can border agents search your laptops?
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Thread: can border agents search your laptops?

  1. #1
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    can border agents search your laptops?

    yeah u heard it right, border agents can search your laptops
    maybe u guys had heard about this but yeah

    Stuart Romm boarded a plane in Las Vegas on February 1, 2004. When he got off the plane in British Columbia, Canada's Border Services Agency stopped Romm for questioning. After learning that Romm had a criminal background, Agent Keith Brown searched his laptop and discovered child porn sites in Romm's Internet history list. Canada then bundled Romm back onto a plane to Seattle, where US Customs agents had a chance to question him further.

    They also conducted a forensic scan of his hard drive and turned up images of child pornography in Romm's browser cache. The images had been deleted (intentionally, it appears), but were recovered by an agent using software called "EnCase." Romm then admitted to investigators that he used Google to search for child pornography, and that his "therapy" had failed to help him quit.

    The case made its way to a Nevada court, which found Romm guilty. An appeal of the case went to the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, which was charged with deciding an important issue: can border patrol agents search laptops without a warrant and without probable cause? The court's ruling was handed down on Monday, and said that yes, agents can search laptops for any reason.

    The court argued that the forensic analysis fell under the "border search exception to the warrant requirement." This exception was established by United States v. Montoya de Hernandez in 1985, and says that "the government may conduct routine searches of persons entering the United States without probable cause, reasonable suspicion, or a warrant." The court goes on to note that international airports count as border terminals, even if not physically located on a US border.

    This isn't an especially radical ruling (Customs agents already have the authority to search luggage without cause), and such searches are taking place in other countries as well. Searching laptops, with their vast troves of personal (and usually legal) data, might feel more invasive to travelers, but it's a part of life in the 21st century. Don't be surprised if, on your next business trip, submitting your laptop to an X-ray scan is no longer enough.




    source: http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060727-7367.html

    and a few other articles about the same subject
    http://www.politechbot.com/2005/04/2...te-on-alabama/
    http://www.politechbot.com/2005/05/0...g-your-laptop/

  2. #2
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    That site must be a little left wing or something of that nature. I read the actual appeals court document and it stated that Stuart turned it on for the agents and let them inspect it. It would be the same as consulting to a search of your car and being surprised that they checked your glove box.

    You should get hit in the head with a tack hammer if don't have boot passwords, and encrypted volumes on your laptop.


    http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/ca9/newo...571B500580F96/$file/0410648.pdf?openelement

  3. #3
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    Net2Infinity > Whether he gave consent or not is not what's important in this case, because it doesn't matter whether or not he did (that's what the case is about). If you go by the DoJ S&S manual, you should be surprised by this ruling, because the court ruling does not comply to those rules - rather, the court used the "border search doctrine" to justify its decision.

  4. #4
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    According to the document from the appeals court, there have been other rulings along the same lines. Sure I don't agree, but once its case law it is as good as the law. Yes, it does make a difference if you give consent, as the article merely said it was searched. This is what happens when you mix 21st century technology with law from the 19th century.


    I travel pretty extensively, and have never even been asked to power my laptop on. Then again I dont have a criminal history. =)

  5. #5
    Senior Member IKnowNot's Avatar
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    I am not going to go reading more on this, I am not following the links, will just discuss what has been presented here. And I am not versed in any way in international law, but these are my observations.

    This issue is not as clear as presented. Consent is not an issuer here, and if it was considered at all it is irrelevant to the discussion.

    The initiating border agents in question were not that of the U.S. government, the search was done outside the U.S., and the protections of the U.S. Constitution did not apply at all. ( IMHO )
    The laws of the country where the initial search took place ( and any treaties signed between that country and the U.S. ) would however apply, while in that country, but may or may not when the person in question re-entered the U.S. And any information obtained may or may not ( IMHO would not ) which was eluded to, be bared in proceedings in the U.S. upon his return.

    Because he was sent back, we now we have a person with a known criminal record ( though it did not say what kind of record ) entering the U.S., and now subject to U.S. laws, but undoubtably ( it did not say one way or the other, but could reasonably be assumed here that ) the U.S. Customs officials were alerted by the other jurisdiction of what they had found.

    Again, I am not digging further into this case and this particular decision other then what has been presented, but:

    If the facts were as outlined above, and the criminal background revealed some type of criminal sexual activity and/or computer crimes ( which could be related to criminal sexual activity ) then the U.S. Customs agents not only had a reason ( which as I understand it is not an absolute necessity under the current laws for Customs agents, ) not only had reasonable suspicion, but now had probable cause, which is enough to obtain a search warrant if this was just a citizen and involving some U.S. authorities, and did not involve borders and customs laws. In this case a warrant could have easily been obtained, but in this case was unnecessary.

    If the facts were as outlined above, and the criminal background did not reveal some type of criminal sexual activity and/or computer crimes ( which could be related to criminal sexual activity ) then the U.S. Customs agents may have had reasonable suspicion, ( more then just a reason ) but then again, that far exceeds the need of U.S. Customs agents to delve further.

    What puzzles me about this is why the court ( if they did, and it was not the reporter who assigned this stigma ) would include or consider the word reason into this at all. I would not be surprised, if on further appeal, a U.S Supreme Court ruled that aspect irrelevant.

    This isn't an especially radical ruling (Customs agents already have the authority to search luggage without cause), and such searches are taking place in other countries as well.
    My question is, why do people, who understand that any papers they have in their possession may be searched at a border ( discounting diplomatic immunity ) assume or expect that electronic copies of same would be immune from such searches?

    So, go ahead, encrypt the f***ing hard drive, and be held at customs until such time as you give them the password or they crack your encryption.

    ( again, this depends on the applicable laws of the jurisdiction in question, and whether the local customs officials actually have to answer to anyone for what they do. )

    I think this is an important issue to understand, and more importantly that one understands this;
    although it appears to apply to a physical search ( that of a physical laptop, ) any decisions concerning this topic may equally apply to any countries borders concerning Internet transmissions as well.

    IMHO.
    " And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be" --Miguel Cervantes

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    Perhaps if you would have taken a few moments to read the provided links your response wouldn't have been full of assumptions. That article was written by some left wing media, and the actually case in point was well cited in the court documents.

  7. #7
    Senior Member IKnowNot's Avatar
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    Perhaps if you would have taken a few moments to read the provided links your response wouldn't have been full of assumptions. That article was written by some left wing media, and the actually case in point was well cited in the court documents.
    Totally irrelevant comment. The post speaks for itself.

    It appears that this is an attempt to pervert this topic into that of a flame war. That was not my intention, I was considering the facts, but Net2Infinity seems intent, so be it.

    Net2Infinity, if you have something relevant to add that was not included in this thread, please do so, so those that refer to it in the future can understand your reasoning. Otherwise, STFU.

    To rationalize for someone like yourself, a court ( in the U.S. ) usually only considers what is presented in appropriate forum.
    If defense or prosecution does not bring out a topic of discussion during arguments in the initial proceedings, the court may not consider any arguments relating, but only those brought out initially.

    As far as any assumptions , they were clearly stated as such, and again, have no relevance.

    In my response it was clearly stated I did not follow any links, but was based on the information provided in this thread and my understanding of U.S. law, something of which I have demonstrated over the years I have at least a slight understanding of, which you have not.

    It was meant to be taken such, period.

    Not boasting here, and have never before brought this up, but I have been cited publically by governmental entities for
    "Outstanding Scholarship and Leadership in the study of Constitutional Law " here in the U.S.
    Fact.
    So now that is known.

    You do not even state country of your origin, country where you work, etc., even in your profile.
    Have you studied any law at all? In what country?

    So please elaborate for those that read this thread, what country you are from, and on what basis exactly you formed your opinion, and what facts you used to criticize my post.

    So Net2Infinity, either apologize, re-read my post and recant, or explain in a manner conducive to this thread as posted.

    Any other members, feel free to speak out.
    " And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be" --Miguel Cervantes

  8. #8
    Super Moderator: GMT Zone nihil's Avatar
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    Well IKnowNot,

    And I am not versed in any way in international law
    We don't have "border agents" in the UK. At entry and exit points you will see police, immigration, customs and (you won't see them) MI5.

    Our customs are far and away the most powerful enforcement agency, having even greater powers than your IRS........ they can search your home and property, at any time without a warrant and they also have powers of seizure, freezing assets etc.

    So you arrive at the port and they can search you and your luggage for illegal substances, stolen property, inexplicable funds (money laundering, tax evasion, proceeds of crime), and anything else that is restricted like plants, foodstuffs, animals and so on.

    Now, child pr0n and the possession thereof, is illegal in this country. So, it is an "illegal substance" no matter what form it happens to be in, even if it is electronic. I don't think that anyone would have problems with the matter if he had a stack of CDs, DVDs, magazines, and Videos with that sort of stuff on/in them?

    A laptop is an electronic storage medium, and is as admissible for search for "illegal substances" as the rest of your luggage. The same would go for digital cameras, cellphones, PDTs and anything else of that nature.

    The whole thing would not be an issue in this country, and in quite a few others in Europe as well. Customs officials generally have a blanket right to search anything and everything without warrant..............otherwise they could not do their jobs.

    Well, there's a foreign perspective for you





    If you cannot do someone any good: don't do them any harm....
    As long as you did this to one of these, the least of my little ones............you did it unto Me.
    What profiteth a man if he gains the entire World at the expense of his immortal soul?

  9. #9
    Dissident 4dm1n brokencrow's Avatar
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    First, that Romm dude should get on the straight path and quit "diddling" while he's on the net.

    Second, he should've cleared his internet cache and customs wouldn't have discovered child porn sites in Romm's Internet history list in the first place.

    Third, can you spell K-n-o-p-p-i-x?
    “Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.” — Will Rogers

  10. #10
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    I am from the US and no I do not have a law background, nor did I know that I needed one to post a reply on this forum. My point was that you didn't need to make any assumptions if you actually read the documents provided. Additionally the article did not reflect the events as they actually occurred. However, reading the court documents and observing the disparity between the events clearly the author of the article leans to the left.

    If you are such a legal scholar you would have done some research on the topic instead of lashing out. I don’t recall making any comment that is in conflict with any of your statements. As to answer the questions you posed I believe that my posts clearly reflect the source of my opinion. If you would take a few minutes and read the verdict from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals then you would have a frame of reference for my opinion.

    I believe you were debating based on the contents of the article and I was referring to the facts from the actual court proceeding. Perhaps this is where the confusion has arisen. I have no doubt of your vast legal knowledge as I was just merely informing others of the actual facts of the case.

    It was never my intent to start a flame, nor do I see why you resorted to personal attacks but so be it.

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