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Homeland Security's laptop seizures: Interview with Rep. Sanchez

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Demeter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-17-11 12:43 PM
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Homeland Security's laptop seizures: Interview with Rep. Sanchez

For those who regularly write and read about civil liberties abuses, it's sometimes easy to lose perspective of just how extreme and outrageous certain erosions are. One becomes inured to them, and even severe incursions start to seem ordinary. Such was the case, at least for me, with Homeland Security's practice of detaining American citizens upon their re-entry into the country, and as part of that detention, literally seizing their electronic products -- laptops, cellphones, Blackberries and the like -- copying and storing the data, and keeping that property for months on end, sometimes never returning it. Worse, all of this is done not only without a warrant, probable cause or any oversight, but even without reasonable suspicion that the person is involved in any crime. It's completely standard-less, arbitrary, and unconstrained. There's no law authorizing this power nor any judicial or Congressional body overseeing or regulating what DHS is doing. And the citizens to whom this is done have no recourse -- not even to have their property returned to them.

When you really think about it, it's simply inconceivable that the U.S. Government gets away with doing this. Seizing someone's laptop, digging through it, recording it all, storing the data somewhere, and then distributing it to various agencies is about the most invasive, privacy-destroying measure imaginable. A laptop and its equivalents reveal whom you talk to, what you say, what you read, what you write, what you view, what you think, and virtually everything else about your life. It can -- and often does -- contain not only the most private and intimate information about you, but also information which the government is legally barred from accessing (attorney/client or clergy/penitent communications, private medical and psychiatric information and the like). But these border seizures result in all of that being limitlessly invaded. This is infinitely more invasive than the TSA patdowns that caused so much controversy just two months ago. What kind of society allows government agents -- without any cause -- to seize all of that whenever they want, without limits on whom they can do this to, what they access, how they can use it: even without anyone knowing what they're doing?

This Homeland Security conduct has finally received some long-overdue attention over the past several months as a result of people associated with WikiLeaks or Bradley Manning being subjected to it. In July, Jacob Appelbaum, a WikiLeaks volunteer, was detained for hours at Newark Airport, had his laptop and cellphones seized (the cellphones still have not been returned), and was told that the same thing would happen to him every time he tried to re-enter the country; last week, it indeed occurred again when he arrived in Seattle after a trip to Iceland, only this time he was afraid to travel with a laptop or cellphone and they were thus unable to seize them (they did seize his memory sticks, onto which he had saved a copy of the Bill of Rights). The same thing happened to 23-year-old American David House after he visited Bradley Manning in the Quantico brig and worked for Manning's legal defense fund: in November, House returned to the U.S. from a vacation in Mexico with his girlfriend and her family, was detained, and had his laptop and memory sticks seized (they were returned only after he retained the ACLU of Massachusetts to demand their return).

But this is happening to far more than people associated with WikiLeaks...
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Demeter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-17-11 12:48 PM
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1. The War on WikiLeaks By John Pilger

...In recent weeks, the US Justice Department has established a secret grand jury just across the river from Washington in the eastern district of the state of Virginia. The object is to indict Julian Assange under a discredited espionage act used to arrest peace activists during the first world war, or one of the war on terror conspiracy statutes that have degraded American justice. Judicial experts describe the jury as a deliberate set up, pointing out that this corner of Virginia is home to the employees and families of the Pentagon, CIA, Department of Homeland Security and other pillars of American power....
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ChairmanAgnostic Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-17-11 12:58 PM
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2. Big Brother would be proud.
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enough Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-17-11 01:29 PM
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3. k&r (nt)
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Demeter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-17-11 01:32 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Your name says it all! Thanks!
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fatbuckel Donating Member (518 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-17-11 02:04 PM
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5. Do you have info on who else this is happening to? I`d like to identify a pattern.
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dixiegrrrrl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-17-11 02:07 PM
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6. Interestingly, if you send your electronic stuff home via cargo, no problem.
Since cargo is not inspected at all.( Best to send to a friend's address, tho)

I get the fact they are targeting "trouble makers".
And I get the fact they can and have done the same with anyone they choose to target.

Which means there will now be a booming business in creating ways,methods, items to smuggle your data in and out of country.

I for one would never take a lap top or cell phone on a flight.
I would have one waiting for me at destination, tho.
This is assuming that
a. I HAVE TO travel a lot
b. I can afford the hassle of not taking those items past the Gestapo.

sadly, the government is too infiltrated by now for legal recourse to be effective.

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reggie the dog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-17-11 03:15 PM
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7. my laptop and cell phone generally stay
here in europe..... i see no reason to bring them to the usa. the computer is full of illegally downloaded music for one, and the phone doesnt work in the states....
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saras Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-17-11 04:30 PM
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8. Harassment, pure and simple
Anyone involved in anything genuinely criminal (well, excepting the stupid who make it onto 'dumb crime' shows) has the sense to encrypt sensitive information, if not conceal it steganographically, and send it over the internet. If you delete things from your hard disk and wipe it, while they *may* be able to recover them, it is difficult, slow, and expensive, and will only be done if circumstances REALLY justify it. And in general, these people just aren't that smart - look how many stories there are of them not even knowing about multiple operating systems, or otherwise demonstrating spectacular incompetence.

The procedure seems to serve no purpose except to deny people they disapprove of but can't charge with anything real access to their own data and/or possessions.
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midnight Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-17-11 07:23 PM
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9. K&R
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