Saturday, August 02, 2008

You don't need this computer, right?

I heard about this months ago, and was worried. Hearing about it again makes me all the more perturbed.

PZ Myers:

As someone who takes his laptop everywhere, this is chilling news about the ongoing erosion of our rights:

Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop computer or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed.

Also, officials may share copies of the laptop's contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


Not to worry though. We are told this WILL NOT affect your privacy. And the government, especially this one, telling me that just makes me feel...all the worse.

What is this? They can just take my computer from me? Just for the heck of it? How is this right? How about they do a better job at surveillance, intel work, and law enforcement. And not just set up laws to allow them to randomly grab private property, just in case, or tap every phone, just in case.

Now, most of us are not involved in crime, that we know of. But why are we asked to surrender or personal property like this? At what point does this invasion of privacy not okay? Dogs sniffing, X-raying, open bags, no shoes, where is the line? At what point is too much being asked for us to function comfortably as a society. I was a little weirded when they started check laptop for any substances on them. But I let it slide, as long as I can see the computer and know it is safe, like I do when I place my wallet and bag on the belt.

And now they want to just up and walk off with the laptop, if they feel the need. How long 'til someone takes advantage of this policy for a quick buck?

I am just wondering how this will work in court? If you take someones computer and happen to find something criminally related (fraud, child pornography, illegal downloads, etc.) can it be acted upon, how is it different that grabbing into a persons coat, or bag, and lucking into something illicit. That is supposed to be inadmissible. So how is this going to work.

I went back to the original story at the WP. This is an issue now as the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the policy in April, so people are more aware of it now.

So, this is not new. But it is there to be used, widely. With the Drug War it has a use, with the War on Terror added uses. This ridiculous policy is just so wide open it is just a way to ignore the law on a whim...which defeats the point of drafting LAW! Ahem.

And while it is a not new policy it is getting used more and more. Again, a reason to not leave crap policy in the books to be abused.
Civil liberties and business travel groups have pressed the government to disclose its procedures as an increasing number of international travelers have reported that their laptops, cellphones and other digital devices had been taken -- for months, in at least one case -- and their contents examined.
So if a company is a threat to US business, grab one of their computers. If a political party or group is causing a given White House trouble, take their cellphones or blackberries and go through them. How are Republicans okay with this? Oh, right. They are in power. And civil liberties are not a big deal...yet.

And to close let us not forget how wide this policy is in materials that can be seized.

The policies cover "any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form," including hard drives, flash drives, cellphones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes. They also cover "all papers and other written documentation," including books, pamphlets and "written materials commonly referred to as 'pocket trash' or 'pocket litter.' "

May I remind you the current government is spying on Quakers as a potential threat. How comfortable are you to go to an airport?

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