DHS watchdog: DHS can search all your devices within 100 mi of US border

The DHS office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties -- a watchdog that's supposed to keep the DHS in check -- has concluded that it's fine for the DHS to stop anyone within 100 miles of the US border, without any suspicion or warrant, and search all the data on all their devices. But they won't say why:

“There should be a reasonable, articulate reason why the search of our electronic devices could lead to evidence of a crime,” Catherine Crump, an ACLU staff attorney, said in a telephone interview. “That’s a low threshold.”

The DHS watchdog’s conclusion isn’t surprising, as the DHS is taking that position in litigation in which the ACLU is challenging the suspicionless, electronic-device searches and seizures along the nation’s borders. But that conclusion nevertheless is alarming considering it came from the DHS civil rights watchdog, which maintains its mission is “promoting respect for civil rights and civil liberties.”

“This is a civil liberties watchdog office. If it is doing its job property, it is supposed to objectively evaluate. It has the power to recommend safeguards to safeguard Americans’ rights,” Crump said. “The office has not done that and the public has the right to know why.”

Toward that goal, the ACLU on Friday filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding to see the full report that the executive summary discusses.

DHS Watchdog OKs ‘Suspicionless’ Seizure of Electronic Devices Along Border [David Kravets/Wired]


    1. 197 million, give or take a few hundred thousand visitors. In other words, not only can they sniff anything one transmits, now most of the population can have the source, (with all one’s contacts and other personal data including financial and healthcare) seized at any time FOR NO REASON.

      1. That map omits the fact that the ‘border’ also includes customs posts at international airports. It appears that – while DHS hasn’t tried it yet – a checkpoint anywhere within 100 miles of an airport with customs service would be fair game. I think there may be a few spots in Wyoming that would still have the fourth amendment in force, but they’re a bit hard to get to.

  1. Encrypt those devices folks! That, or just FEDEX/UPS them ahead of time and save yourself the hassle.

    1. Goods shipped across the border have less protection than things you bring with you, because you’re not there to ask questions.  So if you’re thinking about shipping your hard drive or computer, encrypt it too.

      1.  Eh, one’s mind need to be encrypted. Oh, er… wait. No. That needs to be thought out as some are trying to encrypt children’s minds while throwing away the key. Bummer.

        1. I’m probably safe. My mind needs a good defrag and a session with reg-repair before any useful data can be extracted.

          1. I see you’re running WinMind… you might consider switching to LinMind instead.  It’s open source, but way more secure and a lot more fun to use.

    2.  But that’s the thing – you don’t need to be *crossing* the border to be searched – you just need to be *near* the border to be searched. So, the DHS says it can search anyone in Detroit, for example, without warrant or probable cause.

      1. For quite some time, Immigration and Border Patrol routinely boarded trains in Buffalo, including ones not intending to cross the border (terminating in Buffalo or continuing on toward Rochester or Erie)

      2. Considering international airports are included as “borders”, there’s no safe place in Michigan.

  2. 2/3rds of the US population lives within the constitution-free zone [aclu.org] via slashdot.org which went to 530 comments yesterday. . .

  3. Is this 100 miles within the US border or does this extend 100 miles into Mexico and Canada?  The US loves to extend its domestic laws out into other countries.

    1. Wait…the US of fucking A, my country, thinks that it’s laws are domestic? Hum, when did THAT happen?! Lemme check the Monroe Doctrine here…

      1.  Therefore, be afraid. Be very afraid. Eh, while I’m here, let me paraphrase something: So far from God. So close the the United States. We are not all idjits, but the inmates have taken over the asylum. The rest of us are trying to work on this problem, but it is an on going thing.

  4. Well, of course. The government should be able to inspect anything they want, anywhere, anytime, right?  At least for the 99%.  Am I right? 

    Maybe I’m dreaming, but didn’t DHS used to stand for something like Dept. of Human Services, or something?  What happened? 

    1. Eh, apparently we wanted to go with the Nazi references instead. Thanks w., you stupid fucking yankee son-of-a-bitch.

      edit: Sorry. I kinda admire H.W. while I don’t agree with him. Perhaps I was thinking of Barbara there….

      1. Hey dude, don’t call him a Yankee.  While the fucker was born in Connecticut, he spend the vast majority of his life, including most of his childhood, NOT in the Northeastern US.  Yankee might mean ‘murica in the rest of the world, but within the US, it means New England (all the shit east and north of New York state), and that asshole isn’t from New England.

  5. It seems from the article that some aspects of this policy/law have been tested in court and others haven’t. But it isn’t quite clear which are which. That would be good to know. This is ugly stuff, but thankfully our executive branch’s power overreaches don’t always hold up.

  6. This is a rather astonishing overreach, since the Supreme Court case which determined that interior checkpoints were legal, United States v. Martinez-Fuerte (1976), expressly required probable cause to carry out a search: “We have held that checkpoint searches are constitutional only if justified by consent or probable cause to search.”

    They must be angling to have the Supreme Court reverse itself. 

    1. Probably going to use the argument that refusal is either (a) probable cause for search or (b) justification for pain compliance until ‘consent’ is granted.

  7. Some of the Wired comments made my head hurt. But then again, with all the fuckery and media cover-ups, I don’t know who to trust anymore.

    But back on topic, this is just terrifying. 

  8. Having lived near the New York/Canadian border most of my life, I can confirm that the Border Patrol sets up roadblocks 50 miles from the border and dismantles your car from the inside out if you look suspicious.

    1. I got pulled out driving down to Burning Man one year. Fully packed car, but us not being stupid, nothing in it but camping gear, not even food, so after the sniffer dogs turned their noses up at my car we were free to go. Not so much for the boys from Whistler with a roach in the ashtray, or the dudes returning to Colorado from Banff who I guess realized they were going to be busted so ate all the shrooms they were trying to bring back with them. Never seen so many giggly people happy to be handcuffed to chairs before. Moral of the story, don’t tell them you’re going to Burning Man.

      1. There’s plenty of whooping cough still. We had a big adult outbreak a couple of years ago.

    1. Yes.  Also all of Michigan, Florida, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Washington DC, and Massachusetts. 

      And spitting distance to all of Vermont, New York, and Maryland, as well.  

      Also all the population centers of California, Oregon, and Washington State.

  9. Well, that’s probably the last nail in the coffin on my ever visiting the US again.  The kids have been asking about Disneyland, but maybe we’ll go to the one in Europe or something.   I’m not a criminal, but I am a ‘foreigner’ in US terms, and I have no interest in getting treated like that. 

    I live about 20 miles from the US border and haven’t crossed it in 4 years (and that was for a day trip, the first in a decade).  It may never happen again, if this is the standard of human rights.

    Of course, as a foreigner I never really qualified for rights in any case.  Nobody in the US got upset with our phones getting tapped – it isn’t even a legal issue.  And nobody was particularly bothered with non-US citizens getting toasted by drones. 

    All of this is just extension of the definition of ‘enemy’ to include US citizens as well as the rest of the world.  With any luck it is reaching the extent of the bubble and will collapse soon, but there are a lot of perverse incentives at play.  Until then, enjoy your oligarchy.

    1. I was at Disney for xmas a couple years ago. Worst experience ever, I grew up wintering in Florida and going there, now it’s just horrid. So many people in the park they actually shut the gate down and turned people away! You could watch marriages imploding all around you as wives and husbands screamed and kids cried. Also, the food is terrible. Don’t do it. And the lines for the rides… oh god, the lines…

      Canada’s Wonderland is better. ;)

      1. Between Christmas and New Year’s is their most crowded time. I used to live 5 miles away from WDW, and I would never go Dec 24-Jan 2.

    2. It’s an Invasive World After All!
      It’s an Invasive World After All!
      It’s an Invasive World After All!
      It’s an Invasive, Invasive World!!!

  10.  I don’t think it’s fair to draw too sharp a contrast between standards in the US and outside it. Human rights, you say? Into this very decade, there were active asbestos mines in Quebec with the explicit blessing of the prime minister. And is the muzzling of scientists and closing down of climate research institutions so admirable? We’re all knee-deep in mud; let him who lives in Utopia cast the first stone.

    1. The last asbestos mine in Quebec closed last year.
      And we all hate Harper.

      But I’m not sure how that has to do with this topic?
      No one says Canada is Utopia, nor the USA, nor any western country. But if we can’t point and laugh at our own absurdities what are we supposed to do? Cry?

    2. To my knowledge the Canadian government, though I disapprove of it mightily on many fronts, has not yet authorized a single drone strike on one of its own or a foreign citizen.

      Similarly, they have dropped the ball awfully on the rights of a few individuals, and have paid/are paying something of a political price for it (not enough IMO).  But they have not yet had the audacity to declare ‘Charter of Rights Free Zones’ across large swathes of the country for no (defensible) reason.  Small chunks (G8) for short periods of time, yes, and wrongly so.

      There is a difference.  They are all on a slippery slope, but some are much further down the slope than others.

  11. They can pry the unencrypted porn out of my dead hands! (But seriously, you know how much of a backlog they’re going to create in doing this? Heck, the CIA & FBI take years to filter through the reams of digital material they have now. //Agent Mulder, have you been fapping again to iPhone videos confiscated at the border?//)

  12. As someone who lives in a border state, this is a bunch of BS, Literally all of Detroit falls into that area. Ann Arbor and possibly Lansing too. 

    1. Since A2 is 45 miles from the Embassador Bridge, yes, it’s in the zone.  Lansing has an international airport, thus, in the zone. 

    1. 100 miles includes most Canadian cities and residents.  Thankfully DHS jurisdiction does not extend into our territory.

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