Late last week, the Department of Homeland Security’s civil rights watchdog (now there’s an oxymoron) released a summary of its report on standards for searching and seizing electronic devices carried by travelers at America’s borders. And here’s a real shocker: it says everything’s okay.
…travelers along the nation’s borders may have their electronics seized and the contents of those devices examined for any reason whatsoever – all in the name of national security.
,,, “We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits,” the executive summary said.
Yeah, right. Requiring “reasonable suspicion” before seizing your iPhone is too burdensome and provides no benefit to civil liberties. Whoever wrote this obviously attended John “Torture Memo” Yoo’s popular seminar, “How to Say Ridiculous Shit About the War on Terror With a Straight Face.”
This is obviously bad news for people who cross the border. But in theory, it’s bad news for pretty much everybody who lives in Vermont. That’s because, as we all know, DHS has Congressional approval to set up checkpoints far away from the border — up to 100 miles away. And that applies to ocean (and lake) boundaries as well as borders with other countries. Which means that pretty much all of New England is within what the ACLU has called the “Constitution-free Zone.” Indeed, over half of all US residents live within the zone.
A picture of the Zone, after the jump.
So if you leave your house with an electronic device, best make sure it doesn’t contain any naughty pictures or texts in Arabic or pictures of Middle Eastern street scenes, as a New York man taking the train to Canada discovered in 2010:
At an Amtrak inspection point, Pascal Abidor showed his U.S. passport to a federal agent. He was ordered to move to the cafe car, where they removed his laptop from his luggage and “ordered Mr. Abidor to enter his password,” according to the lawsuit.
Agents asked him about pictures they found on his laptop, which included Hamas and Hezbollah rallies. He explained that he was earning a doctoral degree at a Canadian university on the topic of the modern history of Shiites in Lebanon.
Abidor was handcuffed, jailed, and questioned for three hours. His computer was not returned until 11 days later, and then only after his attorney complained.
Oh, one more thing about this “watchdog.” What it released, more than three years late, was merely a two-page summary of its findings. It has refused to release the full report. The ACLU has filed suit seeking its release.
Which begs the question: who is the watchdog watching?