Monday, February 11, 2008

Should Customs be Allowed to Search Laptops without a warrant?

This topic is in the news again this week.


By Jeanne Meserve

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Amir Khan says he becomes frustrated and humiliated every time he enters the United States and federal agents search his computers. Khan, a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen, says it has happened five times since 2003.

A suit filed last week seeks clarification on the rules that allow federal agents to search laptops and other devices.
He says agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection have even forced him to give them access to password-protected, confidential information from his company and his banking records.

An IT consultant who travels to Europe, Turkey and Pakistan, Khan says he has cooperated with the questions and searches but feels by now border agents should know he doesn't pose a threat.

Situations for travelers such as Khan are at issue in a lawsuit filed last week by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Asian Law Caucus in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The suit accuses customs agents of "lengthy questioning and intrusive searches" and seeks clarification on the law that allows such searches.

Back in 2004 I traveled to Canada to participate in an International Drug Policy Conference. I had no problems getting into Canada. In fact, the Canadian border guard told me to bring him a joint when I came back through. But I don't carry weed with me into or out of Canada. On my return trip to the US the Customs assholes seized my laptop and made me miss my flight even though I was honest with them about who I am and what I do. I wrote an article on it that you can read here.
Crossing Borders: The Vast Differences Between the US and Canada

I never got any resolution on whether they had the right to copy my hard drive or seize my computer. I didn't know about the lawsuit but will contact the EFF today to see if I can join in on the fun.

My feeling is HELL NO they should not be allowed to seize your electronic devices without suspicion of wrongdoing or a warrant.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Next time, get yourself some TrueCrypt and use it, then let 'em take your laptop all they want to. They won't find anything next time.