I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.


Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean no one’s after you.

Seems like the US Department of Homeland Security has a new policy: they can take anyone’s laptop, iPod, flash drives, cellphones – basically any personal electronics – without any suspicion of wrong doing, take it away (as in out of the airport even), for any length of time. And once they have your gadget, they can ransack it for information – like files and pictures and things – and then share that information with anyone they want.

The policies state that officers may “detain” laptops “for a reasonable period of time” to “review and analyze information.” This may take place “absent individualized suspicion.”

The policies cover “any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form,” including hard drives, flash drives, cellphones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes. They also cover “all papers and other written documentation,” including books, pamphlets and “written materials commonly referred to as ‘pocket trash’ or ‘pocket litter.’

I mean, wow. What’s next? Spectographic analysis of lint?

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wrote in an opinion piece published last month in USA Today that “the most dangerous contraband is often contained in laptop computers or other electronic devices.” Searches have uncovered “violent jihadist materials” as well as images of child pornography, he wrote.

Well yeah, that sounds about right. But to be empowered to seize personal electronics even without any indication that the possessor has done anything wrong seems a tad extreme. What about the presumption of innocence, then?

As expected, civil libertarians and business-types are up in arms over these policies. Myself, while I totally get the civil liberties point of view, I’m writing about this because I’m surgically grafted to my cellphone, my iPod, and my laptop; all my key chains are flash drives, each one containing pictures, music, and my notes on a lot of things; 60% of my purse-space is taken up by powerbricks and chargers. You can just imagine how hellish it would be for me to go to the States now. Sure, I understand why some people might feel that it is better to err on the side of caution – inconvenient ideas about human rights be damned! – but as a person who would never do those things with my electronics, I find myself horrified that I might have to suffer having my stuff ransacked even when I’m totally innocent. Worse, with my pictures and videos looked at by people who might get it into their heads to post some of my more private moments on the internet, there’s a better than likely chance that I might wake up one morning to find myself publicly humiliated.

So, unless someone comes to their senses, this means that the next time I go to the States, I will have to go without my electronics. Hope they don’t start taking my Georgia O’Keefe. Now that would be embarrassing.


Filed under: international, , ,

3 Responses

  1. Bencard says:

    yeah, rom. 9/11 has turned the world upside down, inside out. it is in that way that the evildoers succeeded – the story of human existence.

  2. UP n student says:

    to remember, the first signal to US Homeland Security that they may want to detain your laptop will probably be you — behaving “funny”. Dressing up like Katherine Heigl, Keira Knightley, Leah Salonga, Audrey Tatou or the niece of GMA should work. “Nothing to worry about” because you have nothing to worry about should work. Reminder — do not make a fuss when they ask you not to smoke.

    Battery charged/the laptop turns on should they ask you to power it up will be helpful.

  3. it helps that the vast majority of americans rarely travel out of their country.

    check it out, it’s true.

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