12 July 2008

U.S. defends laptop searches at the border | csmonitor.com

People in the US seem to have a very swivel-eyed idea of privacy. They object to identity documents and the like, yet seem to put up with this sort of thing with hardly a squeak. To me this is real Gestapo/KGB stuff, and carrying an identity document is just part of normal life. It's funny how cultures differ.

U.S. defends laptop searches at the border | csmonitor.com:
Is a laptop searchable in the same way as a piece of luggage? The Department of Homeland Security believes it is.

For the past 18 months, immigration officials at border entries have been searching and seizing some citizens’ laptops, cellphones, and BlackBerry devices when they return from international trips.

In some cases, the officers go through the files while the traveler is standing there. In others, they take the device for several hours and download the hard drive’s content. After that, it’s unclear what happens to the data.

To me that kind of thing implies that the State owns you, body and soul, and can steal your ideas, your inventions, and your secrets with impunity and no accountability.

It's what used to happen in South Africa in the bad old days. A fellow called Martin West did a lot of research on African Independent Churches in Soweto. Some of it was published in a book called Bishops and prophets in a black city, but the rest was stored in the Christian Institute offices and seized in an SB raid. It has never reappeared. Months of research just vanished. And now the US is doing the same sort of thing.

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