Too much

August 1, 2008

The Department of Homeland Security is getting a little overzealous:

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.

It’s not the searches so much that are objectionable. There are court-accepted “border exceptions” to the Fourth Amendment’s prohibitions against unreasonable search & seizure. A “routine” search (of property, generally) can be done without any reasonable suspicion, but a “nonroutine” search (of the body) has a reasonableness requirement. Whether laptops and other electronic devices fall under the “routine” search rules is now a matter of dispute.

What’s hard to justify is the taking offsite for an “unspecified” period of time and the fact that contents can be shared with other agencies and even private entities without there being any suspicion of wrongdoing. The worst part of such overreaching is that it will make people skeptical of legitimate measures to protect us from those who would harm us.

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2 Responses to “Too much”

  1. Jim Wetzel Says:

    Yes, but if you want an empire, you might as well learn to love this stuff. Can’t expect Uncle S. to snarl fiercely at foreigners, then act all limited-constitutional-republic at home. How many personalities do you expect him to have, anyway?

  2. Doug Says:

    Your last sentence can’t be emphasized enough. You should put that in bold, underlined, and maybe with “blink” tags.


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