Goodbye Fourth Amendment: Homeland Security Affirms "Suspicionless" Confiscation Of Devices Along Border

Tyler Durden's picture

Slowly but surely the administration is making sure that both the US constitution, and its various amendments, become a thing of the past. In the name of national security, of course. And while until now it was the First and Second amendments that were the target of the administration's ongoing efforts to eavesdrop on anyone, all the time, in order to decide who may be a domestic terrorist and thus fit for 'droning', coupled with an aggressive push to disarm and curtail the propagation of weapons in what some perceive is nothing more than an attempt to take away a population's one recourse to defend itself against a tyrannical government, the time may be coming to say goodbye to the Fourth amendment - the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures - next. But only in close proximity to the border at first. According to Wired, "the Department of Homeland Security’s civil rights watchdog has concluded that travelers along the nation’s borders may have their electronics seized and the contents of those devices examined for any reason whatsoever — all in the name of national security."

More on America's quest, by a very select few, to one by one extinguish its civil liberties from Wired:

The DHS, which secures the nation’s border, in 2009 announced that it would conduct a “Civil Liberties Impact Assessment” of its suspicionless search-and-seizure policy pertaining to electronic devices “within 120 days.” More than three years later, the DHS office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties published a two-page executive summary of its findings.


“We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits,” the executive summary said.


The memo highlights the friction between today’s reality that electronic devices have become virtual extensions of ourselves housing everything from e-mail to instant-message chats to photos and our papers and effects — juxtaposed against the government’s stated quest for national security.

And before this becomes yet another red vs blue scream fest, where the underlying fact is ignored in the name of proving the validity of one's ideological convictions, the reality is that the eradication of the Fourth Amendment started with Bush, and has merely accelerated under Obama.

The President George W. Bush administration first announced the suspicionless, electronics search rules in 2008. The President Barack Obama administration followed up with virtually the same rules a year later. Between 2008 and 2010, 6,500 persons had their electronic devices searched along the U.S. border, according to DHS data.

What does this decision mean in principle:

According to legal precedent, the Fourth Amendment — the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures — does not apply along the border. By the way, the government contends the Fourth-Amendment-Free Zone stretches 100 miles inland from the nation’s actual border.

100 miles today, 1,000 miles tomorrow, and the entire nation the day after. Though no need: as the attached map also from Wired shows, the "borders" in question include maritime as well, and with the bulk of the US population concentrated along the coasts, the "constitution free" zone of the US includes virtually everyone living on the two seaboards: some 66% of the US population!

For those still confused, luckily there is a case study:

A lawsuit the ACLU brought on the issue concerns a New York man whose laptop was seized along the Canadian border in 2010 and returned 11 days later after his attorney complained.


At an Amtrak inspection point, Pascal Abidor showed his U.S. passport to a federal agent. He was ordered to move to the cafe car, where they removed his laptop from his luggage and “ordered Mr. Abidor to enter his password,” according to the lawsuit.


Agents asked him about pictures they found on his laptop, which included Hamas and Hezbollah rallies. He explained that he was earning a doctoral degree at a Canadian university on the topic of the modern history of Shiites in Lebanon.


He was handcuffed and then jailed for three hours while the authorities looked through his computer while numerous agents questioned him, according to the suit, which is pending in New York federal court.

First they came for your iPad, and nobody said anything...

In other news, the rest of the world now openly hates America for its relentless and ever accelerating loss of freedoms. All "in the name of the national security" bogeyman of course.

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Tango in the Blight's picture

Yes Aaron Swarz and Bradley Manning really loved hope and tyranny.

kill switch's picture

WTF Another village missing its idiot.

CPL's picture

They extend it 100 miles from state borders?

The Gooch's picture

"maritime" too, apparently . Great Lakes.

You hear that Milwaukee?


bobthehorse's picture

Bin Laden really did a job on America.

Every day, our rights keep getting eroded.

jeff montanye's picture

as with george orwell, history as it unfolds seems to fulfill his predictions.

earleflorida's picture

some words never leave my, 'worry-about-later-memory', spoken in translation that read exactly as if said today: "it is the american people that i feel sorry about?"

don't shoot the messenger... but, kill the message first!!!

EscapingProgress's picture

If the NDAA is upheld then the entire country becomes a Constitution-free zone.

"We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits,” the executive summary said."


FL_Conservative's picture

How else can they protect us if they don't take away our rights?

Colonel Klink's picture

And when they take our rights away from us, how to we protect ourselves?


GUNS!  Why do you think they want those the most of all?

CH1's picture

And when they take our rights away from us....

Now that they have taken our rights from us...

Fuxed it for you.

Hobie's picture

What do you mean "again"?

Never cross to the dark side.

Tom_333's picture

Yes. Blessed I am not reside in the ConUs anymore.As for the amendments - just keep ticking them off as they get overturned and anulled.

nc551's picture

I figured out a loophole to being compelled to turn over your password.   Make your password a sentence that confesses to a very minor crime.  Then you can plead the 5th because your password is a true yet incriminating statement.

seek's picture

I think a short paragraph on the legal right to jury nullification would make a pretty awesome passphrase as well.


But seriously, the way to handle border crossings now is to dump the hard disk before you fly back to the US, and use an internet based cloud drive to store encrypted files. This eliminates virtually all the points of attack save for when you're actually working on the computer. If you're really worried about raising suspicions, just dump the entire computer before coming back -- from a financial perspective that's no different that DHS seizing the damn thing on your return, but it eliminates any dealings with lawyers or delays due to search.

They're pretty shortsighted, all this affects is people who aren't a threat anyway.

12ToothAssassin's picture

My password is "read the 4th amendment to me please"


BTW, dump it on a cloud drive so Stellar Wind is sure to catch it?

seek's picture

With AES256 or similarly secure encryption, all they're going to know is you accessed a big encrypted file.If you're worried about that, access your cloud drive through TOR.

I know the tin-foil crowd thinks they can read everything, but really, they can't. Even if AES256 is compromised, somethings (such as the lowly one time pad) will never be.

And, honestly, even if it were compromised they'd never risk exposure of the capability over something mundane.

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

There is even a simplier way to protect files and folders than using AES256 but I don't think I should post it on a public forum. These DHS border guards are not that bright and I shouldn't be giving them any ideas.


Doña K's picture

What's wrong with having all your files in a jump drive well hidden somewhere and have few things on the hard drive?


seek's picture

You don't want to have the data on you, period. In fact, I would imagine them finding you concealed a data storage device would probably bring on even more scrutiny.

The reality is, for whatever reason, they're desperate to search your electronic items, and will take them from you to do so. Get rid of them before crossing the border and there's nothing to search or delay you.

Of course, you could put the same jump drive in an envelope and mail it to yourself, and they'd need a warrant to examine it unless the mail search rules have changed.

Svendblaaskaeg's picture

".. Get rid of them before crossing the border and there's nothing to search or delay you..."


TrueCrypt, make a hidden volume, problem solved

Sean7k's picture

Not that we should have to, but, is anyone realizing the problem lies in having electronics? Do you really have to have a laptop or tablet with you when you travel? Keep one in another country if you travel enough. I recommend paper and pen. I also recommend real books. 

Ultimately, technology is created and then manipulated to serve those in power. Don't want to follow building codes? We red tag you for electricity, phone or cable. Don't want to pay taxes, we start adding them to your utility bills. Want to fly on a plane? Want to drive a car? Want to use a computer? Want to buy a gun? 

Everytime we create a means to advance our standard of living, it is hijacked and used to control us. Rules are put in place, standards are written and you must conform or live in a "dark age". Consequently, people have been surrendering their rights for over a hundred years. Each new advancement, brings greater tyranny through convenience. Social pressures become collars and chains.

All smoothly delivered and dressed up by media. Our greatest desires in youth become the walls of our cells in old age, where and when we lack the energy to revolt. We all fall prey to the seduction, because at its' core, it is the nature of being human. 

This is the reason the greatest advancements are the genius of unselfish leaders and people of great wisdom. Probably the reason they are so rare. 

Slavery is the opposite to wealth. Like yin and yang, they form a twisted whole. While the answer never lies in equality or equilibrium (which does not exist), we can find opportunity in the struggle between opposing forces: minimizing the heavy hand of wealth while providing unrestrained liberty to the slaves. 

Take away the greatest tools of tyranny ever created: the control over currency and government by coercion.


MeelionDollerBogus's picture

well, plain & simple, you can make RSA, Diffie Hellman keys much larger, thousands of bits. I woudn't use anything lower than 1024 bit ever. Never have, not even since the 1990's with PGP. Then again I'd still suggest not storing anything at all that doesn't need to be, that otherwise would be secured. If it isn't there it can't be taken.

The best communications security will always be one-time-pads for content & direct line of sight lasers or fibre optics for locations.

jeff montanye's picture

hey seek, when you said They're pretty shortsighted, all this affects is people who aren't a threat anyway.

did you mean weren't one until the dhs was finished with them?

kind of like the drone program survivors.

wee-weed up's picture

Encryption? You think that's going to stop these bastards?

They'll simply conclude you must have something to hide and confiscate your laptop! And good luck ever getting it back... you'll be lucky if they don't plant child-porn on it to get you on something, especially if you were so stupid as to protest loudly about "constitutional rights."

seek's picture

I think you missed the part that the encryption is on a file on the net, and there's no hard drive (or even no computer) when you come back into the country.

They can't confiscate or search something that's not there.

maskone909's picture

dude im sure they already have quantum computers that can hack the best classical based encryption in seconds. no joke. search Dwave systems- darpa funded qbit system research

Tom_333's picture

SSD harddrives.As they grow bigger,just flip the harddrive.On 2nd thought don´t do that - you will just be made to surrender the password to the cloud and the encryption key.Or wait...that will soon be mandatory as well - for everyone.

DCFusor's picture

NC551.  Won't work.  Rubber hose "cyptography" comes next.

A Lunatic's picture

A cheery but firm "Fuck Off" works well too.

CH1's picture

Let us know how that goes next time.

Shell Game's picture

I like how this gentleman handled it..


Ignatius's picture

"I figured out a loophole to being compelled to turn over your password.   Make your password a sentence that confesses to a very minor crime.  Then you can plead the 5th because your password is a true yet incriminating statement." -- nc551

Nice thought, the problem being that they now torture (euphamistically "enhanced interrogation") 'confessions' so the 5th is already gone.  Everything layers up once these fundamental principals are abrogated.

People, all of this shit springs from the 9/11 false flag.  I've said it before, break 9/11 in the conciousness of the American public and all their justification for this shit is gone.

WTC 7 came down at 5:20 in the afternoon at absolute free fall acceleration for 2.25 seconds primarily by fire according to the official story.  WTC 1 came down and its roofline never decelerated during its initial, visible fall of some 90 feet for 3 seconds (measured 64% of free fall).  According to Newton's Laws this is impossible.  

WTC 7: 84 steel columns went from holding to zero resistence for over 7 floors due to fires -- impossible.

WTC 1:  The roofline was always accelerating (gaining speed) at 64% of free fall through the visible portion of its fall -- impossible. Imagine a step van colliding with a bus and accelerating through the collision - impossible.  Deceleration is how the impact forces are transferred.

Terminus C's picture

Don't baffle people with your logic and shit.  DWTS is on!  Yes!

Did you say something?

your neighbor's picture

<<break 9/11 in the conciousness of the American public and all their justification for this shit is gone.>>


Spot on precise.

FeralSerf's picture

It stems even more from the ability to finance the 9/11 operation.  9/11 was not cheap.  Think Brady bonds and Yamashita gold.

Gold Warriors - The Vulcans - Murdering Liberty and Killing Hope on 911

idea_hamster's picture

That only works until you or your lawyer explains why you're claiming 5th Amd privilege.  

If the password topic is truly minor, they can grant you immunity from prosecution for it -- then you have no more basis to object.

And that's in the event that they decide they're going to play by the rules.  If you've ever read Solzhenytsin's Gulag Archipelago, you know that the USSR had volumes of rules on prisoner rights, protections, and limits on punitive measures.  They only help if the enforcers believe that they have to be followed -- and that went out the window here a while ago.


goat's picture

This doesn't feel like the place I grew up.

CH1's picture

Indeed it is not.

The Gooch's picture

All is not lost. Yet.

idea_hamster's picture

"An observer crossing a black hole event horizon can calculate the moment they have crossed it, but will not actually see or feel anything special happen at that moment. In terms of visual appearance, observers who fall into the hole perceive the black region constituting the horizon as lying at some apparent distance below them, and never experience crossing this visual horizon."

Bad Attitude's picture

I frequently feel like a stranger/foreigner in the county of my birth (the US of A).

Atomizer's picture


Let me fix the title, Goodbye Homeland Security Budget


It really doesn’t matter how many rounds of ammunition they purchase using the taxpayers monies. When the taxpayers need bullets, they know where to find rounds they purchased thru government corruption.


  1. Give me a G
  2. Give me a P
  3. Give me a S

What’s that spell?

nmewn's picture

Warehouses and armories ;-)

espirit's picture

Least we not forget a source of auto FCG's, parts, and pieces.

Hollywood Prop Studios.

duo's picture

so only US citizens can have their laptops seized at the border, or does that apply to foreigners, too?  My customers in Europe and Asia would like to know before they visit here.