US customs: Yes, we can seize your laptop, iPod
And what exactly do you plan to do about it?
The Department of Homeland Security has outlined what we've all known for some time - that border agents are allowed to snoop through files on your computer, mobile phone or any other digital device.
Officials can keep documents or computers, take them to an off-site location, copy the contents and share the data with other agencies. If there is no probable cause to keep the information after this it must be destroyed. A San Francisco court upheld the right of border agents to search laptops even without reasonable cause back in April.
Officers who find business or commercial information "shall take all reasonable measures to protect that information from unauthorized disclosure". But officers cannot read, or allow others to read, "correspondence contained in a sealed letter class mail (the international equivalent of First Class) without an appropriate search warrant or consent".
However, letters carried by individuals or private carriers like DHL or UPS are not considered mail.
Border officials are told to seek advice if they believe material may be subject to attorney-client privilege.
If this all sounds draconian, don't worry. The border folks are also told that in the course of every border search, they "will protect the rights of individuals against unreasonable search and seizure." So, if you're travelling to the states on business and don't like the border patrol rummaging around your laptop, feel free to start quoting the fourth ammendment at them. We're sure it'll pull them up in their tracks.
The full guidance is available here (pdf). ®
We're not happy either!
Most in the US are not happy about this either! Those that voted for our turdtastic leader probably like it though.
To the earlier poster that may have been answered, no, you are not immune from search of mail unless it is actively in the mail. Therefore, you cannot carry a sealed letter and expect it to not be searched.
There are suggestions on how to protect your laptop
though the smartest, safest way to do so is to wipe it clean with secure erase, reinstall the OS, and put everything you need online so it can be downloaded via secure connection after you pass the gestapo. Do NOT put movies, music, or contraband on there. Presumably, you could put some movies/music on a laptop so long as you can secure erase it prior to inspection.
@AC "All Pre-Planned"
Name me one government that has NOT been "owned and run on behalf of the rich elites." The current problem with the former Constitutional republic once known as the "United States of America" is that the elites currently running the show have overreached so far that, now, everybody sees the "man behind the curtain in Oz" for what he really is. Lord Acton might have had the fictional legal "people" (corporations) which tell Shrub what to pretend to think in mind when he said "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
And for those who are holding out hope that, after 20 January 2009, the Democratic Wing of the Corporate Party will do any better...dream on. All you need to remember on that score is how much of the transition from "rule of law" to "rule BY law" occurred on the watch of President Blowjob (the DMCA is a shining example) and just how close he and his wife/partner came to resuming power this time 'round, until they finally endorsed Bush's Third Term via McCain. 2012 awaits.
As for where all this is going to lead... I'm presently living in a functional one-party state with pretensions of democracy, where those who dare less-than-stellar thoughts about the Great Leader, Father of the Nation, or his Son, the Dear Leader and current Prime Minister, can be made extremely unpleasant. The US Navy is a regular visitor here for shore leave... it has occurred to many expats here that this might well be a model for where the US and UK are headed. If so, then Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Wentworth and the lot made much ado over nothing, and we are much the poorer for it.
Governments always want more power, especially if they are owned and run on behalf of the rich elites. They will market their power grabs to the people as 'good for you', 'for your protection' they may even simulate terrorist acts and crimes in order to bring in their new laws.
Everyone know this is what is going on right?
The people can always say to the State by what authority do you take away my liberties? Did I contract with you anywhere that your self-serving laws are applicable to me? They may throw you in jail with Bubba for a long time, but the truth is they have no authority to impose their laws on anyone, unless they have agreed to live by 'their laws'.