Friday, June 20, 2008

Search Me

. . . and search my laptop, CDs, flash drive, and stand-alone back-up drive, too. This is precisely what the customs and border patrol agents are allowed to do if they damn well please.

That's right. A U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the right of these people to poke through your computer files even without reasonable suspicion of a crime. There's an excellent analysis of the issues involved here, but let me put this to you in plain English. The courts have just held that nothing on your computer or any other electronic storage device you're crossing a US border with is immune from search and seizure by a government agent. You would think that to do this, the search would have to be "reasonable." This is a reading of the 4th Amendment that courts have long upheld. They have also said that the executive branch can operate outside of the amendment's requirement for a warrant by something called "border search exception." Makes sense--customs agents at the border should be able to look in your suitcase and luggage without a warrant.

But such searches, the courts have said, must be "reasonable." Searches that involve the person himself, for example, are not reasonable without a warrant. Not any more, says the Ninth Circuit. Not only can these people rummage through all of your files on electronic devices (including your cell phone, by the way), but they can copy them and store them indefinitely if they want. It rejected arguments that a laptop is an extension of a person or his home.

Are you kidding me??? Your private files--emails, web sites, etc.--can be snooped on without any reason whatever? And the government can hold this information for as long as it chooses and use it against you later if it chooses? Correct.

These kind of outrages against civil liberties could not have even been conceived of in days past. But since 9/11 the extension of fascist powers to the government in this country has become routine.

I just happened upon this story. I wonder how many other similar outrages are being done without our knowing?
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