Homeland Security: We Can Detain Your Laptop Indefinitely Without Cause

The Orwellian Department of Homeland Security claims that it can indefinitely confiscate laptops and iPods from law abiding citizens without any provocation or justification. The Department “clarified” their policies after several business travelers started asking the press why Homeland Security was fiddling with their laptops and PDAs for months on end.

DHS officials said the newly disclosed policies — which apply to anyone entering the country, including U.S. citizens — are reasonable and necessary to prevent terrorism. Officials said such procedures have long been in place but were disclosed last month because of public interest in the matter.

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.

The policies state that officers may “detain” laptops “for a reasonable period of time” to “review and analyze information.” This may take place “absent individualized suspicion.”

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.’ “

Reasonable measures must be taken to protect business information and attorney-client privileged material, the policies say, but there is no specific mention of the handling of personal data such as medical and financial records.

Senator Kickass Feingold (D-WI), sponsor of the unrelated Arbitration Fairness Act, plans to introduce legislation to require “reasonable suspicion” for border searches.

Defending the searches, Secretary Chertoff wrote in an Op-Ed that “the most dangerous contraband is often contained in laptop computers or other electronic devices.” He added that “searches have uncovered “violent jihadist materials” as well as images of child pornography.”

Just imagine what draconian Torquemada-esque searches they’ll devise once they realize even more ‘dangerous’ and ‘violent’ material lurks within people’s minds.

Travelers’ Laptops May Be Detained At Border [Washington Post]
(AP Photo/Mike Derer)