Thanks to two other MemeStreams users I learned that the new Obama flavor DHS laptop search policies are out and that the ACLU is suing DHS for more specific information.
I read through all of this stuff.
The most important take away is that Obama is continuing the civil liberties excesses of the Bush years. That impression is no longer theoretical. This isn't some lawsuit that they were already up to their ears in when he took office. This is administration policy that was radically expanded during the Bush years which Obama's team took the time to review, reconsider, and rewrite. This is Obama on civil liberties. Its not pretty.
While I'm glad that DHS took the step of publishing this information it will not resolve the substantive policy debate in any way.
Janet Napolitano seems to disagree:
“The new directives announced today strike the balance between respecting the civil liberties and privacy of all travelers while ensuring DHS can take the lawful actions necessary to secure our borders.”
In fact, with one minor exception that I'll discuss, there is no "civil liberty" acknowledged here, so this policy cannot be said to strike any sort of balance.
These documents explain that DHS randomly seizes laptops, cellphones, and cameras and "detains" them for indepth forensic analysis in search of evidence of any crime. They will usually keep these items for less than 5 days but they can keep them for extended periods of time. By randomly I mean without any suspicion at all. They literally pick you out of the line at random.
We're told that DHS will store the electronics in a secure location and destroy any copies when they are done with them, but anything else would be totally irresponsible. The mere fact that they aren't leaving your laptop in an insecure location doesn't balance your civil liberties interests!
The privacy impact study does take the time in its introduction to acknowledge that "the... central privacy concern is the sheer volume and range of types of information available on electronic devices as opposed to a more traditional briefcase or backpack." It almost sounds like they are off to a good start, but the document never directly addresses the privacy implications of having Customs officers forensically examine that information, which includes detailed records of personal correspondence, work product, web surfing history, photographs and music collections, etc. That is the central concern here and the document steps around it with a creepy degree of bureaucratic blindness:
CBP and ICE have identified six privacy risks associated with the examination, detention, retention, and/or seizure of a traveler’s electronic device or information during a border search: (1) t... [ Read More (0.5k in body) ]