I'm kind of appalled by this quote from a government official

I wish I could get enough vitriol up for the pit but it’s late. From here: Link

Thank you very much, Mr. Knocke, for speaking on my behalf. I certainly expect security and customs officials to force suspicious looking persons (especially if they look Arabic) to reveal their passwords for electronic devices. In this proud and wonderful country, Big Brother watches from every circuit; one should therefore not expect a shred of privacy from this bastion of freedom.

Ahem. Ah, Mr. Knocke? Fuck you. (There’s the vitriol).

Moved from IMHO to the Pit.

I think you’re confusing the freedoms we experience while living in this country with the limited rights during a customs search at a point of entry.

I don’t think I have a problem with there being a difference.

I think they should at least get their devices back.

This whole searching electronic devices thing is yet another example of a completely and totally moronic idea set up by people who have no fucking clue about anything technology related. I can see where you might think this might be a decent idea but they’ve implemented it without any kinds of controls that should be in place.

Another thing:in another article about this topic (on msnbc.com, I haven’t got time to dig it up right now) one of the people interviewed said one of the things the customs official asked her to do after logging on to her laptop was to show him how she opened Microsoft Word. This is one of the stupidest things I can imagine.

Do customs agents generally have the right to read papers you carry with you? If they do, then it’s only right that they also be allowed to read electronic files you carry with you. The only difference between the two is the media on which the information is stored. It doesn’t make sense to say that documents stored on paper media are fair game for Customs to read, but documents stored electronically aren’t.

Much of these complaints are that private or confidential information is in the computer, so it’s inappropriate for customs officials to search it. Nobody forced you to bring all those files with you, it was your choice. Next time, maybe choose to keep your personal and confidential files at home.

Or download them, in encrypted form, via the Internet. Last time I looked, this was still legal.


There’s software out there which allows you to create a “phantom partition” on your harddrive, if you don’t launch the appropriate program, there’s no way to tell that the drive’s been partitioned or what’s been hidden on that drive.

Which is, of course, why the whole process of searching people’s electronic devices, especially laptops, is so retarded. If i were a terrorist and had files containing information about my contacts or other aspects of my activities, you can be damn sure they wouldn’t be in My Documents, in folders entitled “People Who Sell Me Guns” and “Stuff I Blow Up.”

If they were on my computer at all, they’d be crammed into a password protected compressed file, and would be buried somewhere in the Windows or Program Files folder with a filename of something like oitlndfvoe34.rar. More likely, as you suggest, they’d be in encrypted form somewhere on the internet (an email account, a file storage service like Rapidshare, etc.), and not on the computer at all.

Right, and while i’m sure that the government has people who know how to get around such security devices, i’ll bet my bottom dollar that they’re not manning the TSA checkpoints at our international airports.

So what we probably end up with is enough intrusion to be offensive and invasive, but not enough to actually impede the real evil-doers. Another perfect example of busy-work, for-show security measures that have been such a hallmark of the post-9/11 world.

So what would you recommend, not searching at all, searching to the nth degree no matter how long it takes while you’re standing in line, or just restricting entry and not allowing any electronic devices to enter?

Me, I really don’t care if someone finds our search offensive or invasive.

I’d recommend doing some real intelligence, which won’t be so highly visible, but which will involve employing agents who speak and read languages like Farsi and Punjabi, who understand the culture of countries where Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have set themselves up, and who can work out what they are doing in places like Afghanistan.

Keep it simple. Rename the contact file to bj547.jpg and dump it in a folder with about 10 gig of disgusting, but otherwise legal porn. Somewhere past the point where someone searching the directory would be suffering from bleeding eyeballs.

Does the Customs Agent have the right to seize your papers, for further perusal at a later date? (Laptops have been seized) To copy your papers for later investigation? Or just to examine them?

Agent goatse, meet Agent tubgirl. :eek: :cool:

What i would recommend, partly in line with Giles’ comments, is actually doing the legwork required in order to understand the issue, rather than conducting superficial yet invasive and insulting searches of anyone who happens to be of Middle Eastern or South Asian appearance and have a computer.

If you have reason to believe, based on smart intelligence work, that a specific person poses a threat, by all means go over their electronics with all the technology at your disposal. But don’t do this sort of superficial crap ad then pretend that it actually increases security in any meaningful way.

Actually, if the search was likely to yield decent results, i probably would have less concern about those issues too. But offensive, invasive, and useless strikes me as a pretty poor combination.

Hell, with the way that exif data works, you could embed your information in an actual pornographic picture jpg.

That might not be possible if you are travelling on business and those confidential files are relevant to your business trip.

Just curious, how do our customs search procedures for electronic devices differ from other countries, say Israel for example?

Looks like you and Scott Adams have a similar line of thinking.