Without any explicit legal authority, the US "Heimattssicherheitsamp" (DHS/TSA) has issued a ruling which gives the assorted, ill-kempt, slovenly, obese, drooling knuckle-draggers, morons, and sniffling mouth-breathers--who's job it is to make your travel experience as absolutely SHITTY as possible--a new weapon in their arsenal of petty annoyances and bull-shit instigations: They claim the authority to force travelers to open their laptops, share the data thereupon recorded and to relinquish them at demand. (Never heard of the fucking 4th Amendment, I guess. What 4th Amendment, you ask? Oh yeah, FISA, I forgot...)
This, it seems to me, is an effort--which is working, as all such efforts these last 8 years have succeeded--to criminalize information, to institute and reify a class of thought-crimes. It is phenomenally dangerous to intellectual freedom, because it conflates "unapproved" information with contraband.
"The new DHS policies say that customs agents can, "absent individualized suspicion," seize electronic gear: "Documents and electronic media, or copies thereof, may be detained for further review, either on-site at the place of detention or at an off-site location, including a location associated with a demand for assistance from an outside agency or entity."
Outside entity presumably refers to government contractors, the FBI, and National Security Agency, which can also be asked to provide "decryption assistance." Seized information will supposedly be destroyed unless customs claims there's a good reason to keep it.
An electronic device is defined as "any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form" including hard drives, compact discs, DVDs, flash drives, portable music players, cell phones, pagers, beepers, and videotapes.
There are some counter-measures, the best of which is full-encryption. But if DHS/TSA can just abscond with the machine, and there is no promise of it EVER being returned to you, there is no protection whatsoever afforded the innocent citizen. I volunteer to make a test-case of it, if I can get a guarantee of complete, full-appeal support from the ACLU or some such other guarantor of liberty and free speech.
Sen. Feingold's on the case, but Skeletor Chertoff says the DHS doesn't have to make public all it's rulings. And the Busheviks' notorious scorn and contempt for ANY Congressional oversight makes me think it will be in vain to pursue it. Also, I expect any new regime to stay with the existing policies, St. Barry, or Bombin' John. They won't easily relinquish such valuable perqs...