How U.S. Customs and Border Protection are wasting American taxpayers’ money

There is a piece in “Washington Post”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/ on the “U.S. Customs and Border Protection”:http://www.cbp.gov/, detailing how U.S. agents are “copying contents of electronic devices brought in to the U.S”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/06/AR2008020604763.html.
The story details how multiple travelers are getting their laptops confiscated, on how they have to give up passwords, let agents examine their web browser history, contents of word documents, mobile phone call lists, and doing this to both business- and privately owned electronic devices. Because, as stated in the article:
bq.. The U.S. government has argued in a pending court case that its authority to protect the country’s border extends to looking at information stored in electronic devices such as laptops without any suspicion of a crime. In border searches, it regards a laptop the same as a suitcase.
“It should not matter . . . whether documents and pictures are kept in ‘hard copy’ form in an executive’s briefcase or stored digitally in a computer. The authority of customs officials to search the former should extend equally to searches of the latter,” the government argued in the child pornography case being heard by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco.
p. And herein lies the problem: This is not protecting the country’s border. At all. If the goal is to stop “terrorism”, this is not helping:
Any half-brained moron with evil intentions will just refrain from bringing any evil plans with them. They will just instead stash the data on an offshore server somewhere, and use something like SSH to get their evil plans when well inside U.S. borders. Further, any person with any ill intent will probably do this from the nearest open wi-fi network he or she can find, leaving it next to impossible to actually trace whoever has criminal intent, or intent to perform an act of terrorism.
Which leaves us with the claim from this blog post’s title: How is it wasting taxpayers’ money? The answer is two-fold, with the obvious part being “searching people’s electronic devices costs money”. The more subtle problem is that of discouraging businesses from bringing their business to the U.S. Because, you know, “Industrial espionage is not unheard of”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/820758.stm.
So next time you, as an American think something like this is a good idea, remember that your _perceived_ security comes at a cost. Actually multiple, because it doesn’t improve your security, and it discourages people from doing business in the U.S.

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6 Comments

  1. deadHarlequin

     /  2008-02-07

    Hehh, if americans cared about their taxdollars they wouldnt have voted in for things like national universal health care and the constantly raising skyrocketing budgets of the other goverment departments. Aside from topics like personal liberties and efficiency of course…
    Remember, the nannystate is protecting you for your own good. People approve this message.

  2. algkalv

     /  2008-02-08

    The fall of Mordor is close… But then those who elected the hawks implementing the Patriot Act have only themselves to blame. Note that all current presidential candidates except Ron Paul voted that bill in. As they say – as ye set up yer bed, thus yer goin’ to sleep in it.

  3. we have a similar problem in the UK.
    Our government is just as wasteful spending money on things which turn out to do more harm than good.

  4. I think they should have better spent that money, like health care or the homeless!!

  5. It would freak me out if someone copied my laptop or even iPod just because I came into the county.

  6. Dan

     /  2008-03-29

    This is truly unbelievable. Is this really happening? Imagine all of the abuses that can occur.. with all these people getting access to tons of people’s business and personal information. I wonder what it would cost to get some of these people to sell off a copy of sensitive information.