08/02/08 02:49 - ID#45227
911 the terrorist won and now win again
New policy allows agents to seize your laptop, iPod or cell phone at the border
By Jerry Zremski NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF
Updated: 08/02/08 9:41 AM
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The policy allowing the confiscation of cell phones, computers and other gadgets has been made public.
* COMMNT ON THIS STORY at Inside the News, 'Bordering on unconstitutional'
* U.S. Border Patrol increases scrutiny of Niagara River, irritating some boaters
WASHINGTON - Federal agents can confiscate your laptop, cell phone or iPod at the border without suspicion of wrongdoing under a recently disclosed U.S. government policy that's provoking outrage from business travelers and civil libertarians.
"If you don't want information on your laptop to be seen by the U. S. government, don't bring it across the border," Susan Gurley, executive director of the Association for Corporate Travel Executives, said on Friday. "We cannot warn people enough."
Gurley's group worries that the government can seize or copy electronic information without just cause when Americans return from overseas - and that sensitive corporate secrets could fall into the wrong hands as a result.
But the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which published the policy July 16 after lawmakers asked that it be made public, insisted the broad authority to conduct searches on electronic equipment is necessary to root out terrorists and child pornographers.
"The danger is legitimate," said Amy Kudwa, a department spokeswoman, who noted that the confiscation of electronic devices in pursuit of wrongdoers affects only "a very small population."
Under the policy, "officers may detain documents and electronic devices, or copies thereof, for a reasonable period of time to perform a thorough border search. The search may take place on-site or at an off-site location."
If, after the review, investigators find no reason to keep any of the information they retrieve from electronic devices, they have to destroy it, the policy says. But it offers no specifics for how long agents have to review information and return laptops and other electronic devices to their owners.
The policy - available at www.cbp.gov/linkhandler/cgov/travel/admissability/search_authority.ctt/search_authority.pdf - affects all international travelers when they return to the United States not only at land borders but also on overseas flights.
Kudwa said she didn't know how long the policy has been in effect, but it has raised questions in the travel industry for 18 months.
In a recent survey of its members, Gurley's business travel group found that 44 percent of respondents had changed their corporate travel policies because of possible border searches.
Only three of the 100 respondents said an electronic device belonging to their company had been seized at the border this year.
But the business travelers still expressed widespread fears; 72 percent said they worried that data seized by the U. S. government was at risk of being compromised.
"We have reduced travel significantly to almost zero" in response to the policy, another respondent said. "We no longer trust U. S. territory to be secure."
The policy doesn't apply just to business travelers, either.
"This policy is especially difficult for people who live near the border and travel back and forth for business or pleasure," said Greg Nojeim, general counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology. "Now they have to think about purchasing a clean laptop just so the government can take it for a few days without damaging their business or revealing personal details about their lives. And that's just what some travelers are doing."
The New York Civil Liberties Union and Muslim Advocates, a San Francisco-based group, said they worry that travelers of Arab or South Asian descent may be particularly vulnerable to unwarranted searches.
A federal appeals court, nevertheless, recently upheld the policy, which the government describes as necessary and harmless.
"During border inspections of laptops, [Customs and Border Protection] officers have found violent jihadist material, information about cyanide and nuclear material, video clips of Improvised Explosive Devices, pictures of high-level al-Qaida officials, and other material associated with people seeking to do harm to our country," Jayson Ahern, deputy commissioner, says on the Customs and Border Protection Web site. "Border searches also have uncovered intellectual property rights violations and child pornography."
Although the policy allows searches "absent individualized suspicion," agents actually conduct inspections only when they have some reason to believe that the devices should be examined, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in a recent USA Today opinion piece.
And Jim Phillips, president of the Lewiston-based Canadian/ American Border Trade Alliance, said he has not heard any complaints about the policy from people who frequently cross the border.
In Congress, however, complaints are growing.
Sen. Russell D. Feingold, DWis., called the policy "truly alarming" and added, "I am more convinced than ever that legislation is needed in order to protect law-abiding Americans from this gross violation of privacy."
Feingold said he plans to introduce such legislation soon, and Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, said he would consider pushing the bill in the House.
"I would call this an outrageous obliteration of civil liberties," Higgins said of the policy.
Chertoff, however, warned that legislation limiting the searches could cause a "dangerous, chilling effect" that would deter border agents from making searches they ought to make.
"We cannot abandon our responsibility to inspect what enters the U. S. just because the information is on an electronic device," he said in his USA Today commentary. "To do so would open a dangerous window for terrorists and criminals to exploit our borders in new and unacceptable ways."
06/02/06 11:36 - ID#28393
On line Records there goes our freedom
U.S. wants Web use chronicled
Child pornography, terrorism are targets
By ROBERT SCHMIDT
WASHINGTON - The federal government is asking Internet companies including Microsoft Corp., Google Inc. and America OnLine to preserve the records of customers' Web activity in order to aid investigations of terrorism and child pornography cases.
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III made the request last week at a meeting with industry executives, said Brian Roehrkasse, a Justice Department spokesman. More talks are scheduled for today. Also included in the discussions are representatives from victims' rights groups, privacy advocates and law enforcement officials, he said.
"We have begun initial discussions with Internet service providers and others on this issue of data retention to help the department with bolstering its investigative efforts," said Roehrkasse.
Gonzales is pressing Internet companies for more cooperation as the Justice Department focuses on terrorism and child pornography cases. The move has prompted complaints from privacy advocates and led to a clash earlier this year with Google, the word's largest search engine.
The agency has asked Internet companies to retain records such as lists of e-mails sent and received or information on Web searches. Authorities wouldn't ask the companies to keep the content of e-mails and would use standard legal channels, such as seeking a subpoena, before obtaining information, Roehrkasse said.
The Justice Department has no legal authority to require companies to keep data on their customers and would need to ask Congress for that ability, Roehrkasse said. He said there has been no decision on how long companies would need to store the records.
However, the Associated Press reported that Mueller suggested a period of two years.
New York-based Verizon Communications, the No. 2 U.S. telephone company, and Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp., the largest U.S. cable provider, were among the companies at last week's meeting, Roehrkasse said. AOL is the Internet unit of New York-based Time Warner, the world's largest media company.
Gonzales said in April that Internet service providers had hurt child pornography probes by not keeping data long enough. He said he would personally reach out to chief executive officers of leading providers to resolve the problem.
"The investigation and prosecution of child predators depends critically on the availability of evidence that is often in the hands of Internet service providers," Gonzales said in a April 20 speech at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Va. "This evidence will be available for us to use only if the providers retain the records for a reasonable amount of time."
Earlier this year, the Justice Department sparred with Google over a request for information on its customer searches. In March, a federal judge ordered the Mountain View, Calif.-based company to turn over some of the records demanded by the government.
Google initially had refused to give the government the information citing privacy concerns. Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, AOL and Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo! Inc. cooperated with the Justice Department. Yahoo is the most-visited U.S. Web site. Microsoft, the world's biggest software company, owns the MSN Internet service.
"We strongly support Attorney General Gonzales' interest in assuring that the Internet is safe for everyone, especially children and families," Phil Reitinger, senior security strategist for Microsoft, said in an e-mailed statement. "But data retention is a complicated issue with implications not only for efforts to combat child pornography but also for security, privacy, safety, and availability of low-cost or free Internet services."
One Internet executive familiar with the talks with the Justice Department said one worry is that once retained, the records could be made available for any criminal investigation or civil case, "down to a bad divorce, up to a music company asking for people who visited a file trading site."
I admit this article is good but it kinda scares me. Is terrorism and childporn a problem? Yes. Should online companies when they know of a possible terror attack or sexual abuse be mandated to report it, probobly. But I think what the government wants is a little bit to much. The best way to take away someones freedom of speach and information and privacy is to say there is this evil in this case child porn, that we have to stop. Then you get people to give up there own rights. Has it come to this yet no. But it looks like it could possibley if this passes. Whats to stop someone who works in the government to send an eltronic version of a supena to some internet company then that company sends that guy all your info. He is just one guy he could misuse your personal prvate information. When a crime is commited and the internet is used then the internet company should give all redords over to the authorities. But they shouldn't be forced to keep records of every e-mail of every user for two years. Once this passes then it will 5 years. Then it will be that keeping records is to much of a burden for internet providers. But guess what they can send the info to the government. Plus that way they don't need to bother them every time a crime is commited. And before you know it the government is not only wire taping private citizens they are monitoring web traffic and (e:mails). Who says that they then don't go after people who have decenting opinions. You may say that sounds crazzy but that is what the Chinesse government is trying to do with Yahoo and Google. It is verry easy for a country to turn into a tolotroin rule because they decide to give up there rights to feal safe. People really need to think about there freedom first and not let themselves and there own government be there own opressers
02/19/06 10:26 - ID#28307
Posted 2/17/2006 9:06 PM Updated 2/17/2006 9:14 PM
Google rips Justice Department in court papers
By Michael Liedtke, The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO - Google criticized the Bush administration's demand to examine millions of its users' Internet search requests as a misguided fishing expedition that threatens to ruin the company's credibility and reveal its closely guarded secrets.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company delivered its indignant critique Friday in a 25-page brief that marked its initial legal response to the U.S. Justice Department's attempt to force the online search engine leader to comply with a 6-month-old subpoena.
The Justice Department has until Feb. 24 to respond to the papers that Google filed Friday. A hearing for oral arguments is scheduled March 13 before U.S. District Judge James Ware in San Jose, Calif.
The case has attracted widespread attention because the Justice Department's demand to peek under the hood of the Internet's most popular search engine has underscored the potential for online databases becoming tools for government surveillance.
Hoping to revive an online child protection law that has been blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Justice Department wants a random list of the search requests made by the millions of people who visit Google during any week.
The government believes the search requests will help prove that Internet filters aren't strong enough to prevent children from accessing online pornography and other potentially offensive websites.
Yahoo, Microsoft's MSN and Time Warner's America Online already have provided some of the search engine information sought by the Justice Department. All three companies say they complied without relinquishing their users' private information.
But Google has steadfastly refused to hand over the requested information, a defiant stance that the company reaffirmed in a brief that depicts the Bush administration as heavy-handed snoops and technological rubes.
In one particularly scathing section, Google's lawyers ridiculed the government's belief that a list of search requests would help it understand the behavior of Web surfers.
"This statement is so uninformed as to be nonsensical," the lawyers wrote.
Although the Justice Department says it doesn't want any of the personal information, Google contends its cooperation would set off privacy alarms and scare away some of the traffic that has driven its success.
"If users believe that the text of their search queries into Google's search engine may become public knowledge, it only logically follows that they will be less likely to use the service," Google's lawyers wrote.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which is opposing the Bush administration's effort to revive the online child protection law, also filed a brief Friday in support of Google.
"This subpoena is the latest example of government overreaching, in which the government apparently believes it can demand that private entities turn over all sorts of information about their customers just because the government asserts that it needs the information," the ACLU's lawyers wrote.
Google also said it doubts the government would be available to shield the requested information from public scrutiny. The company maintains the data sought by the government could provide its rivals and website operators with valuable insights about how its search engine works.
As it battles the Justice Department, Google is cooperating with China's Communist government by censoring some of the search results that the company produces in a country that restricts free speech.
That odd juxtaposition has caused civil rights activists to applaud Google for defying the U.S. government while the champions of human rights and free speech jeer the company for bending to China's will.
01/18/06 07:21 - ID#28279
08/24/05 08:03 - ID#28153
08/24/05 07:49 - ID#28152
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