, of how the drive is formatted or how many different file systems there are. Why do they keep your computer for extended periods? The short answer is vindictive extrajudicial punishment.

     

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  33.  
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    Prisoner 201, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 9:50am

    Re: Re: SOP

    And when a newer model comes along, you just wipe the old one (choose between "unfortuate accident" or "standard procedure") and give it back to the guy you took it from.

    "Here you go, we are done investigating your suitcase-like device now. I know it took a while but Apple can be damn slow... I mean these investigations do take time. Thank you for your cooperation."

     

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  34.  
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    aldestrawk (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 9:58am

    Re: Rules

    good advice! I would alter #3 to include, generate your own random numbers, but don't create your own random number algorithm.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 10:02am

    Re: Re: I also noted their "technical difficulties" with a dual-boot system

    ...vindictive extrajudicial punishment.

    Homeless Man Dies After Being Brutally Beaten by Five Fullerton Cops”, (July 29, 2011)

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 10:05am

    Re: Re: Rules

    ...don't create your own random number algorithm.

    But if you're good with a soldering iron, building your own random number generator may still compare favorably with commercially-available hardware.

     

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  37.  
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    Joel Coehoorn, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 10:06am

    You make some good points about why this content should be treated differently, but I'm not sure the law as written makes those distinctions. Whether or not you purposefully chose to include or exclude something or could have sent it more easily another way, it's still there on a laptop that was still carried across the border. So I think they do have the same right to search your laptop that they have for anything else.

    What they don't have the right to do, and what needs more emphasis here, is keep the laptop and send it away for forensic analysis: unless they first found something there locally and in a reasonable time frame that now justifies further seizure.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 10:10am

    Re: Re: I also noted their "technical difficulties" with a dual-boot system

    In re "deleted files": I have to presume that someone of House's abilities is aware of common techniques for not only overwriting deleted files, but modifying the directories they used to be in so that little, if any, evidence that they ever existed remains.

    Incidentally, Linux systems support a large number of different filesystems, some of which are intended for use with Linux, some of which are intended to provide cross-platform capability. I'd like to think (but maybe I'm overestimating their ability) that they'd be able to read any of the contemporary ones listed here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_file_systems

     

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  39.  
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    el_segfaulto (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 10:11am

    Re: Re: I also noted their "technical difficulties" with a dual-boot system

    I suppose one could make the argument that a bit by bit mirror of a multi-terabyte hard drive could take several hours or more depending on the hardware. But you're absolutely right, anything over a day is simply vindictiveness.

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 10:23am

    Re: Re:

    You guys crack me up. Yes, the US is a democracy, but NO, you don't automatically have the right to cross the border with anything you please without inspection.

    US customs is one of those areas where your rights are fairly limited because until you clear customs, you are not "landed" in the US. This is particularly true of any goods of chattel that you happen to have with you. Until inspected, the border agency has the right to refuse it entry.

    The "if" is very, very, very small. The if can be your shifty demeanour, lack of a good response to a question, or even admitting to dealing with people who are under law enforcement surveillance. If you go out of the country and meet up with narco traffickers, example, you should expect that you might get a cavity search.

    The border isn't like a street corner police stop. When you start learning not to apply those rules to a border crossing, the rest of it makes a whole lot more sense.

    Considering the low number of Americans who have a passport, it isn't surprising that there is a whole lot of ignorance.

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 10:45am

    The border patrol is trying to tromp over all sorts of rights. I am a US citezen, I have constitutionally protected rights no matter where I am. the US government is just as limited in what it can legally and morally do if I am at home, On the border entering the country, in France or on Mars. The fact that I left the country may establish reasonable suspicion for a search, but it does not mean my rights are null and void, no matter how much the border patrol may pretend it does.

    Note that the constitution does not grant rights, it enumerates and protects rights that exist independantly from the government and limits what the government is allowed to do.

     

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  42.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 10:49am

    Re: I also noted their "technical difficulties" with a dual-boot system

    Yes. I've met several forensic court experts and the first step is to take the hard-drive out, setup a write block and dd the whole disk to an image. Then you backup the image and start working on the image itself. At that point, the hardware becomes useless.

    Another way to put this is that ICE is practicing being childish. The drive is probably encrypted and they most likely are just doing that to be vindictive. Quite honestly, I just don't see any good reason for ICE to even exist.

     

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  43.  
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    Jay (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 10:50am

    Re: Re: Re:

    And honestly, who goes to the government to work for IT?

     

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  44.  
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    Jay (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 10:51am

    Re:

    The balance:

    Let people enter the country with their personal belongings. Laptop included. It worked before 9/11, it'll work even now.

     

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  45.  
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    senshikaze (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 10:52am

    Re: Re: Re: I also noted their "technical difficulties" with a dual-boot system

    With clonezilla, doing it SATA -> USB it takes around 13 hours for 800GB(1TB drive, NTFS, 7200RPM) SATA -> SATA is about 8.

     

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  46.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 10:55am

    Re:

    I have constitutionally protected rights no matter where I am.

    That, and $2.25 will get you a cafe latte.

     

     

    “Thomas, citing witnesses, said officers hit his son with the butts of flashlights even after he stopped moving.”       —LA Times

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 10:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Rules

    roll dice

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 10:59am

    Re: Welcome to the Cloud

    You did encrypt that data before you put it in the cloud, didn't you?

    If not, then a border inspection is the least of your problems.

     

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  49.  
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    Jay (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 11:00am

    Re: Re: Re: I also noted their "technical difficulties" with a dual-boot system

    What in bloody hell happened?!

    That makes absolutely no sense!

     

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  50.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 11:23am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yeah...I suppose he could be bringing across that ten folders of that computer heroin virus. Gotta stop that!

    Case in point, what threat can anyone's bits be excepting to a repressive government?

     

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  51.  
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    gorehound (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 11:24am

    ICE is a piece of shit.
    We must work hard next election to vote out of office the dems and reps and then maybe we can begin to take our country back from the growing 1984 occurring.

     

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  52.  
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    Dan (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Re: Physical searches make sense if your already spying...

    The government mentality is to collect the data as it believes any encryption can eventually be broken. However, encryption is off the point. The government is doing the border searches as a data collection point[possibly the last], encryption or no.

     

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  53.  
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    Richard (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    You guys crack me up. Yes, the US is a democracy, but NO, you don't automatically have the right to cross the border with anything you please without inspection.

    And if border patrols persistently abuse their powers (as they clearly have here) expect the democracy to remove those powers - if it doesn't happen then you don't have a democracy.

     

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  54.  
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    Dan (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 12:16pm

    Re:

    I like this comment a lot! It points out the futility of security theater. Put it in the mail, one lead encased dirty bomb in a freight container, one bomb vest detonated at a TSA inspection point, and on, and on...

     

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  55.  
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    Dan (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 12:20pm

    Re: Rules

    Combine 1 and 3 for a random porn generator. Those poor analysts need something entertaining. But expect the inspection time to double.

     

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  56.  
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    Dan (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 12:24pm

    Re: Re: Rules

    Seriously though, I don't understand why the don't image off the drive and give the unit back. They'll have a copy to examine at their leisure. {A-holes!}

     

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  57.  
    icon
    btr1701 (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 2:40pm

    Re: Authority

    > It is, at best, disingenuous and, at worst,
    > dishonest to suggest that the border guards
    > do not have the right to inspect anything
    > and everything coming into the country.

    Point me to the Article and Section of the Constitution that says the Bill of Rights is suspended at the border.

    Hint: it doesn't exist.

    This 'border authority' is nothing but another one of those ever more frequent self-serving 'interpretations' of the Constitution by the government to justify not obeying a law which they find inconvenient and bothersome.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  58.  
    icon
    btr1701 (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Re: Democracy

    > Last I checked, the US is a democracy

    I'm not sure when you checked, but the US has never been a democracy. It's a constitutional republic. Always has been.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  59.  
    icon
    btr1701 (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 2:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Border

    > US customs is one of those areas where your
    > rights are fairly limited because until you
    > clear customs, you are not "landed" in the US

    Of course the they keep expanding the defintion of "the border" more and more to give themselves the authority to circumvent the Constitution anywhere they like.

    If I recall correctly, "the border" is currently defined as being 150 miles inland from any international boundary.

    That effectively makes the entire state of Florida a Constitution-free zone.

     

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  60.  
    identicon
    monkyyy, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 4:00pm

    Re:

    "If for any reasons that border guards suspect that you are carrying something illegal with you, they have the rights to detain you" they have the power to but no where near a right

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  61.  
    identicon
    monkyyy, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 4:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: Rules

    to mess with him

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  62.  
    icon
    aikiwolfie (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 4:02pm

    The USA steals your laptop at the border and the government there wonders why the USA's economy is crap?

    This actually means doing business with the USA almost by default increases the TCO of a laptop since you need to by a spare in the event the first one gets confiscated. But at the same time since you can't afford to lose your data to ICEbaby you'll keep everything in the "cloud" and make do with a cheapo laptop anyway lowering your TCO of a laptop.

    America is a very confusing place to be. It's better to stay at home.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  63.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 4:32pm

    Searches

    It's perfectly reasonable to search things at the border, in general. Just about any physical container can contain something which is prohibited, and people do try to smuggle things.

    The question becomes, what exactly were they expecting to find on that laptop? Did they think he was bringing in a prohibited item? If not, they had no business searching it.

    The simple fact that they get to search, does not mean that they get to search everything for any reason. If a cop is patting you down for his own safety, that's a legal search. But that doesn't mean he then gets to go through your wallet. Similar situation here - they are guarding the border and therefore get to search. But ONLY for things illegally being taken over the border.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  64.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 5:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: I also noted their "technical difficulties" with a dual-boot system

    ... a multi-terabyte hard drive could take several hours or more depending on the hardware.


    Once the government has your hardware alone in their hot little hands for more than a few hours, then you've got to assume it's as compromised as a voting machine.

    Voting machines are a very hard problem. At least with a laptop, you can just get a new one from some random store.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  65.  
    icon
    Roy Batty (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 7:00pm

    Re: When you bring something across the border, it is pretty much fair game.

    I respect your opinion/assertion. You should realize that you have decided to accept the government's premise with regard to what is fair game. Perhaps the time has come to demand more from law enforcement at all levels. I have many years experience in l.e. and too many l.e.o.'s are pushing the limits of fairness. House didn't have controlled substance. House didn't have dangerous material. House did not have warrants outstanding. These federal agents wanted private information. They could have requested a search warrant. Hey, guess what? They didn't have reasonable suspicion and they didn't have probable cause. We are federal agents so we will just take what we want. It is time to restrict the intrusion under some circumstance. We could write a book here. A U.S. citizen? No contraband? No outstanding warrants? Leave us the hell alone!
    And what about keeping the personal items 19 days beyond policy and saying "we're under-staffed". We, as citizens don't have to accept the behavior. This is like sentencing someone to one year in jail and keeping them 18 months because "there weren't enough guards to open the cell door". So, again, your assertion is reasonable, if we accept the premise that federal agents can invade your privacy for one reason and pretend they are doing it for another.

     

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  66.  
    icon
    G Thompson (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 9:13pm

    Re: Re:

    They would be using a windows based product on USB that is very similar to, if not actually the one used (Gawd I hope not) called COFEE (Computer Online Forensic Evidence Extractor) by Micro$oft. What's COFEE like? Well from a Professional viewpoint as an actual Digital Forensic Consultant myself, I won't talk ill of products that bear little resemblence to actual Forensic Evidence investigation tools. [Mike did an article on it a while back]

    Either SIFT by SANS Institute, or "Sleuth Kit", both GPL and *nix based are so much better and wonders of wonders work on Windows, and Linux/Unix based Systems since they are booted from the USB/CD itself.

    Booting up a Laptop by its own O/S is NOT forensically Sound practice since it is guaranteed to corrupt & change evidence.

    Does anyone know of any cases from ICE/DHS seizing laptops, then using whatever so called 'evidence' found in a criminal (or civil) case that has gone to conclusion? I had a quick look and could not find any.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  67.  
    icon
    G Thompson (profile), Aug 1st, 2011 @ 9:23pm

    Re: Re: I also noted their "technical difficulties" with a dual-boot system

    absoultely a forensically verified mirror image of a drive is the minimum that you do on any investigation. You then verify the hash values (MD5 at a bare minimum, SHA is industry norm) In fact you normally perform two mirror images so that you always have one as pure form,,. just in case you breach the fundamental rule of forensics. DO NOT CHANGE DATA!

    Though if there is reasonable suspicion under the warrant that there is something to be found on the image you are analysing/investigating then the original evidence, ie: the physical laptop in this case, is kept in evidence under the chain of custody procedures. Mainly this is so if it goes to court you can show the actual physical item (so much easier for judges and juries to look at ;P ) and also that the other party has the oppurtunity to get their OWN independent analysis on the same item without trusting the mirror image the prosecution (in this case) took.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  68.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 5:25am

    Re: Re: Re: I also noted their "technical difficulties" with a dual-boot system

    ...on any investigation....

    You're thinking corporate security / police criminal investigation. Not national security investigation. Against target known to use strong crypto.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  69.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 6:08am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Rules

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  70.  
    identicon
    Jardinero1, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 6:58am

    Re: Re:

    Customs agents need not suspect anything. You have no rights until they admit you into the country. They can go through and detain all your stuff for absolutely no reason if they so desire.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  71.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 7:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Rules

    mandatory Dilbert


    Is Dilbert loyal to the Pointy-Haired Boss?

    Is Dogbert taking payoffs from Elbonia?

    Is Catbert likely to cover up for the Fullerton cops ?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  72.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 8:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Democracy

    It's a Federal Republic.

    FTFY

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  73.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 8:50am

    The comment above mentioning Lupus got me thinking. (Sorry of this is a repeat of their comment, but it was unclear what they meant.)

    Something we very much want to avoid is having the federal security apparatus become the equivalent of societal Lupus. I think if a lot of us start using this analogy in other places it could become a meme and perhaps lead to some sanity.

    Another point about seizing computer equipment. we want to use computers an an extension of our minds. That is their power. But then encryption and freedom from searching becomes an extension of the right to remain silent. Unfortunately the average Joe does not view the right to remain silent as important for anyone but criminals. But anyway, taking someone's computer and searching it is similar to having a brain scan technology - which is why they like to do it. I think the average Joe would appreciate that analogy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  74.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 8:59am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You have no rights...

    Government has a dire shortage of smart, talented computer security workers willing to be loyal and devoted to a system where people have no rights.

    Fortunately, there are plenty of other folks happy to work for a system where the border guards take keen pleasure in "vindictive, extrajudicial punishment".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  75.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 9:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Democracy

    It's a Federal Republic.

    You score 100% on ideological commitment, Това́рищ !

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  76.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2011 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Re: Re: I also noted their "technical difficulties" with a dual-boot system

    With a program like DDRESCUE, it shouldn't take any more than 30-40 minutes if they have the appropriate hardware.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  77.  
    identicon
    icetrout, Aug 7th, 2011 @ 3:20am

    Re:

    This isn't American Law Enforcement,this is something Mao/Stalin/Hitler would do.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  78.  
    identicon
    icetrout, Aug 7th, 2011 @ 3:23am

    Re: I also noted their "technical difficulties" with a dual-boot system

    That's about what a fag traitor would have on their lap-top. & they want more mental defective queers in the military? Top Brass must all be queer.Communist take-over nearly complete.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  79.  
    identicon
    jeff, Aug 8th, 2011 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Rules

    Simply put, if there "is" illegal material on the drive and they give it back to you, they become an accomplice to an illegal act.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  80.  
    identicon
    jeff, Aug 8th, 2011 @ 11:37am

    Re:

    Just because the find contraband in your suitcase they don't confiscate the suitcase, just the contraband.

    They should make a copy of the drive deleting any data they believe suspicious and return to you the edited drive. If they do not find anything illegal they should then return to you the original drive.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  81.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2011 @ 12:58pm

    Re:

    no dems & no reps ... leaves what Libs, Green and teabaggers ( i mean tea partiers) ... lets all vote libertarian !!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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