Tuesday, May 27, 2008

International Customs Invasion

Ashley Gaffey
May 27, 2008

Airlines are now more invasive when searching private belongings in customs. Despite the fact that many passengers have reduced or eliminated certain items from their travel needs the airline industry is now becoming even more judgmental as to what can cause reasons for a search, specifically the search of laptops. Most passengers consider Transportation Security Agency (customs) to be overzealous in searching, but nothing is quite as extreme as International customs. Many critics are questioning whether the law that provides for their extreme searches to be out-of-bounds. Further, what is the criteria for these searches. The rules allow for Customs and Boarder Control almost every right to search with no reasoning and it is blanketed by the possibility that anyone can be a suspect. Though, many passengers question if it is a violation of our civil rights. The most cynical aspect is that the government suggests that we (as passengers) have no right to know what the rules for searches are. Critics of this tactic suggest that there is no value to the Freedom of Information Act if it can only be used against and not for us. The most inferior aspect is that federal courts agree that “reasonable suspicion is not needed for customs.”
Recently a man, who was traveling in the California area, had is laptop seized and customs found child pornography, and he is now being charged for that crime. And he questions the legality of the invasive way it was found. The article states that the justification in “fishing” though laptops is so anything goes. The main reasons laptops are under such stiff searches is because of the easy possibility that it can be the gateway to international terrorism. The only positive aspect to these searches is that they are only for international traveling. As long as a passenger is staying within the US borders he/she is protected against this form of searching.
The searching of laptops goes even further that customs can look at any file or copy data. Often the laptops are taken away and the owner is left to wonder if anything may have been installed/uninstalled. The only advice customs gives is to not leave as much personal information on your laptop. Many of the owners are left inconvenienced and feel invaded.


While this process is invasive and a bit tedious it’s a double edged sword. If we allow easy customs and less rigid rules we (United States) may be putting ourselves on a pedestal to be attacked again. If customs discloses the reasoning for random searches those who want to cause harm through terrorism have a hand up because they know the warning signals. Though, if we allow laws without justification we are losing our civil liberties. If a personal laptop can no longer be personal and hold personal information, as well, if software/hardware are removed/added without our knowledge when customs takes it, our civil liberties are even more in jeopardy.

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