This is beyond ridiculous-ville and heading into scary totalitarian-land:
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed its ruling on USA v Arnold this past Friday that Customs and Border Protection agents are free to seize your laptop at the border without probable cause. On July 10 the 9th Circuit denied the petition for en banc review of their April 21 decision. So, as it stands today, Customs can randomly grab anyone at the border; seize their laptop, and demand passwords and encryption keys as a pre-condition to entering the country. And who knows when you will get your computer back? The dissonance between this policy and my understanding of our basic values of personal privacy and protection from unwarranted searches strikes me as very loud.[From Alan Rosenblatt: Keep Your Hands Off My Laptop]
If you are traveling out of the country you might want to think twice about bringing your laptop – which of course sucks for millions of businesspeople. Beyond general suckage though, just the idea that your property can summarily be taken from you by Customs for no reason seems, to this layperson at least, a huge hit against the 4th Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Now, I’m not Constitutional lawyer and I’m no Circuit Judge, but how in the blazing hell is randomly seizing laptops even remotely constitutional?
This whole “freedom” and “democracy” experiment was good while it lasted, but I gotta say, it doesn’t look like it is going to last much longer. The erosion of our liberties may slow down if Obama gets the Presidency, but I’m not convinced that he will reverse much of the damage done and until we really and truly make some radical shifts in how our political system is run, I don’t think the erosion of liberties will cease completely.
If you want to take a small step toward doing something about this issue, check out the Hands Off My Laptop Campaign. And write or call your Representatives and Senators urging them, on this issue as well as many others, to stand up for our constitutionally guaranteed rights (or at the very least stop promising to uphold them when they take office).