updated 11:40 am EDT, Fri August 1, 2008
Feds free to seize laptops
As of July 16, US federal agents have the power to seize travelers' laptops and other electronic devices at the border and hold them for however long they want, says a Friday report. The seizures do not require a suspicion of wrongdoing, and are aimed to counter terrorism, with the new policies passed by two Department of Homeland Security agencies. The contents of the confiscated laptops and electronics can then be shared with not only other agencies, but private entities in order to decrypt the data they contain.
DHS officials maintain the new policies allow federal agents to take any hard drives, flash drives, cell phones, iPods, pagers, beepers and video or audio tapes, as well as books and any written materials from any person entering the USA, US citizens included. While the measures were being practiced before they were made public in mid-July, pressure from civil rights and business travel groups made the government admit the existence new policies.
To protect sensitive business information and privileged material, such as between lawyers and clients, the policies require agents to destroy any copies of the data they acquire once a review is complete and there is no more probable cause to leave the information on file.