Homeland Security Continues To Expand Border Searches: Now Can Copy Your Paper-Based Documents

from the probable-cause-is-so-last-millennium dept

We’ve been covering the stories of how the Department of Homeland Security has a policy in place that lets it search and copy the contents of your laptop as you cross the border without any probable cause. DHS’s reasoning for why it needs this power are not particularly convincing — focusing mainly on scare mongering rather than rational argument. Now, the EFF has discovered, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, that it’s not just computer data that DHS wants to copy. Last year, it quietly changed its policies to allow customs and border guards to read and copy any personal papers the traveler has, even without “reasonable suspicion” or “probable cause.” Compared to searching through and copying your hard drive, this may seem like a minor deal, but it’s yet another example of DHS expanding its authority in ways that are very likely to be abused.

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Comments on “Homeland Security Continues To Expand Border Searches: Now Can Copy Your Paper-Based Documents”

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Cassius Seeley (user link) says:

Good News

Well this is all fantastic news for hard drive manufacturers. I mean just where the hell are they going to put all of this data?

I am sure there are plenty of people crossing the border every day with hundreds of megs of data on their laptops which of course will need to be copied.

I think someone should look in to hard drive lobbyists and see who they have been writing their checks too.

Seriously though, it is only a matter of time before you will have to provide DNA when you cross in to your own country. WFT man?

Like a bad guy would cross in to the country legally ie. thru a border crossing, with a hard drive or brief case full of evil plans! If they did, and we did copy it, just how long do you suppose the backlog is for DHS to wade thru the 438 billion porno pix, and temporary internet files they have collected before they get to the bad guys files? Oh and wait… perhaps the bad guy was smart enough to have encrypted the hell out of his files, and it takes a huge computer 5 years to decrypt enough of the information to determine there was a threat. By that time, the bad guy will have done his damage, and the government will be wasting our time with a HUGE investigation to determine what went wrong.

If it were not happening in real life, it would be laughable!

I agree 100% #3, Benjamin Franklin was a smart man.

Anonymous for a Reason says:

Re: Good News

Seriously, all this “no privacy” bullshit hasn’t got a god-damned thing to do with catching terrorists. It’s all about controlling the population. Some days, I even doubt there ever were terrorists–as they do so easily fit the “needed” enemy image profile without needing such mundane things as an actual “country of origin.”

And to #8 – Civil Disobedience is still disobedience [insert graphic of policeman beating a protester here]

anon anon says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Good News

What about occam’s razor? I’d believe that some economic interest (terrorist or otherwise) blew the towers to take advatage in the turmoil it caused in financial markets before I’d believe that the US gov really cares about what I have in my pornfolio when I cross the border. The simplest explanation is usually money.

Shohat says:

Disconnected hardware

You can easily store media (Micro SDs for instance) inside the laptop, simply use the Laptop as a “case”, and have them disconnected from everything, glued to something obscure inside.

These kind of searches will only hurt the innocent . A person that has something to hide has to be mighty stupid to not be able to hide it.

interval says:

Re: Disconnected hardware

Humans always find a way. Ways around little problems like this. Every crypto scheme the DMCA has thrown in the way of media security has been cracked. Every little scheme this Fatherland Security tries to throw down can be circumvented as well. Its easy enough to keep your documents online. Don’t give the bastards a way in; Don’t walk around with sensitive papers.

interval says:

Re: Re: hahah..

Wrong with every breath you take:

1) The ban on exporting munitions (which included encryption technology) was expunged a few years ago.

2) The mere act of walking around with encrypted data is not exporting munitions as defined in the act. The exncryption SCHEME (the recipe, the code that described the encryption) was the point.

Dosquatch says:

Maybe it's time

for a new revolution. Is it lost on everyone that the dickwads foisting this crap on us are the same folks from the 60’s who were singing kumbay-fucking-ya, smoking everything that would burn, staging sit-ins, and – ahm – blowing up government buildings because “the man” was “oppressing” the “people”?

Maybe a fresh dose of CCR and a swift kick in the ass would awake their sense of irony?

Oh, yeah, Mr. CBP, please stop by and explain how this is only to stop the evil kiddie pronners from coming back in from Canadexico or where ever.

Ralph says:

Re: Maybe it's time

Maybe it’s time for you to take your meds today. Your post, although readable, is so completely removed from reality that we can only assume you’re on LSD yourself. The truth is, the folks from the ’60s who were singing kumbay-fucking-ya are the ones fighting this. The rest of you, who’ve been fooled by “if we don’t, the terrorists will win,” are the ones who are allowing the government to foist this crap on us.

This administration, and the Republicans who wish to be next in line, are feeding us a diet of fear, because they believe that if they scare us enough, we’ll let them get away with anything. So far, and to the detriment of us all, this tactic has worked very well for the Bush

interval says:

Re: Re: Maybe it's time

“The truth is, the folks from the ’60s who were singing kumbay-fucking-ya are the ones fighting this.”

Ha ha ha ha ha… you mean they’re the ones CAUSING this. Whatever “this” is. I assume you mean the financial crisis.

Those same flower children are the ones in power, “Ralph”.

Ralph says:

Re: Re: Re: Maybe it's time

You comment when you don’t even know what the subject is? The subject is BORDER SEARCHES, asshat. The financial crisis is another post, on another blog.

Thanks for your comment. Remember, ’tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak up and remove all doubt. Thanks for removing all doubt.

OHcanine says:

Re: Maybe it's time

Your assertion that “Is it lost on everyone that the dickwads foisting this crap on us are the same folks from the 60’s who were singing kumbay-fucking-ya, smoking everything that would burn, staging sit-ins, and – ahm – blowing up government buildings because “the man” was “oppressing” the “people”?” is full of crap. The neo-cons in charge of these civil liberty destructions were members of the College Young Republicans in that era. No spots were changed in the years between.

Dosquatch says:

Re: Re: Maybe it's time

No spots were changed in the years between.

Bullshit. There are a lot more Repubs in that generation now than there were then. There has most definitely been some spot changing in the intervening years.

I’m not saying everyone changed, I’m not saying that Bush and his cabinet were Hippies (though I have no doubt Bush did his fair share of smoking, drinking, and/or snorting shit), but I’m pretty comfortable with the idea that a bunch of the folks in Congress would be counted among “those we can’t trust” by their younger selves.

Dosquatch says:

Re: Re:

Even damaged disks,

Hey, that’s a great idea! I have an old HD that failed that I’d LOVE to recover, it’s just not worth the dough. But if Border Patrol will do it FOR me, that’d be great 🙂

Mr. CBP: “This computer won’t boot.”

Dos: “Yeah… the hard drive flaked while I was gone. Shame, too, I miss my pr0n collection and my Annotated Reader’s Guide of the electronig Quaran.”

Mr. CBP: “Oh,REALLY? No worries, we’re right on that…”

interval says:

Re: ??? State border checks?

Where? I’ve never had any problems crossing a state border. I live in California (which I hate, but I have no choice right now) and drive to Nevada, up through Oregon to Washington, and over to Texas all the time. Last time I went to Manhattan I flew and had to do the usual shoe nonsense in the terminal, but then I took a cab ride to Hoboken; and there’s no border check in the Lincoln Tunnel I can tell you. Why, I’ve even driven from Montana to Calgary and didn’t have much of a check. Didn’t even need my passport. And that was post 9-11. WHAT STATE BORDER CHECK????

y8 says:

w 0 w two

I agree with a lot you.
1. I have a 2GB microSD card in my cell phone. If I was going to transport ‘terrorist’ or other criminal data, I’d put it on a microSD card and shove it down my pants (or I’d put on a g(oogle)-drive and I could retrieve it from any library or coffee shop in the world).
2. If data on a laptop, or printed pages in a back pack are going to bring down this country, we’re f’ed.
3. If a cell phone being on could bring down an airliner they wouldn’t let you take it on the plane at all. The reason to make you turn it off is because your f’ing annoying the people around you!
4. Unless they’re going to ship you off to GITMO when they copy your hard drive, you’ll be long gone before they find anything (NOTE to DHS: I’m not advocating this).

Reaper says:

Oh my, just dump your stuff to an FTP site!

You really need privacy? Just create an FTP site store all you data, cross over down load what you need. that’s why they call it WWW.

It’s such a joke, Just remember they might drop a bot on your computer to send them passwords and login names. http://www.spectorsoft.com

Don’t put it past them, when in doubt their is no doubt.

Johnny Canada says:


I was born and raised in Quebec, though I am English speaking.

Born in the ’50’s lived through the bombings, kidnapping and War Measures Act in the late sixties early seventies. Think armed troops in the streets.

Yes we have our own problems but I would rather live in Canada than under the current regime in the U.S. police state

drawiz says:

Oh my, just dump your stuff to a OpenBSD machine running OpenSSHD! :)

Reaper, FTP and privacy really don’t go well together.
The real issue is, what they are planning to do. They are only starting at the border. They want to control all information, some countries already limit what sites can and can’t be viewed. I would not be shocked if something like that comes about.

another mike says:

taking credit

if i wanted to get information across the border, you wouldn’t even know i was carrying a computer. so dhs is less imaginative than a bored geek, what else is new? here’s a fun idea, write a virus that overwrites all available drive space with copy after copy of a chosen file. when they go to ghost your drive, they pick up the virus and rickroll their network.

franklin also said, “beer is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy.” coincidentally, that’s also the extent and limit of my religious beliefs.

MediaEmpyre (profile) says:

They will never let you scream to any media outlets. You’ll just end up in the Ministry of Love being prodded to love Big Brother.

“All persons who are brought to this place are washed clean Winston. The execution of their sentences is relatively unimportant, by the time we are finished with them, there is nothing but sorrow for what they have done and love for Big Brother. It is so touching how they love Big Brother.”

The agents will just take you to one of the back rooms and interrogate you by whatever means necessary to find out what they want and you’ll be happy to get out and go home.

Hey brother, where’re you bound?? Supertramp

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