Posted by: rbmcarriers | August 6, 2008

US Border Crossing – Watch out for your Cellphones!!

Today’s Trucking posted an article today which you can read in full below, that the US Border agents now have the authority to confiscate any electronic devices (and more) without any given reason.  As we have stated before, understandably in the fast paced world of travelers, border security has changed and has to be more secure but this now may be getting out of hand.  Almost every adult and child over the age of 12 has some form of electronic devise that has become a necessity, especially when traveling.  Now how far the border agents will use this new authority, only time will tell.

It may be disturbing news for some transportation companies and could cause further delays at the border, but here at RBM Carriers we feel secure that all our paperwork is complete and the border agents will have no reason at all to detain us any longer than usual.

US border cops empowered to seize laptops, cell phones

Need another reason to avoid crossing the U.S. border?

How about the fact that your laptop, cellphone, or other electronic communication device could be confiscated for almost no reason at all.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently granted American border agents the authority to seize and detain such property from cross-border travelers.

Agents now have the greenlight to search the devices, and make copies of their contents and distribute them among other government agencies. The searches could take place at the point of entry or off-site, and the machines can be detained for as long as it takes to conduct the analysis, according to documents released by DHS on July 16.

“These examinations are part of … long-standing practice and are essential to uncovering vital law-enforcement information,” the policy says, noting examinations help authorities detect possible instances of terrorism, narcotics smuggling, child pornography and violations of copyright and trademark laws — which under a broad interpretation might include illegally downloaded videos and music files, or even pirated software.

The problem is the CBP policy document is incredibly vague in what it defines as questionable material.

The policy document defines “Business Information,” for example, and advises officers encountering business or commercial information to treat such information as business confidential information, and to take all reasonable measures to protect that information from unauthorized disclosure.

You could kiss your laptop goodbye, with little
probable cause, when heading south of the border.

If the authorities find there is not probable cause to hold the seized items, copies would have to be destroyed, according to the policy. The policy does not outline a timeframe in which materials would have to be returned, however.

Elsewhere in the document it’s stated that officers are empowered to seize and retain documents, books, pamphlets, and other printed material, as well as computers, disks, hard drives, and other electronic or digital storage devices where “probable cause” of unlawful activity exists.

What other printed material is fair game, we’re not sure. But cross-border truckers might want to be aware, just in case. After all, CB officers have been known to confiscate people’s lunches before, so who knows what else they might reach into a truck cab for.

U.S. Senator Russ Feingold told the Washington Post he finds the new policies “alarming” and said he plans to introduce legislation that would make grounds for border searches more rigorous.

Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Democracy and Technology, told the paper the new policies allow authorities to conduct searches without suspicion of wrongdoing.

“They’re saying they can rifle through all the information in a traveler’s laptop without having a smidgen of evidence that the traveler is breaking the law,” he told the Post.

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