Undercover with a prepper militia that patrols the border to fight "drug cartels"

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Shane Bauer, the investigative journalist whose four month stint in a privately run Louisiana prison was one of 2016's most important pieces of journalism, has published a new piece in Mother Jones, this one detailing his time patrolling with the Three Percent United Patriots and other right-wing militias that are preparing for an epic civil war in which the US government will be overthrown and they will be the only citizens of a new country, with everyone else serving as "worker bees...down in the field growing food, gathering wood." Read the rest

The dubious upsides of having a Syrian passport

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Marcell Shehwaro's magnificent, sarcastic, angry essay in Global Voices expresses her gratitude for her Syrian passport, because it has allowed her to see how states are willing to punish the already brutalized out of rage and fear. Read the rest

SURVEY: Your views on US Customs' plan to search your social media at the border

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Deji from Access Now writes, "You remember that spooky story about the U.S. screening everyone’s social media 'presence' at the border? Well, now there’s a way to tell the government exactly what you think about it." Read the rest

US Customs and Border Protection wants to ask for your "online presence" at the border

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The week, the US CBP published a notice in the Federal Register proposing a change to the Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record paperwork that visitors to the US fill out when they cross the border, in which they announce plans to ask travellers to "please enter information associated with your online presence." Read the rest

Mayor of Stockton, CA detained by DHS at SFO, forced to give up laptop password

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Mayor Anthony R. Silva was on his way back from a mayor's conference in China when the DHS border guards confiscated his laptop and phones and detained him, telling him he would not be allowed to leave until he gave them his passwords. He has still not had his devices returned. Read the rest

Iran arms deal prosecution falls apart because of warrantless laptop search

The case against Jae Shik Kim -- a South Korean exec caught selling weapons components to Iran -- has collapsed because the prosecutors abused the rule allowing them to search laptop hard-drives without a warrant when someone is at a "border crossing" (in this case, LAX). Read the rest

Laura Poitras sues the US Government to find out why she was repeatedly detained in airports

The Oscar-winning documentarian, who directed Citizenfour, was detained and searched over 50 times, but the breaking-point was when the US Government refused to respond to her Freedom of Information Act request for the reasons for her harassment. Read the rest

US Customs and Border Protection: America's largest, most corrupt police force

The force is the largest in America, with a starved and ineffectual Internal Affairs department, which has been powerless to check the Border Patrol's slide into collusion with drug-runners, shootings of protesters, and extreme violence in border areas. Read the rest

Madeline Ashby's Hieroglyph story: "By the Time We Get To Arizona"

The Hieroglyph anthology was created by Neal Stephenson, challenging sf writers to imagine futures where ambitious technological projects improved the human condition. Read the rest

Report from America's militarized, constitution-free border-zone

The expanding powers, vicious unaccountability and violent, invasive searching conducted in America's 100-mile "border zone" should concern you. Read the rest

What it's like to come home to America if your name is "Ahmed"

Ahmed Shihab-Eldin is a respected journalist who holds US citizenship. Every time he returns to his home in New York, he is detained for many hours by the DHS, subjected to humiliating questioning and detention without evidence or charge, because he fits a "profile" that seems to consist entirely of "brown dude with Arabic name who visits the middle east." He recently returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos and found himself detained for hours, despite having been assured that his name had been removed from the DHS's watch-list.

His story of harrowing treatment at JFK airport stands in sharp contrast to his experiences at checkpoints in the middle east, where security risks are much more immediate and more grave. As he points out, America has spent billions creating an aviation security system and system of border checks that have had no material impact on security, but have nonetheless enmiserated, alienated, and harassed millions of people who committed no crime and posed no threat, Read the rest

DHS stops NYT reporters at border, lies about it

Two New York Times reporters are suing the DHS, because the agency stopped them and questioned them extensively at the border, typing their answers into a computer, and then later insisted first that they weren't required to search for records, and then that they had no records at all on the men. Read the rest

US border laptop searches: the other warrantless surveillance

Documents released today as a result of the House v. Napolitano settlement document the systematic use of laptop searches at the US border to evade the need to get a warrant to read Americans' email. They way it worked: Homeland Security Investigations has someone they want the goods on, but don't think a judge would grant them a warrant. They put their victim on a travel advisory list, and the next time she crosses the border, the CBP seizes her laptop and phone and whatever other devices she's carrying and they get a copy of all of her data: no warrant required. They used this trick to seize the documents of David House, who worked to raise money and public support for Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning), and eventually had to settle a lawsuit brought by House and the ACLU, a condition of which was the release of these documents. Read the rest

UK border cops can seize and retain all your data without suspicion or charge

Tim Hardy: "UK border police have the power to seize all your personal data without reasonable suspicion and keep it effectively forever even if you are not charged with or suspected of a crime." Read the rest

DHS on border laptop searches: we can't tell you why this is legal, and we won't limit searches to reasonable suspicion

The DHS has responded to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the ACLU asking when and how it decides whose laptop to search at the border. It explained its legal rationale for conducting these searches with a blank page:

On Page 18 of the 52-page document under the section entitled “First Amendment,” several paragraphs are completely blacked out. They simply end with the sentence: “The laptop border searches in the [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and [Customs and Border Protection] do not violate travelers’ First Amendment rights as defined by the courts."

More excellence from "the most transparent administration in American history." Also, the DHS rejected claims that it should limit searches to situations where it had reasonable grounds for suspicion, because then they would have to explain their suspicion:

First, commonplace decisions to search electronic devices might be opened to litigation challenging the reasons for the search. In addition to interfering with a carefully constructed border security system, the litigation could directly undermine national security by requiring the government to produce sensitive investigative and national security information to justify some of the most critical searches. Even a policy change entirely unenforceable by courts might be problematic; we have been presented with some noteworthy CBP and ICE success stories based on hard-to-articulate intuitions or hunches based on officer experience and judgment. Under a reasonable suspicion requirement, officers might hesitate to search an individual's device without the presence of articulable factors capable of being formally defended, despite having an intuition or hunch based on experience that justified a search.

Read the rest

US Ninth Circuit says forensic laptop searches at the border without suspicion are unconstitional

An en banc (all the 11/20 judges together) decision from the 9th Circuit has affirmed that you have the right to expect that your laptop and other devices will not be forensically examined without suspicion at the US border. It's the first time that a US court has upheld electronic privacy rights at the border, and the court also said that using an encrypted device that can't be casually searched is not grounds for suspicion. The judges also note that the prevalence of cloud computing means that searching at the border gives cops access to servers located all over the world. At TechDirt, Mike Masnick has some great analysis of this welcome turn of events:

The ruling is pretty careful to strike the right balance on the issues. It notes that a cursory review at the border is reasonable:

Officer Alvarado turned on the devices and opened and viewed image files while the Cottermans waited to enter the country. It was, in principle, akin to the search in Seljan, where we concluded that a suspicionless cursory scan of a package in international transit was not unreasonable.

But going deeper raises more questions. Looking stuff over, no problem. Performing a forensic analysis? That goes too far and triggers the 4th Amendment. They note that the location of the search is meaningless to this analysis (the actual search happened 170 miles inside the country after the laptop was sent by border agents to somewhere else for analysis). So it's still a border search, but that border search requires a 4th Amendment analysis, according to the court.

Read the rest

Surfaces - a short story for a thesis on border security

The dilemma of how to reconcile the needs of security with the desire for humanity is the defining question of the twenty-first century.

This sentence opens my thesis, "Loss Prevention: Customer Service as Border Security," written for the strategic foresight and innovation program that I just graduated. I decided to write about the future of border security after my friend and fellow writers' workshop member Peter Watts was beaten, maced, and arrested at the Port Huron border crossing. I remember the decision very clearly. Peter was facing a prison sentence, and I was on the phone with David Nickle. I was in tears. But as we spoke, something overwhelmed my despair. Something hard and sharp enough to cut a path down the centre of my life. An idea. Read the rest

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