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Last post Author Topic: Strategies for international travellers regarding new US Customs seizure policy  (Read 28430 times)

TomColvin

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I think this thread is fizzling out.  But before it does, another observation about personal strategy.

I envision building a setup along these lines.  Some internet locations as my central hub for data and applications.  Also two desktop machines, one in each of my two residences -- both connected to the hub and both synchronizing with the hub.  The desktops, I'm beginning to think, will run on Linux, not Windows.

When I travel, I will carry only a device that I look at as disposable.  Maybe my iPod for USB-type operation -- or an Asus eee mini-laptop running on Linux.

I was intrigued to read this morning about the leaked news that Microsoft itself foresees the domise of Windows and is developing an internet-centric OS to replace it.  Interesting indeed.

Regarding civil liberities and the US Constitution:  a civilization gets what it works for.  Sadly, the US is so damaged culturally that the Constitution is mostly irrelevant.  That has been evident for a couple of decades at least -- students lost interest in the Constitution years ago.

Bottomline:  we in are a world where the individual just look after him-herself.  Which, frnakly, is probably the best tactic in any event.

Carol Haynes

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Bottomline:  we in are a world where the individual just look after him-herself.  Which, frnakly, is probably the best tactic in any event.

Great in theory but you need to live in a regime where this is possible to look after yourself without resorting to armed conflict or explosives. Unfortunately none of the 'democracies' seem to value this any more than religious dictatorships or totalitarian states.

What is particularly sad is that the 'democracies' fail to recognise that they are destroying precisely what they are supposed to be fighting for!

In the UK one of the effects of international policies on fuel prices is an increase last week of 30% in gas and electric prices from British Gas in a single day.

I dread to think how long it will be before there start to be riots on the streets protesting but with the world economy rapidly disappearing down the crapper it won't be long and then what is going to happen. Losing a laptop to customs will seem like nothing in the grand scheme when the next global conflict for oil and gas starts. The only realistic alternative is to allow countries to develop nuclear power and we all know how popular that is in certain quarters.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2008, 01:25:21 PM by Carol Haynes »

MrCrispy

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When I travel I use my laptop/ipod for entertainment, and they have a lot of music, ripped movies, tv shows etc. While the vast majority are ripped from my own collection, I will admit some are thru p2p and copied from friends. But lets disregard those for a moment - according to the RIAA/MPAA, even ripping your own dvd/cd for personal use is illegal. So I  would then be a copyright thief/terrorist.

This is not data that I can keep on a server since its many 10's of GB. Even if I could, I can't access it in many parts of the world. The whole point of a laptop is to have your data with you.

Encrypted partitions won't help, they only make you look more suspicious in the eyes of the agent. The fact of the matter is it all depends on your luck, who you deal with and how you come across. You even look at them the wrong way and they can sieze everything you have and even arrest and lock you up with no probable cause for an indefinite time. The law has been designed to let them do anything they want.

On a practical note should I advise friends who are coming to visit not to bring any electronic devices such as laptops/mp3 players with them?

cmpm

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Lot's of online apps here, including the comments.

http://www.readwrite...line_office_apps.php

mouser

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The question someone raised about how often confiscation actually occurs really is relevant (to me at least).  If this is one of those theoretical rules that they put in place for really unusual cases where they suspect your laptop is a bomb and it never really happens then that's one thing.. but if this is one of those rules that border guards use when they get in a bad mood that's something else entirely.

kartal

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Some people like to compare confiscation of laptop to confiscation of luggages. This to me is a flawed logic because one cannot clone your items in your luggage. They can search your luggage right there which would not take more than half an hour. And if they cannot find any suspicious item material they will need to let you go . On the other hand confiscating your laptop is stickier. First they take it then they download or copy the whole content. At this step your whole data is cloned already. They can probably give your laptop back since they do not need it anymore. But then again what if they inject new data into the content and use it against you? How would you know if the data is erased if they cannot find anything important. Digital data can be copied million times, one would never know really. 


40hz

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The question someone raised about how often confiscation actually occurs really is relevant (to me at least).
 
Quote
.. but if this is one of those rules that border guards use when they get in a bad mood that's something else entirely.

This goes directly back to what I was saying earlier about the issue being more about convenience than civil rights for many people. Oh well. At least Mouser's being honest about it. ;D


40hz

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Some people like to compare confiscation of laptop to confiscation of luggages. This to me is a flawed logic because one cannot clone your items in your luggage. They can search your luggage right there which would not take more than half an hour. And if they cannot find any suspicious item material they will need to let you go .

Not necessarily so.

What constitutes "suspicious" is in the eyes of a beholder.

I had a business acquaintance get detained because his luggage got stolen from his hotel and he attempted to board a flight out of Denver, CO without it.

When he explained what happened, and a call to the hotel couldn't get anyone there to acknowledge that the theft had occurred, he made the fatal mistake of demanding to talk to a manager.

According to airport security, this "incident"  had the following "threat factors":

   1. Subject is a "young man" (actually he's in his early 30s)
   2. Attempting to board transcontinental flight without luggage (it was stolen)
   3. Aggressive demeanor (i.e. got pissed about how he was being
      treated, demanded an explaination)
   4. Uncorroborated explaination of missing luggage (i.e.suspicion of
      lying to TSA agents)

He missed his flight and lost most of the day before his "story" could be verified. When they let him go about 20 hours later, rather than offer anything like an apology for the misunderstanding, it was suggested he be "more careful" next time.

Now if this can happen to a US citizen on a domestic flight, how hard can it be to confiscate a laptop entering the USA?

kartal

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weird, how did they know that he was supposed to have a luggage? Is this implying that anyone who gets on a plane needs to carry a luggage? :)


I had a business acquaintance get detained because his luggage got stolen from his hotel and he attempted to board a flight out of Denver, CO without it.

cranioscopical

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I hate all this stuff and the potential for abuse of the system (virtually guaranteed).
It's almost certain to inconvenience me personally sooner or later. The existing strictures have done so before.

That said, as far as I know nobody is doing his utmost to bomb my home town out of existence.
Nobody's forcing me to enter the U.S. and if I do I guess I'll have to abide by the rules.

Anybody feel that taking digital data into China or Russia is a secure thing to do?

We're between a rock and a hard place now.

40hz

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weird, how did they know that he was supposed to have a luggage? Is this implying that anyone who gets on a plane needs to carry a luggage? :)

Since many US flights have a minimal (4-5 day) layover period, the TSA (in it's wisdom) sometimes gets it in its head that if you're traveling for more than a certain number of days, you'll require some kind of luggage. Not exactly an illogical assumption, but an assumption nonetheless.

It has quieted down a bit over the last few years, but these almost surreal scenes do go down every so often. The thing that makes it so annoying is how capricious and arbitrary they seem to be.

40hz

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Anybody feel that taking digital data into China or Russia is a secure thing to do?

To be honest, I suspect the real motivation behind all this isn't what's going out to China, but rather what the authorities are afraid could be coming back in on all those Olympic and business laptops. China has a very advanced and aggressive cyberwarfare program. And a lot of their businesses aren't exactly on the up and up. Look at the amount of spam that seems to be originating from there as well as the number of malware agents that "call home" to IP addresses in Asia.

China has stated publicly that any attempts to single them out for preventative (they call it "preemptive") security measures anywhere in the world would be interpreted (at the very least) as a violation of international law - if not an outright act of war. This of course ignores the obvious contradiction in their outrage when it was suggested that certain known spamming IP address ranges in Asia be filtered from the Internet backbone. Especially since China employs, and has defended, its own extensive use of address blocking and web censorship.

But that's politics. It doesn't necessarily have to be fair or even make sense. ;)

So with the dragon flexing its muscles, maybe the US has decided to just paint its security measures with a very broad brush to allow them to deny that any of this has anything to do with potentially infected laptops coming back from China.

We'll never know.

And yes, a rock and a hard place is exactly where we are. We've entered into one of those periods where anger and fear (both with some justification - and without) are bringing out the best and worst in all of us. I'm afraid we'll just have to go through it before some sanity and trust returns. We are all in this together. We're just going to have to get ourselves back to where we can start believing it again.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2008, 04:55:59 PM by 40hz »

mouser

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it seems like if you get asked by a homeland security guard why you have no luggage, there is only one safe answer guaranteed not to raise any eyebrows: to tell him that the homeland security guard at the previous gate confiscated it  ;D

Darwin

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it seems like if you get asked by a homeland security guard why you have no luggage, there is only one safe answer guaranteed not to raise any eyebrows: to tell him that the homeland security guard at the previous gate confiscated it  ;D

Provided that the guard at the last gate can be reached to verify it...

I flew into Atlanta, Ga. from Cambridge, UK via Paris, France in early Dec. 2001 to spend Christmas with my wife's family. All passengers EXITING the plane had to go through security and I was detained because a security guard thought that I had a weapon in my hand luggage. Said weapon? The DC adaptor for my notebook... He claimed it looked like a Swiss Army Knife. Remember, I had just gotten OFF the plane after having flown had my carry-on screened at both Heathrow and Charles de Gaule... I don't know where the blazes he thought I had managed to get a brick sized Swiss Army Knife at 36000 feet...
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

Carol Haynes

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It's called paranoia.

I love Boston Legal and there was a brilliant episode (based on current US travel laws I believe). Denny Crane (a somewhat eccentric leading character) was told that he could not fly on any commercial flight within the continental US. The reason - no one called Denny Crane is allowed to fly as one Denny Crane was listed as suspicious and the computer systems were unable to distinguish who was who. I loved the story (especially when about 50 Denny Crane's stood up in the courtroom audience to illustrate the absurdity).

40hz

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it seems like if you get asked by a homeland security guard why you have no luggage, there is only one safe answer guaranteed not to raise any eyebrows: to tell him that the homeland security guard at the previous gate confiscated it  ;D

Utterly brilliant!


cranioscopical

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it seems like if you get asked by a homeland security guard why you have no luggage, there is only one safe answer guaranteed not to raise any eyebrows: to tell him that the homeland security guard at the previous gate confiscated it  ;D
Nice one ;D

Stoic Joker

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The question someone raised about how often confiscation actually occurs really is relevant (to me at least).  If this is one of those theoretical rules that they put in place for really unusual cases where they suspect your laptop is a bomb and it never really happens then that's one thing.. but if this is one of those rules that border guards use when they get in a bad mood that's something else entirely.
Regardless of how it starts out, it will end up being both. Face it, as long as Guard X can justify their actions to (Chronically preoccupied) "Boss" Y ... You'll never see that device again...

...By the time it's all said and done, "They'll" end up having a contest...and the clown with the largest stack of electronics will make Employee of the ****ing Month.

Did I ever mention I was a "bit" cynical...? :)

40hz

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Milt2.jpg

"...they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn't bind up as much, and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it's not okay because if they take my stapler then I'll set the building on fire... "   - Milton Waddams
 
« Last Edit: August 06, 2008, 10:23:38 AM by 40hz »

Darwin

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"...they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn't bind up as much, and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it's not okay because if they take my stapler then I'll set the building on fire... "   - Milton Waddams
 




Sadly, I can relate to this...
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

tymrwt33

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Customs officials here and abroad have always had the right if inspection and seizure of personal property on entry into their country. If you think US Customs are bad try some of the other countries. They practically strip you and even look in your wallet in some countries. Facts of life. At lest in the US you can seek redress in court.

kartal

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That is not the same thing. Noone is arguing against searches. The issue is confiscation of personal-business data and electronics.

Customs officials here and abroad have always had the right if inspection and seizure of personal property on entry into their country. If you think US Customs are bad try some of the other countries. They practically strip you and even look in your wallet in some countries. Facts of life. At lest in the US you can seek redress in court.

Target

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this from slashdot today

Quote
News: Judge Rules Man Cannot Be Forced To Decrypt HD
Posted by kdawson on Tuesday August 19, @06:21PM
from the cold-dead-fingers dept.
 I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes
"In Vermont, US Magistrate Judge Jerome Niedermeier has ruled that forcing someone to divulge the password to decrypt their hard drive violates the 5th Amendment. Border guards testify that they saw child pornography on the defendant's laptop when the PC was on, but they made the mistake of turning it off and were unable to access it again because the drive was protected by PGP. Although prosecutors offered many ways to get around the 5th Amendment protections, the Judge would have none of that and quashed the grand jury subpoena requesting the defendant's PGP passphrase. A conviction is still likely because prosecutors have the testimony of the two border guards who saw the drive while it was open."
 The article stresses the potential importance of this ruling (which was issued last November but went unnoticed until now): "Especially if this ruling is appealed, US v. Boucher could become a landmark case. The question of whether a criminal defendant can be legally compelled to cough up his encryption passphrase remains an unsettled one, with law review articles for the last decade arguing the merits of either approach."

BC5

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Do you have to submit only those devices which you carry as hand luggage or also those devices which is part of your main luggage?

So I understand that the TSA cannot force you into giving away the password for an encrypted Hard-drive but what if the data is not encrypted, but on start up you are prompted for a password by your system - i.e. the regular laptop start up password prompt? Are you required by law to give the TSA that password?

The problem is I store many passwords on my laptop - passwords and other confidential data in word/excel files that provide access to my email accounts and other sites. I'm afraid of this falling into the hands of the TSA people. I'll have to change each and every password once I get home from the airport and that can take a while and will be a big pain, and how do I know some TSA person hasn't already gone through the contents of my computer by then?

I can still delete this and transfer this data online and download it later I guess because it's not a big file or something.

What's more worrying is the media content on my laptop - not that I have anything to be embarrassed about the contents, but how I obtained it. Songs I downloaded from friends and other p2p sites like Kazaa etc. and thus their legality can be questioned. I don't know what to do about this. I can't delete so many songs collected over the years either. Will they also ask me about the legality of the songs on my iPod or laptop? What kind of proof would they need if I were to tell them I got them for free and got them legally as well?

Deozaan

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The problem is I store many passwords on my laptop - passwords and other confidential data in word/excel files that provide access to my email accounts and other sites. I'm afraid of this falling into the hands of the TSA people.

I suggest you stop storing your passwords in Word/Excel and use something much better like fSekrit. Also, make sure you have a good passphrase. Even 1024-bit encryption would be practically useless without a good passphrase.

The worst imaginable pass phrase (eg, "this is my secret password") is many times more secure than an average single word password (eg, "god123"). And it's easier to remember.*