Probable Cause is so last Century

I’m flying to Texas tomorrow and I will be bringing my laptop with me.  My laptop is so special it will require its own bin to go through the TSA security checkpoint at Logan International Airport.  Good thing I am not going to another country (although some would dispute that about Texas), because Homeland Security (if you’re like me, just the name Homeland Security is troubling, conjuring up images of and associations to Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, but I digress), anyway Homeland Security can seize and search your laptop at will.  As mcjoan writes in her diary entry “Hands off My Laptop” at dailyKos, worrying about probable cause and the 4th amendment is so 20th century.  Just in case Homeland Security ever does seize this laptop, here’s a copy of The Constitution of the United States.

Think Progress reports on a Washington Post recurring feature that tracks such issues:

The Washington Post ran a front-page story (Aug. 1 ) on a topic previously reported by ThinkProgress. Homeland Security is telling customs agents they can search, and take, travelers’ laptops and other electronic devices without needing any reasonable suspicion or probable cause.

The Post story highlights a new search_authority that states:

In the course of a border search, and absent individualized suspicion, officers can review and analyze the information transported by any individual attempting to enter, reenter, depart, pass through, or reside in the United States.

The new policy says CPB can take away the laptop or analyze copies of its contents:

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.

CBP says that the officers are supposed to return the laptop and destroy copies of the contents if nothing illegal is found (but be sure not to have any downloaded songs that you haven’t paid for).

The Washington Post piece also reports that Senator Russ Feingold is filing legislation aimed at restoring probable cause and barring profiling from such laptop and other portable media searches (darn, I thought we already had those rights, then again I’m so old-fashioned that way).

If you’d like to join in with those of us telling the administration to take its hands out of our laptops,

here’s the link for I Am Progress’ Hands Off My Laptop campaign.

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