Travellers beware--again!

Discussion in 'News' started by palouse, Jun 27, 2008.

  1. Bad news for travelers: http://www.usnews.com/articles/news/national/2008/06/24/seizing-laptops-and-cameras-without-cause.html
     
  2. Definitely one of several good arguments for burning your overseas image files to DVD and posting copies of them back to yourself in advance of passing again through airports, baggage handling, customs, etc.

    It will be interesting to hear what comes up in the hearings mentioned in the article. Congress has the ball, in terms of further clarifying what the long-standing authority to inspect baggage really means, when it translates to the hundreds of GB of data that people now routinely carry with them. The papers in your briefcase, the currency in your wallet, etc., have been subject to the same sort of inspection for many years. The advent of very small, huge capacity storage devices has completely altered the landscape. It's sort of like inspecting baggage and finding rolls of microfilm containing thousands of images that no customs agent could possibly, personally see or understand without specialized equipment and the time to actually do the work. So the question is - are any forms of data (microflim, paper, binary data) - as legitimately subject to inspection as the courts have repeatedly said they are? The only way to change that is legislatively. That would be up the legislative agendas set by the leaders of each house of congress. Give 'em a call, if you've got the perfect border control vs. privacy recipe in mind - I'm sure they'd love to hear it.
     
  3. The implications of this are broader than merely affecting the rights of airline travelers and shows just how simple laws designed to protect us from terrorism can be abused. TSA inspecting for bomb-making/hazardous materials certainly does not extend to reading your email, acquiring information/personal records from your hard-drive and potentially sharing that information with iintelligence and law enforcement agencies ... or does it?
     
  4. That's the problem, Michael. As seen with the Khan network (out of Pakistan), detailed information is a type of bomb-making material. Money, likewise, is a such a material... and cryptography (such as large encryption keys ferried on portable storage devices) are central to harder-to-crack over-the-internet bad guy communications channels about finances and logistics. And of course, the days when purveyors of truly nasty child-exploiting wares out of, say, Russia or southeast Asia had to carry video tapes ... those days are long gone. But large MPGs and whatnot can now be deeply encrypted onto portable storage, and hauled around in relative obscurity without having to first transit overseas routers that are more easily traced back to unique IP addresses. When you bury 50GB of such exploitive material in a hidden file on a laptop drive, it can take an IT forensics guy a little while to have his bots sniff it out. Just a couple of examples.

    It's certainly not worth fretting about such things (searching-wise) unless you've got some other array of indicators that the person carrying the laptop/storage falls into some profile that merits a look. Tickets bought with a Visa card that tracks back to well-used Russian organized crime front-business accounts... or someone who's just done a 24- hour round trip through Thailand and back, that sort of thing.

    I've been singled out in Denver on a domestic flight. Business emergency, with little to go on for planning... so it was a one-way ticket, bought by sheer coincidence with a debit card, and I had no checked bags, plus I have the official IT Guy Long Hair. Red flags galore! I got the special bag check treatment flag for months afterwards... but only on domestic flights. Flying in and out of the country: not a problem. I don't envy anyone the job of having to think about ways to spot the habits or intent or circumstances of some bad actors out of millions of travelers. It would almost be refreshing to go back to the quaint old days when just risking a hijack detour to Cuba were all that one had to consider.
     
  5. "TSA inspecting for bomb-making/hazardous materials certainly does not extend to reading your email, acquiring information/personal records from your hard-drive and potentially sharing that information with iintelligence and law enforcement agencies ... or does it?" That's the scary part "..or does it?" Nobody knows, nobody tells, very few question! One more freedom is captive.
     
  6. -- "...and cryptography (such as large encryption keys ferried on portable storage devices) are" There is absolutely no need to move large encryption keys (aka one-time-pads) arround. Just use a 2Kbit key (or 4Kbit key if you're paranoid) for the typical asymetric encryption and you can be save that noone will be able to crack your stuff in any reasonable time. (The largest public key that was brocken by a brute force attack on thousands of machines working in parallel was obout 650 bits long (each bit is doubling the afford to be made)). Reasonable time is in that case many many many years (eventually longer than you live). And also using asymetric encryption, there is absolutely no need to move the (private) key at all. You just publish your public key on the internet. Also, (on the front of symetric cryptography), 3des and aes256 are regarded as "save for use", and their keylength is 168bits and 256bits.
     
  7. I'm simplifying a bit, Rainer. It's not like we're talking about hard drives full of huge keys. We're talking first and foremost about keys moving around courier-style, sometimes with, and sometimes without additional payload. But with keys - even just a couple kb of hash - the main thing is to get it to the other people who will need it (to encrypt communications with them) without any chance of that delivery being picked up by a man in the middle. There's a reason that diplomatic couriers carry disk drives to and from overseas embassies... and a reason that bad guys do the same. The Al Queda IT guy they picked up in Pakistan a couple years back had a laptop that was a treasure trove of keys, IM trails, VoIP targets, steganographic tools, and good ol' spreadsheets with org charts. A huge find, and just the tip of the iceberg.
     
  8. times have changed. we have to takle this seriously. I, Too would like to see things like they were in the "good old days" but there are nutcases ouit there who feel it is their goal in life to destroy western civilization. The Good, Calm, and Peaceful Muslims and America have not spoken out against these evil prople. Perhaps they are more afraid then we are. Many are here because it is not safe in their homeland. When we talk about Rights & Freedoms we must take into account that these evil folks take advantage of this to do their dirty work.
     
  9. We should ban the entire internet then if you're worried about embedded jpgs.
     
  10. I meant mpgs and think of all the terror that could have been spread with the Paris Hilton video.
     
  11. Obviously Paris Hilton is exactly the sort of thing for which other people want to destroy western civilization.
     
  12. Paris Hilton HAS destroyed western civilization!
     
  13. Makes me wonder if TSA has another list of people to harass, confiscate and inspection their computers, cameras, etc., thoroughly (hand) search their baggage, call in for extended interviews, and just generally be a nuisance, like journalists, activists, photographers, etal, especially when they can track your air travel. And they say Big Brothers is fiction. It's alive and well in our US government agencies. Oh shucks, they're reading this too...
     
  14. Your country is going down the toilet. I can't help thinking the terrorists have won.
     
  15. And they say Big Brothers is fiction.

    It's not really any different than Amazon.com recommending books for you based on your reading habits, is it? As I mentioned above, I've personally gotten onto the hand-inspected-luggage list. I'm not an "activitst," a reporter, or anything else that the tinfoil-hat crowd imagine are talked about in the break rooms at the airport. It was my specific transactional details that thew up a flag. Why? Because my travel arrangements and the way I paid the airline for it had an unusual feel to it (because it WAS unusual). How did the TSA know to pull me aside? My boarding pass had a special code on it. The airline with which I was doing business was aware of the status of my checked bags (none checked!), the speediness with which I'd purchased the one-way ticket (an hour before flying), and the means by which I bought it (debit card!). THEY (the business) said, "this is unusual."

    The TSA people, who saw the code on the boarding pass, were quick (considering the pile of carry-on stuff they looked through), careful, pleasant, and explained the likelihood that my next several flights - especially on the same airline - would probably involve the same extra three minutes. The delicious irony, of course, was that the "please step over here, sir" line was moving MUCH faster than the normal line. So, I know why they did it, I know what it's like, and haven't a complaint in the world. Of course, they didn't have an interest in my laptop's content... but that''s NOT the TSA, right? That's customs and immigration. People seem to get that confused a lot.
     
  16. "THEY (the business) said, "this is unusual." " At the behest of TSA--YES!!!!
     
  17. Sanyal, you picked a very sensative point to talk, so first of all ,thanks to you to put this kind af isuue. Some mediums to transfering data from one to anohter country, Internet (Beggest one), post/curiour, and already described- laptops and other storages, digital cameras, pen-drives/flash data cards, and so many oothers. Developement always brings problems with that, as we know every coin has two faces, so like that more the scince will advance for developments, it will dwfinetly bring more advanced problems too. The news you refered, might be bad news the routeen travelors, but it is all about the security. Toaday all the world is facing a terrorism issue, so all the security departments all over the world should be more alert and aware of mighty coming dangers. But this is realy a sensative matter, and no one can easily be in favour or unfavour of this news.
     
  18. Don't you find, Nick, that the business that owns the multi-million-dollar aircraft, and which is responsible for the hundreds of lives on the plane, and which is still reeling financially from the loss of business following 9/11, has an interest in trying to help spot the Richard "Shoe Bomber" Reid types based on anything obvious that sticks out in the way that they're booking their travel or boarding? It's not terribly insidious to rely on the behavior patterns that decades of experience have shown to be indicative of how some such people act. One wonders, if it was your job personally to contribute to the safety of those boarding a plane, exactly how you'd approch the issue. Specifically. Knowning the same things that thousands of professionals in that area know about human behavior.

    Just because they're not right every time doesn't make the caution they exercise pointless. If you don't agree that some thought can be given to when and how to be more thorough checking out some people boarding a plane, then your ONLY other two alternatives are to be completely intrusive about checking out everyone getting on the plane, or to never be that thorough. Those are your three choices. And if you realize that using judgement and experience isn't, itself, some tyrannical evil Big Brother scheme cooked up just to make people miserable, then you can have an honest conversation about whether or not one particular aspect of the strategy is better than the next. THAT's the conversation to be having... not silly comparisons to fascism and all of the other blather that too often pre-empts taking a deep breath and looking at it rationally. Plenty of room to debate the efficacy of one tactic or another, but there isn't a lot of room to debate the need to pay attention to who is boarding a plane and with what in their carry-on bags.
     
  19. My carrying pornographic images on a 2 gig CF card is not going to down a plane. My carrying trade secrets of Ben and Jerry's next flavor is not going to down a plane. My missing my hard drive, or my vacation pictures, or my laptop for 4 weeks is going to make me an embittered and reluctant flier, who may just give up flying or switch carriers. Why should the rights of the individual be secondary to the rights of a corporation? Credit cards are more closer tied to crime than debit cards. And I though cash was the currency of the realm! > Really? > I'd refrain from trampling all over individual rights and freedoms, for one, and keep a copy of the constitution and the relevant laws close at hand. And I'd be more forthright with Congress.
     
  20. Soon everyone will be require to travel Naked with a bio-chip implanted in your body with all your personal information. Now, this is really making me think twice on my upcoming vacation to Hawaii, will my electronics be safe coming back or is it safer just to leave them at home and be stolen in my own home. I don't know what to think, the world including ourselves are going mad!!!
     
  21. Now, this is really making me think twice on my upcoming vacation to Hawaii, will my electronics be safe coming back or is it safer just to leave them at home and be stolen in my own home.

    Are you flying to Hawaii from within the US, Noe? If so, you won't be going through customs. Again: it's not the TSA who search the one-in-a-million storage device. Customs officials have, for decades, had and used the authority to look at the contents of briefcases (including the papers therein), count currency, etc as people come and go between nations. This is not new. What IS new is that you can carry with you the equivalent of the encrypted equivalent of the local library (or a vast pile of something classified, ripped off during an inside job) with you in and out of the country on something smaller than a deck of cards. But this isn't even an issue on domestic flights. If you're flying between states (say, California to Hawaii), you do not pass through customs.

    But of note, there are endless articles like this posted here, and conspicuous by their absence are all of the people who've actually had this be an issue. To help, your faithful congress is about to have some hearings, in the interests of clarifying what they think should be the options for customs officials when it comes to the searches they've always had the option of doing. Your congress charters, funds, and provides oversight for customs/immigration, as well as for the TSA. Changes to their mandates are legislative matters. The people you elect, from your state, are the ones to talk to about reducing customs officials' leeway and mandate to do what they do.
     
  22. Why should the rights of the individual be secondary to the rights of a corporation?

    Boarding an aircraft isn't a right. It's a business transaction between you and the people that own the aircraft. You're conflating two separate issues that have been brought up, here. Having your bags checked by hand as you board ... that's not about whether your CF card's content is dangerous to the aircraft. That's about whether you've got a garrot, a ceramic knife, two ounces of strong acid, a thin sheet of plastic explosives or something else similar in your bags. That's the TSA's territory and concern. This is NOT THE SAME as having your bags searched by customs when you happen to be crossing a border. They're looking for fresh fruit, sausage, drugs, libraries of child porn from Thailand or Russia, or - especially if they've got some reason to think so - the kind of information that does transit national borders, and does involve the groups that blow up trainloads of people, and worse.

    Stop confusing the TSA's routine inspections of bags for physically dangerous stuff being brought on board with customs inspections of bags when people cross borders (which can involve traveling by car, train, busse, ship, aircraft, or by foot across a border to or from another country).

    I'd refrain from trampling all over individual rights and freedoms, for one, and keep a copy of the constitution and the relevant laws close at hand. And I'd be more forthright with Congress.

    That's nice. So, what, specifically would you do? Specifically? You seem very tuned into the issues. If you were telling a crew of customs officials how they were to deal with each of the things the law (not some nefarious Bush administration villain) requires them to investigate as people cross the border today, how would you have them do it? Let's say you've got a name in a passport that pops up as being related to someone who routinely carries counterfeit US $100 bills out of North Korea (which is a cottage industry there). Do you just smile and send them through, or do you search their bags? Is that search of what they're carrying across the border contrary to the constitution, a copy of which you have right there with you? If so, why have you not been bothered by such searches until just now? A folder full of printed photographs, which have been subject to customs inspection for decades, isn't any different than a CF card full of photographs. Have your principles changes, or just the practical nature of the problem at hand?
     
  23. Dude! you have naked pictures of Ben and Jerry? Hook us up man! "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin
     
  24. > Seeing those 2 in the buff would put anybody off of ice cream for ever! HA! > Well said! 'nuff said!
     
  25. Yes, well, sometimes Benjamin Frankin had body guards, and sometimes had a military escort keeping people from the freedom of doing whatever they wanted to him. That's an appropriately famous quote. But it would indeed be interesting to get his take on "essential liberty" if, at the time, the British royalists had been sending suicide bombers to - armed with something the could hide in a powdered wig - to sink ships full of civilians. There was plenty of brutality during Franklin's time, as well as plenty of espionage and various ways of intercepting messages carried by couriers aboard ship... but there weren't precedents like the sarin gas attack in Japan to think about.

    The continental army, at the time, DID stand guard around water supplies, and challenge people to show that they weren't about to drop a piece of rotting meat into a town's well. Was that deprivation of liberty (the momentary inconvenience while accessing a well) the sort of essential-liberty-waiving, in a time of conflict, that Franklin would have thought corrosive? Well, he was alive and talking about such things at the time, and didn't seem to think so. He certainly DID complain about any notion of giving up the right to talk about such things, and talk people did - and still can. You know, just like we're doing right now.

    Also, give me the liberty of never having seen Ben OR Jerry naked, or give me death.
     
  26. Matt, you and I will probably never change each others mind, but let's maintain our respect for each other and stop where we are. OK? I'm not saying you are right, or that you are wrong. Just that we have different takes on what the problem is and what the solution/s might be. My intent in posting the link yesterday was not to start, nor engage in, a debate, but simply to let the traveling photography community that there were new "traditions" being observed. Cheers!
     
  27. Nick, I think you're certainly right to bring it up. I got a solid lecture on this issue from a well-traveled techie friend last year. Interestingly, HIS concern was about how other countries might perceive the contents of one's browser cache files, etc - NOT the risk of your laptop spending a week in customs limbo on the way back. Regardless of how one ways the specfics of customs rules and how they are interpreted by the people who do that job, the reality is that you sure don't want all of your eggs in one basket, photographically. I like Summer Leif's mention earlier about burning DVDs while abroad, and popping them in the post to yourself long before even heading to the airport. Never mind customs... bags, gear, even little CF cards - they can all get damaged or stolen in the circus that is an airport. My motivation, Nick, isn't some rhetorical victory. It's just the provision of perspective on a complex topic. Cheers, likewise! Have a great weekend.
     
  28. One is treated as a possible terrorist to protect him and everybody else against terrorism. Weird I think. So don't take any information with you on a medium that customs can/will recognize as such a medium. Send your pictures over the internet to your home place or friends or whoever, but don't take them through customs into your home country USA, because chances of destruction are not zero.
     
  29. Here in Colombia the police/army killed Raul Reyes and siezed laptops, thumb drives and cd'd that contained information absolutely establishing that Reyes and others associated with a leftist rebel group known as FARC was indeed receiving money and aid from Hugo Chavez, the pres. of Venezuela in opposition to the Colombian elected government. This information would NOT have been available without the siezure and documentation of the files on the storage media. The people who scream the loudest about invasion of their rights (even fior their own safety) are the first to cry out that the govt. isn't doing their job when an incident occures. I would much rather be safe than sorry!
     
  30. One is treated as a possible terrorist to protect him and everybody else against terrorism

    And in the camera store, they keep the nice new Nikon D3 samples behind the counter because they have to assume that anyone coming in the door might steal it. And the bank locks up the money because everyone has to be treated as a potential thief. People in urban areas lock their doors because they can't default to a position of trusting everyone. Wedding photographers have a policy of taking deposits from customers because their default position has become that they simply cannot trust that they will otherwise see the transaction go well. A few bad apples have always altered how we must interact with each other. This is not new.
     
  31. Matt, you present a very eloquent argument, the core basics of which are probably spot on. But I think you are being a bit disengenous by flooding us with a barrage of specifics. It IS possible in situations as grand as this to talk about principles of right and wrong. Franklin's quote has some core principles that are worth reflecting upon. No society will ever be totally safe. This shouldn't be a foreign concept to the individual, as almost all activities we do have associated risk. What this whole issue is about is balance, through negating the risk as much as possible without impinging on what it is that makes us a vibrant, creative and functioning society. The view from outside, is that the US has gone too far (although I admit, I don't know what it really is like to be over there). Other countries have faced terrorism threats for a lot longer than the US has (eg. England, Sri Lankar, Spain, India etc.), and haven't reacted as draconianly as the US has. Perhaps the stakes are higher now because of the types of weapons potentially accessable, I don't know. But I still think a bit of relection by the US wouldn't hurt.
     
  32. Thanks for the heads up Nick. I can do without some of the the follow up posts though.
     
  33. Matt says > Boarding an aircraft is not an individuals automatic acknowledgment that he or she has given up any rights. Nor can it legally be, You are making false statements to support your faulty conclusions. All IMHO! As is yours. Bernie-> And this is the problem, the "balance" is being defined by questionable consitutional means, and by extension, the definition is also questionable.
     
  34. You are making false statements to support your faulty conclusions

    False? Boarding an aircraft is not a right (well, perhaps it is in countries with nationalized airlines - I'm referring to the U.S.). While the constitution speaks to freedom of movement and association, it certainly doesn't force you to take a privately owned aircraft to go anywhere, and thus doesn't force you to be subjected to the regulations that govern that activity. Just as the scrutiny involved in getting a driver's license (which places a burden on your finances, privacy, and actions) has passed constitutional muster, so does making use of the public airspace - whether on your own/chartered cradt, or on a big carrier. The state of things isn't really an opinion issue. The issue, as Bernie points out, is the balancing act.

    There is no way to establish the equalibrium in advance. Legislators can take a crack at it (and they are rarely right on the first try), and the executive branch will make the most or least of what they understand to be the boundaries set by such legislation as they do what they must, and the courts will weigh in, sometimes thrashing around for a while in their pursuit of interpreting, as needed, both the constition and the acts of the other two branches in relation to it. As a last stop, there are amendments to the constitution. And even those get fine-tuned or trashed (see, Prohibition, for example, and the criminal, law enforcement, legislative, and judicial mayhem that came and went with its establishment and later tearing down).

    Meanwhile, as all of this churns over the course of the years it takes any such change to settle down, everyone with a dog in the fight proclaims the rise of fascism, or communism, or anarchy, or some other bit of hyperbole... and usually because it suits them to whip up such language in advance of an election. My purpose, here, is to take some of the hot air out of pronouncements of national toilet-swirling, the end of civilization, or the epidemic harrassment of photographers, etc.
     
  35. Nick that's all I can add. The last time I was in a thread like this it got deleted. I didn't even get to mention what the TSA did to me in Reno Nevada. All I'll add to this thread is, HEY! I just found a brand new, in the box Nikon FM2n. That should keep the thread alive.
     
  36. Hey Michael, we should go shoot together sometime! email me. As long as we don't have to deal with HLS!
     
  37. Cool, I'm in Pullman. I spend a lot of time driving around and shooting old barns and stuff.
     
  38. mike dixon

    mike dixon Moderator

    If you want to chat, take it to email.
     
  39. We did Mike, man never mind, I'll talk to Josh
     
  40. Nick I sent you an email so we could discuss this without intervention.
     
  41. In photography, I think films will Return.....!!! ?? . As some people here looking like in favour of those
     
  42. Pankaj, even film isn't safe. Fly into Reno Nevada with it and see. They have these real big guys with those zip tie handcuffs, I speak from experience. Now I have to say, that guy is no longer with TSA in Reno, I think he's selling Big Gulps at 7-11 now.
     
  43. Michael, I couldns't understand how the films are not safe, I know only one unsefty with films, that is X-Ray scanning, but as your words, I don't understand, can you explain more...
     
  44. Pankaj, I was in the Reno airport a year or so ago and had film of various speeds. The TSA guidelines say that a hand inspection can be requested. The airport wasn't crowded and I didn't want to separate the fast film from the 100 speed stuff so I handed the person in front of the machine the film and politely asked for a hand inspection. She told me she didn't have to do it and put it all in a basket on the X-Ray machine. I picked it up and asked for a supervisor. Well that blew the guys top off behind the X-Ray machine and he came after me. They got me in the middle section, behind the plexiglass and did a full search . Here's the bad part. The big guy behind the machine, when he came to get me he left the conveyor belt running and luggage was just rolling past without anyone looking at it. He could have had 3 AK-47s past just to grab my film and I. What makes this story worse is right before you enter the checkpoint line they have a sign, "If you would like a hand inspection of film please ask". I did and got slammed into the center search area. I even said please.
     
  45. So while you have these guys here defending TSA and customs my guess is most of them have never had an "incident". If you could see the faces of the other passengers while you are being dragged into a holding area you would know what I mean. They all have this, "If I say anything at all that could be me." look. Do we, as Americans really deserve or want that treatment for a false sense of security? Re-read this thread, you have guys worried about em-bedded mpgs and jpgs crossing the border. This is how silly that is, all one would have to do with one of these super dangerous movies is upload it to an internet storage site before they travel home. When they get home, sign in and download. That is the false sense of security, thinking you're stopping some electronic terror code when in reality it could just be downloaded. Silly huh? I said it before, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin"
     
  46. mike dixon

    mike dixon Moderator

    "If you would like a hand inspection of film please ask". I did and got slammed into the center search area. I even said please.
    By your own account, you didn't get "slammed into the center search area" simply for requesting a hand inspection. You pulled items back off the x-ray conveyor after a security person had placed them there to be scanned. After interfering with a scan, you were taken aside for a more thorough inspection.
     
  47. Seriously Mike you need to find a hobby. I'm not even going to re-explain it to you, you have lost all comprehension dogging me around photonet. I wish you could find someone else to stalk. I emailed Josh.
     
  48. That scan you talk about was an X-Ray of 800 speed film
     
  49. my guess is most of them have never had an "incident"

    Exactly the whole point, here, Michael. A run-in with a lousy cop doesn't mean that law enforcement or the laws themelves are systematically, idealogically sinister - or not worthy, in broader terms. Likewise with people who check carry-on bags for dangerous items, or tend border crossings. But the tone with which such anecdotes are delivered is often tainted with gratuitous extrapolation, disengenuous wailing and nashing of teeth, and no small dose of transparent electioneering. Your suggestion that a guy who wasn't good at his job is probably no longer there is exactly why - despite some people's implications to the contrary - this isn't about the TSA, but instead about that guy. Sorry you ran into an individual who didn't handle your carry-on as you'd like.

    Re-read this thread, you have guys worried about em-bedded mpgs and jpgs crossing the border. This is how silly that is, all one would have to do with one of these super dangerous movies is upload it to an internet storage site before they travel home. When they get home, sign in and download.

    Do you actually know anyone in law enforcement, counter-intel, counter-terrorism, computer forensics, etc? Or even read up on what those people are called upon to do? The most important thing they unearth when someone on their radar screen crosses a border and they have a look at the documents they're carrying is the connections to other things already on their radar screen. Organized crime and terrorist cells leave a wake behind them. A trail. Increasingly, the key to finding that trail is to have a chance - when one of the people you think could be proximate to that activity happens to be crossing a border - at information. Especially email addresses that intersect with those that are known to be related elsewhere, web caches that show patterns connected to other things, and traces of the IP addresses involved in exactly the sort of up/download stuff you're talking about. A laptop siezed in Pakistan was shown to be the source of posted Al Queda videos, a PGP encryption hub for the group's e-mail, and the parking spot for wire transfer keys. Those things don't bring down planes directly, or blow up embassies, directly. But they bring down the groups that have a history of such things, and which are planning more.

    It would be impossible to make any regular use of randomly selected laptops or portable media in this regard. And that's why the people who do the searches - just like decades of document searches at borders before them - do so with other criteria driving the decision making. Which means that one's photos of Paris while on vacation really aren't an issue. Unless you take the shortcut through Damascus and Tehran on your way back to the US. It's not unlike the trouble that you'll get while driving a car onto a ferry headed from Maine to Nova Scotia, and the customs people notice that you seem to have brand new tires. That fits patterns that have come to be very predictive of all sorts of other likely issues, and they'll unload your entire car to spot it. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't. And it's annoying. But it's not frequent, and it's certainly not some brand new indication of Big Brother at the border, personally mandated by *X&$#**X&$#**X&$#**X&$#* Cheney to alarm his political opponents.

    The first time I watched that particular scenario play out in front of me (literally, the car in front of me), it was on Bill Clinton's watch. Silly? Spend some time talking, personally, with people who actually interact with the bad guys. You might me surprised how you redefine your use of that word. Silly? I prefer to use that word in connection with people who hear about a tech-laden traveler of no obvious means traveling out of northern Pakistan on a student visa, with passport stamps in Syria, Munich, and Indonesia. With a ticket paid for on someone else's credit card that has a billing address in Lansing, Michigan. And the silly part is that they hear that that guy's laptop got a once-over, and immediately assume that President Bush is personally looking to steal their own identity, plant Super Secret Spyware on their iPod, and check out the beach pictures of their family on vacation. That's silly.
     
  50. With all due respect Matt I feel I can no longer contribute to threads like this. I seem to have fallen into the scope of a moderator who has made it his sole purpose to get me banned. While I liked our discussions I will now only contribute to helping others and the more light-hearted stuff. I'm in no way dodging the debate, I'm dodging the stalker, do you remember our discussion from the other night that disappeared? I wish you well in the discussion and in a public forum, maybe we can meet in a less restricted discussion sometime.
     
  51. a tech-laden traveler of no obvious means traveling out of northern Pakistan on a student visa, with passport stamps in Syria, Munich, and Indonesia. With a ticket paid for on someone else's credit card that has a billing address in Lansing, Michigan

    No one is arguing that people who tick of these sort of warning bells should not be stopped and searched. But it is the treatment of the ordinary citizen like a criminal that gets peoples goat up. I don't know if it is still happening, but last I heard, EVERY foreigner entering the US had to be FINGERPRINTED, no less. Talk about paranoia. And talk about a gross invasion of peoples right to privacy (and yes I know, we are free not to come to your country, but that isn't the point).
     
  52. No doubt someone will say we have no rights in your country, so I will rephrase that last sentence to read "And talk about a gross invasion of peoples privacy".
     
  53. The point is simply that its an invasion of privacy. It's like if the Wal-mart greeters had the right to search your pockets and text messages on your cell phone on your way out of the store in case you took pictures of their low-low prices or stole a pack of gum. Because of a visible minority, everyone else loses their privacy.Too bad really. I certainly won't be travelling to the states again anytime soon.
     
  54. Think twice if your going to the games and care about your privacy! ================= Olympic visitors' data is at risk http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/computersecurity/2008-06-10-olympicspy_N.htm?csp=34 "There is a high likelihood ラ virtually 100% ラ that if an individual is of security, political, or business interest to Chinese ナ security services or high technology industries, their electronics can and will be tampered with or penetrated,"
     
  55. mike dixon

    mike dixon Moderator

    I don't know if it is still happening, but last I heard, EVERY foreigner entering the US had to be FINGERPRINTED, no less.
    Same thing happens in Japan, even though there have never been any terrorist attacks by foreigners there.
     
  56. What about warrants? I understand when you pass through customs you are effectively letting them search EVERYTHING and they have the legal right to sieze anything that does not conform to customs laws...but what about things they think might not? I really am not that conversant on the various customs laws, but it does seem to be a streach from "we know it violates customs laws" to, "well we have no idea, but we are going to sieze it and look through it to see if maybe it does". A customs search is normally a mild inconvenience, but siezing a laptop or electronic storage could be a major one, and weeks or months isn't normally resonable (sure it might take a long time to get around to seaching the media, I get that). So I say why not laptops in this case? I understand I am preverting and merging two ammendments...but why not resonable search and siezure? I see nothing wrong with customs checks, I see nothing wrong with siezing things that violate customs laws or they strongly suspect does...but if it is not obvious as an outright violation I think they darned well should get a warrant/court order to sieze whatever it is that they want to, inform there person of who and how to keep track of their siezed goods and a way to check to find out when it might eventually clear customs. I find when someone has to go through some 'red tape' they are more reluctant to to capricously apply their powers. Combine that with a little bit of oversight ("so why do you want to sieze this woman's laptop? Oh, she is on under investigation for trafficking in narcotics." of "Why do you want to sieze the CDs? Oh, he looks suspicious...no".) and things might just work a bit more equitably while still addressing the concerns some have stated.
     
  57. Matthew N: Not to split too many hairs (though, of course, that's what this is all about... we're down to the fine points of it): the protections against unlawful search and seizure don't apply until you and your goods are in the country. That's the whole point. Until you and your stuff passes through customs and immigration, you're in the international airport limbo zone when it comes to those specific legal issues. The theory, of course, is that once you DO have your laptop/sandwich/whatnot through customs, and you're standing in line for taxi... then all of the restrictions on searches and seizures, as you described them, are completely in effect. The idea of passing through customs is that it's the approval of the customs and immigration officials that propel you and your stuff formally into the country you're entering.

    When you're carrying a laptop across the border, you're really not doing anything different than if you were to ship it across the border by UPS or the postal service. If I went to a retailer in Germany, bought a laptop, and had them ship it to my U.S. adddress, it could get held up in customs for weeks (though of course this is usually very rare). If the German store put the laptop in the hands of an employee, to make an insanely expensive delivery to your house in the U.S., the same thing could happen. And if you carry it, yourself, again - the same thing can happen. This doesn't just apply to items in sealed factory boxes, obviously.
     
  58. I don't think some of you truly understand the limits of our current inspection policies. The next time you fly take out any four once plastic bottle of liquid in your TSA mandated 1-quart zip-lock bag and shove in your back pocket. Smile as you walk through the metal detector. Risk of detection = zero. Inspection is a farce.
     
  59. I agree with you Matt on everything you are saying. I still don't believe that is the approach customs should be taking however. I am not saying it is improper or against that law that they are doing it, just simply not the best way to go about it in my opinion and I doubt there is much increased 'catching' of people while doing this (I don't doubt they are catching some extra people) that they wouldn't catch in my scenario. There very well might be a significant amount less hassle for travelers. I think that people can be inconvenienced for the sake of law enforcement or the well being of others, but those advantages have to be weighed against the inconvenience or worse for others that the system causes.
     
  60. Matthew: I would never contend that the specific rules of engagement are perfect, or that the sort of tips or intel that drive the thorough searching of one laptop vs. the untold thousands that never get a look are without tons of room for improvement. It's a totally thankless job. People complain about the harrasment, and then they complain that "the dots were not connected" if security people couldn't predict the acts of deliberate, careful bad guys who spend years planning things. You can't win in that situation, so you try to balance. I wouldn't want the job of trying to set that balance day to day, but nor would I want to be the guy in front of a congressional hearing being asked how something slipped through the cracks and wound up being part of some really hideous event. The first thing to remember is that the people who have those jobs are just people like you and me. Some have the social graces and some don't, that's certainly true and always will be. And of course, some airline passengers are loons, too. Plenty to go around.
     
  61. After 9/11 we had armed Military at all airports, armed undercover Marshalls on each plane with guns. Our government reacted quickly with armed personel till they could get assets around the world and in the US to use other forms of technology to keep us safe. Is it perfect, NO, Have we had another 9/11, NO, Will we have another 9/11, YES. Our little world in the US joined the rest of the world after 9/11.
     
  62. jbs

    jbs

    Matt, you are a fantastic apologist! Good work!
     
  63. mike dixon

    mike dixon Moderator

    Jay, you're awesome at avoiding meaningful discussion by mindlessly applying loaded labels! Good job of lowering the level of debate!
     
  64. jbs

    jbs

    Not debating, making an observation, Mike.
     

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