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Commentary

Customs Can Seize Laptops, iPods

According to the new Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, U.S. customs officials have the authority to seize and inspect electronic devices, regardless of whether they have reason to think the devices contain dangerous or illegal information.The policy allows the officials to examine the devices of "any individual attempting to enter, re-enter, depart, pass through, or reside in the U.S.," inspect any information they contain, and destroy that information if they choose to. The Agreement calls the policy a "crucial tool for detecting information concerning terrorism, narcotics smuggling, and other national security matters; alien admissibility; contraband including child pornography, monetary instruments, and information in violation of copyright or trademark laws; and evidence of embargo violations or other import or export control laws."

In a newspaper editorial, Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, claimed that "laptop searches have proven essential to detecting people and materials that should be blocked from entering the United States."

Civil liberties groups oppose the policy. "They're saying they can rifle through all the information in a traveler's laptop without having a smidgen of evidence that the traveler is breaking the law," according to Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, adding that the policy doesn't "establish any criteria for whose computer can be searched." And Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) called the policy "truly alarming."ChannelWeb

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Elizabeth Montalbano, Contributor, Dark Reading
Ericka Chickowski, Contributing Writer, Dark Reading