Returning from a brief vacation to Germany in February, Bill Hogan was selected for additional screening by customs officials at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. Agents searched Hogan's luggage and then popped an unexpected question: Was he carrying any digital media cards or drives in his pockets? "Then they told me that they were impounding my laptop," says Hogan, a freelance investigative reporter whose recent stories have ranged from the origins of the Iraq war to the impact of money in presidential politics.
The extent of the program to confiscate electronics at customs points is unclear. A hearing Wednesday before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary's Subcommittee on the Constitution hopes to learn more about the extent of the program and safeguards to traveler's privacy. Lawsuits have also been filed, challenging how the program selects travelers for inspection. Citing those lawsuits, Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, refuses to say exactly how common the practice is, how many computers, portable storage drives, and BlackBerries have been inspected and confiscated, or what happens to the devices once they are seized. Congressional investigators and plaintiffs involved in lawsuits believe that digital copies—so-called "mirror images" of drives—are sometimes made of materials after they are seized by customs.
It's a known fact that racial profiling has been/is taking place under the guise of 'national security'. But, as the 'fear' of the unknown grows within those that are members of customs, border patrol, local and state police forces, the risk for ANYONE to have their electronics confiscated increases exponentially.
One of the major issues that this raises, is how this will impact identity theft.
How are we, as American citizens, able to protect that information when confronted by a member of Customs or Homeland Security and asked to relinquish our cellphone, laptop, or PDA?
Our rights are increasingly disappearing.
Accoring to this ruling by the 9th Circuit Court Of Appeals, The Departmenn of Homeland Security has every authority to search ANY electronic device on you without probable cause.