Laptops, please: US law permits search, seizure at the border

One of the more heated topics under discussion at a meeting of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives this week involves a little-known aspect of US border law. Snip from an article by Joe Sharkey in the New York Times:

U.S. customs officials have the authority to scrutinize the contents of travelers' laptops and even confiscate them for a period of time, without giving a reason. Appeals are under way in some confiscation cases, but the law is clear.

"They don't need probable cause to perform these searches under the current law," said Tim Kane, a Washington lawyer who is researching the matter for corporate clients. "They can do it without suspicion or without really revealing their motivations."

Link (Thanks, Len)

Reader comment: anonymous border-crosser says,

What about encrypted drives and home folders (ie. TrueCrypt or FileVault on Mac). What happens to a citizen if they refuse to give up the password? Can they be arrested or legally barred from entering the U.S.?