The American right to invade privacy?

A disappointing feature of the Obama administration is its continuing support of the Bush administration’s assertion of the federal government’s unfettered right to snoop.

Last July, the Department of Homeland Security decreed that federal agents — customs, immigration, border patrol — could hold and search travelers’ documents and electronic devices without a warrant or even a suspicion that something might be amiss.

This power is particularly sensitive with regard to the now omnipresent laptops that can contain immense volumes of personal information — private e-mails, financial records, medical records, diaries, photos, addresses, proprietary business data, drafts of reports and articles.

The Obama administration has modestly tightened the procedures under which electronic devices can be seized and searched. The new guidelines call for more supervisory oversight, a requirement that agency lawyers be consulted before certain kinds of personal information are examined and time limits on how long an agency can hold onto a device.

The guidelines also impose time limits on how long the government can hold onto information it has copied but it doesn’t require the government to inform the traveler that the information has been copied in the first place.

Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano defended the policy this way: "Keeping Americans safe in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully screen materials entering the United States."

And it’s not as if this is pervasive intrusion. Homeland Security says that between Oct. 1, 2008 and Aug. 11 of this year, customs and border officials searched about 1,000 laptops, 46 of them "in-depth." Still, the power to seize and search a laptop for any reason or no reason seems like a clear invitation to abuse.


  1. barak

    The Bastards don’t want to let go. Once you give them a taste of what’s under the skirt, they want to stick their whole head inside–deep inside.

    Dems are no different than Republicans, they are just as nosy, just as deceptive, just as vile as the creeps across the aisle. That’s why we need to clean house and senate. One and only one three year term for all elected officials and all judges and supreme court justices. If they are found to be philandering, crooked, stealing, cheating, not working, etc., there should be a civilian review board to remove them from office–and the members of the crb should be changed every 9 months.

    We need to find some honest men and women to work for us in our government. I’m beginning to feel like Diogenes seeking that honest man…

  2. almandine

    Don’t the 1st and 4th amendments to the Constitution cover this illegal crap? Weren’t they gonna fix the transgressions? Are they upstanding and forthright?

    Never mind… all that was rhetorical.

  3. Warren

    Here’s what happened:

    Rather than create a mess like the JFK assassination, the MIC this time simply and quietly killed the real Barack Obama and replaced him with a look-alike MIC stooge.

    Well, OK, probably not, but how else do you explain it?


  4. woody188

    I guess that’s easier for minds to accept than the truth that there is no Republic and we are ruled by globalist corporate dictators.

    Congress is elected to represent, not to direct, the people.

  5. barak

    I’m guessing here, but I suppose that the DHS will invoke the Patriot Act as giving them the right to seize our computers or any other electronic devices they catch coming into or going out of the USA with a citizen.

    I live in Viet Nam, where it is expected that someone is reading your email and although freedom of speech exists, you really need to tone down remarks which may be construed as critical of the government. Come to think of it, that makes Viet Nam just like today’s America, doesn’t it!

    Barak, not Barack.