Archive for the ‘Security’ Category


FARC Is Weakened, But Far From Dead

FARC has been severely hit by the killing of its leader Alfonso Cano, but it has proven to be a resilient and adaptive insurgent movement and is unlikely to demobilize any time soon. For the Colombian conflict to be resolved, political measures will be crucial.

By Lisa Wüstholz for ISN Insights

There is no doubt that the death of Alfonso Cano, head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), on 4 November 2011 has dealt a severe blow to the guerrilla movement. Cano was the ideological leader of the Communist insurgent group and an old hand at rebelling against the Colombian government. He was the first Comandante en jefe in FARC’s 47 years of history to be killed in combat. As a committed Marxist, he had sought to intensify the revolutionary fight against the government ever since taking over FARC from one of the group’s founders, Manuel Marulanda, in 2008.
The death of Cano is the more troubling for FARC since it constitutes only the latest in a series of setbacks that the rebel group has recently been experiencing. On the level of leadership, three senior members of the Secretariat, FARC’s seven-person high command, have been killed in the past three years: Raúl Reyes, el Mono Jojoy, and Iván Ríos. Like Cano, they were all iconic figures of FARC.
Cohesion and vulnerability
At the level of followers, FARC is estimated to have shrunk from 20,000 members at its peak a decade ago to around 8,000 fighters. There are reports of large-scale desertions and battle fatigue among the revolutionary troops. Generally, there are signs of growing fragmentation among the rebels. Some fronts are said to operate more and more autonomously from the central command, being more concerned with trading drugs than with the revolutionary struggle. Recently, FARC also had to give up some historical strongholds in the center of the country and move more to the west (in the direction of Cauca, where Cano was found) as well as towards the northeast, further splitting the group. Hence, cohesive action in the name of the group’s stated goals has become ever more difficult. FARC has certainly lost its aura of invulnerability.
What is worse from FARC’s perspective is that the Colombian armed forces are still advancing. Their fight against the rebels has intensified ever since former President Álvaro Uribe came to power. US support has significantly strengthened the military capabilities of the Colombian forces: Among other things, they received Blackhawk helicopters, making it possible to carry out air strikes against rebel camps, as well as help in improving surveillance obtained through satellites and the interception of phone calls in order to locate FARC’s positions.
Additionally, the armed forces have improved their position thanks to valuable intelligence gained from FARC deserters and successful raids on FARC camps. In a raid on a camp in Ecuador, during which FARC international spokesman Raúl Reyes was killed, laptops, hard drives and memory sticks containing sensitive information about FARC operations were discovered.
With FARC on the run rather than on the march, the guerrillas have less time than ever to indoctrinate their new members. This, in turn, is bound to further the decrease in cohesion of the rebel troops.

A resilient and adaptive movement
For all these setbacks, it would be premature to expect the demise of FARC. The end of the group has been predicted several times already. For example, when he was serving as defense minister, current President Juan Manuel Santos declared FARC decidedly shaken. However, three years later, FARC is still fighting. The guerrilla movement has shown remarkable resilience in the face of campaigns to eradicate it. It has also demonstrated the ability to adapt, adjusting its way of fighting to match its own strengths and the actions of the Colombian armed forces.


There are many indications that the guerrilla group is still very active. Its propaganda machine is running, as can be seen on the continuously updated FARC website. The battle is still on, as shown in the frequency with which the rebels continue to launch deadly attacks: Shortly before and after the death of Cano, FARC carried out several strikes, killing at least three people and injuring 23 in the first half of November alone. According to a Colombian think-tank, the number of attacks is actually on the increase. In 2010, the figure was close to reaching the record 2,063 strikes of 2002.
Having adapted their strategy, FARC fighters today tend to launch more small-scale attacks using weapons that require no direct interaction with the Colombian army, such as IEDs and land mines. Furthermore, having retreated to the border regions with Ecuador and Venezuela, they now operate in territory that is not conducive to the Colombian army conducting large-scale raids. The terrain also makes it easier for the rebels to hide. There is substantial evidence that FARC has expanded into the territory of these neighboring countries, leading to inter-governmental disputes. Even though President Santos has reconciled with Venezuela, these liminal territories are still patrolled less vigilantly than those of Colombia and thus provide a hideout for the rebels.
Leadership and financial means
The death of the FARC leader will not plunge the organization into chaos. FARC is hierarchically structured, similar to regular armed forces, and the succession of Cano has likely been decided for a long time. That Cano would follow the FARC’s long-time leader Manuel Marulanda had been decided four years before the latter’s demise. Cano’s replacement, Timoleón Jiménez alias Timochenko, was apparently elected as early as one day after the killing and his succession publicly announced only a few days later; Iván Márquez was already positioned as second-in-line. Both commanders are senior members of the FARC Secretariat, having fought for almost 30 years, and they have proven their skills in the military and the political fields, respectively. Both are said to be inclined to continue the path chosen by Cano, even though Timochenko is known to be a touch more radical.
The diminishing of the group has to be put in perspective: FARC is still as big as the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) at their peak and is stronger in numbers than many jihadist groups. It continues to constitute a viable fighting force; one could even argue that FARC is becoming “leaner and meaner“.
Furthermore, FARC has enough financial means at its disposal to continue fighting for a long time. The group is estimated to gain at least $100 million a year through the drug trade, extortions, and kidnappings. The wealth of the guerrilla group also allows it to buy heavy weaponry: its arsenal is said to include – among others – mortars, landmines, surface-to-air missiles and anti-tank weapons. There are even rumors that it was involved in trading uranium.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, FARC has already stated that it will continue fighting and not lay down arms before a peace agreement has been signed. This is also because the group’s previous attempt to engage in legal political activity backfired: The killings of 4,000 members of the Unión Patriótica (a political party founded by former FARC members and other left-wing organizations) by right-wing paramilitaries have not been forgotten.
A window of opportunity, nevertheless
For all these reasons, it seems safe to assume that the killing of Cano has been a mostly symbolic blow to FARC. Still, the current situation does constitute a window of opportunity for the Colombian government to settle the conflict, provided that it plays its hand right.
First, it should not rest on its laurels, as FARC is not even close to being militarily defeated. The fact that the death of Cano was revealed without the euphoria that accompanied past announcements suggests that the Colombian government is quite aware of this. The armed forces need to continue their current advance and not give FARC time to reorganize. Second, to diminish public support for FARC, the government must address the grievances of the rural population. Above all, land reform is urgently needed in Colombia. Third, as in the case of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, there is need for a political solution to the FARC challenge. There have been several peace talks in the past and these talks should now be resumed. Relying on military means alone might lead to more fragmentation within FARC, but will not put an end to the violence.
Juan Manuel Santos could actually be the right man to finally bring peace to Colombia. Being less of a hard-liner than former president Álvaro Uribe, he has already succeeded in reconciling with Venezuela. This was a major step towards undercutting the guerrillas’ operational base, as tensions would only help FARC – especially because the new leader, Timochenko, is said to have connections to the Venezuelan elite. With Cano killed, Santos has the domestic political capital to kick off new talks. His idea of a constitutional amendment to integrate former guerrillas into civilian life could be a good starting point for a dialogue with FARC.

read the article here:


Spy vs Spy: Cyber Crime, Surveillance on Rise in Latin America
Written by  Southern Pulse

Phone tapping, data theft, and secret recordings have made headlines across Latin America in recent weeks, reflecting the growth of cyber crime and information trafficking in the region, as Southern Pulse explains.

Domestic spying is in the news this month in the Western Hemisphere. A subject that is often not discussed in formal settings has made its way to the front pages of at least a dozen countries in Latin America and the Caribbean over the past few weeks. The news includes phone taps, hacked emails, covert video surveillance and legislative debates over privacy online and offline. A confluence of events around the region and the globe as well as improved spying technology has pushed this trend into the open and could change how the spy vs spy, police vs crime and government vs opposition scenarios play out in several countries.

Certainly, there have been phone taps and secret recordings for decades in Latin America. Perhaps the most famous examples were the “Vlad-videos” in Peru under the administration of President Fujimori and National Intelligence Service chief Montesinos. What makes 2011 different is the surge in surveillance by governments across the political spectrum and the media providing increased coverage of the situation.

The technology and techniques are a mixture of old and new. Phone taps and illegal recordings are old technologies that have become more sophisticated while data mining of social networks is a new field that all governments around the globe are just beginning to understand. Private hacking gangs appear to have surpassed the capabilities of government intelligence agencies in terms of the ability to hack email and computers, creating a new black market for information trafficking.

It’s worth noting that the technology to encrypt data has also become cheaper and easier to use, but has not yet caught on in much of Latin America. However, the increased public nature of government and private sector surveillance should push an increased demand for privacy technologies in the coming year, both by criminal groups and civilians who want greater privacy from the government.

Some examples from recent weeks follow:

A New York Times article described enhanced intelligence cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico that includes phone tapping technologies. The U.S. has assisted in the creation of intelligence fusion cells in Mexico and is providing information to a vetted group of Mexican authorities so that they can conduct operations against criminal organizations.

In Honduras, an investigation revealed that the email servers at the presidential palace had been hacked, giving one or multiple organizations access to email, the president’s schedule and budget documents. Foreign government involvement does appear likely at this point. An Israeli firm has been hired by the government to provide increased cybersecurity protection.

Even as officials from the government of former President Uribe are being investigated for phone taps and domestic spying on judges and political opponents, the Colombian government showed off some new surveillance capabilities. Police utilized new online forensic capabilities and arrested a hacker who broke into the account of a journalist. The government, under attack by a local branch of the hacking group Anonymous, has announced they plan to have a new CERT agency online before the end of the year that can counter and investigate attacks.

In Venezuela, phone calls by opposition candidates have been recorded and played on state television as a way of embarrassing those politicians. It appears state intelligence is behind the tapping of the phones. This news comes just months after other sources indicated that Venezuela’s intelligence services, with the assistance of Cuban intelligence and private hacking groups inside Venezuela and Colombia, have hacked into the private email accounts of journalists and politicians and have stolen their messages for at least the past five years.

In Bolivia, the government tapped the phones of indigenous protesters and U.S. embassy officials. President Morales then revealed phone calls made between the two groups as a way of showing a plot against his government. In the process, he showed that his government is tapping the phones of political opponents and foreigners living in the country.

In Argentina, a number of private emails by Kirchner government officials recently appeared on a website “Leakymails.” There are three aspects to this scandal worth considering. First, the content of the emails contains personal information about key political officials. Though most of the emails released are rather boring, one set of emails does appear to link a government-backed candidate to organized crime. Second, the question of how the emails were obtained may point to the state intelligence service or former officials within the intelligence service committing domestic espionage. There are indications outside non-state groups hacking into government officials’ email account. Third, an Argentine judge ordered local ISPs to block the Leakymails websites. This opens a new chapter in web censorship in Argentina and the region and places the question of how private ISPs filter Internet content directly onto the policy agenda.

The government of Brazil fined Google for failing to reveal identifying information about an Internet user. According to Google, Brazil is the top country in the world for making requests to obtain user information or to block search results through legal actions. Part of this is due to Brazil’s speech laws that give public officials broad sway on any issue that could be considered libel or slander.

Similarly, the government of Ecuador is considering passing a law that would require Facebook and Twitter to provide information about anonymous postings based out of that country. Though President Correa has backtracked on his initial request, draft versions of the law suggest an expanded government authority to track the identity of users online.

The governments of Chile and Brazil have said they are starting to monitor social media sites as a way of detecting criminal activity as well as potential social unrest. For Brazil, this operation has included a military unit dedicated to cyberwarfare and cyberdefense. This unit is also receiving training from Israeli and U.S. firms in offensive operations in the cyber-domain, the first Latin American government to admit that publicly. For Chile, the monitoring of social media has made the government a target for the international hacking group Anonymous, which is also attacking government websites as a way of supporting recent protests by student groups. Chile’s domestic cybersecurity units, particularly those within the police, are now forced to increase their capacity to handle the incidents.

The issues reported only hint at some of the issues that remain hidden from public view. Police and intelligence organizations across the region have expanded their capacity for surveillance in recent years and a number of foreign firms from the U.S., Europe and Israel are assisting them in that effort. Meanwhile, criminal groups have banded together with hackers from Eastern Europe and Russia to enhance their technological capabilities to steal government and corporate information.

Back at the regional level, Latin American intelligence agencies are running into the same problem as their developed world counterparts: how do they analyze all the data they collect? The ability to collect and store data is moving more quickly than the ability to process, analyze and utilize it. For Presidents Chavez and Morales, who have very specific political targets for their intelligence collection campaigns, this has not been much of a problem. However, for Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, whose intelligence efforts do focus on organized crime (in spite of some high profile scandals in which they don’t), they cannot keep up with the data in a timely fashion. All three countries are known to have missed arrest opportunities in which they had data about a relevant target but did not filter it out of their mounds of data quickly enough to operationalize it.

Lurking among all of these government-related surveillance and privacy issues is an increase in private sector and corporate espionage in the region. Much less reported, companies have had gigabytes of data stolen by local private hacking groups and foreign governments from Eastern Europe and East Asia. In various surveys, over half of corporations in the region report being victim of cyberattacks and theft of data. These corporations, when they manage to detect the problem, generally do not report the problems to the governments. While it is apparent from the above examples that governments have plenty of surveillance issues on their plate, this private sector surveillance challenge cannot be ignored. The threat that some corporations and criminal groups may surpass local police and intelligence agencies in their surveillance and spying capabilities can be a problem for the future security of these states and the civil rights of their populations.

Reprinted with permission from Southern Pulse. See original article here.

var addthis_config = { ui_cobrand: “The MasterTech Blog”}

_______________________________________

Check it out on The MasterTech Blog

>

Today it’s Facebook.  

” … Over the years, hundreds of thousands of applications may have inadvertently leaked millions of access tokens to third parties,”

  Symantec had to get them to come out and tell you…


And yet it amazes people continue to put things online that they wouldn’t want the whole world to see…

Story from Reuters below:

Facebook may have leaked your personal information: Symantec

Photo
12:46am EDT
(Reuters) – Facebook users’ personal information could have been accidentally leaked to third parties, in particular advertisers, over the past few years, Symantec Corp said in its official blog.
Third-parties would have had access to personal information such as profiles, photographs and chat, and could have had the ability to post messages, the security software maker said.
“We estimate that as of April 2011, close to 100,000 applications were enabling this leakage,” the blog post said.
” … Over the years, hundreds of thousands of applications may have inadvertently leaked millions of access tokens to third parties,” posing a security threat, the blog post said.
The third-parties may not have realized their ability to access the information, it said.
Facebook, the world’s largest social networking website, was notified of this issue and confirmed the leakage, the blog post said.
It said Facebook has taken steps to resolve the issue.
“Unfortunately, their (Symantec’s) resulting report has a few inaccuracies. Specifically, we have conducted a thorough investigation which revealed no evidence of this issue resulting in a user’s private information being shared with unauthorized third parties,” Facebook spokeswoman Malorie Lucich said in a statement.
Lucich said the report also ignores the contractual obligations of advertisers and developers which prohibit them from obtaining or sharing user information in a way that “violates our policies.”
She also confirmed that the company removed the outdated API (Application Programing Interface) referred to in Symantec’s report.
Facebook has more than 500 million users and is challenging Google Inc and Yahoo Inc for users’ time online and for advertising dollars.
(Reporting by Thyagaraju Adinarayan and Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore; Editing by Bernard Orrand Anshuman Daga)
© Thomson Reuters 2011. All rights reserved.

Facebook may have leaked your personal information: Symantec | Reuters

Sharevar addthis_config = { ui_cobrand: “The MasterFeeds”}

The MasterFeeds


>Facebook Loses Much Face In Secret Smear On Google
Facebook secretly hired a PR firm to plant negative stories about Google, says Dan Lyons in a jaw dropping story at the Daily Beast.

For the past few days, a mystery has been unfolding in Silicon Valley. Somebody, it seems, hired Burson-Marsteller, a top public-relations firm, to pitch anti-Google stories to newspapers, urging them to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy. Burson even offered to help an influential blogger write a Google-bashing op-ed, which it promised it could place in outlets like The Washington Post, Politico, and The Huffington Post.
The plot backfired when the blogger turned down Burson’s offer and posted the emails that Burson had sent him. It got worse when USA Today broke a story accusing Burson of spreading a “whisper campaign” about Google “on behalf of an unnamed client.”

Not good.
The source emails are here.
I’ve been patient with Facebook over the years as they’ve had their privacy stumbles. They’re forging new ground, and it’s not an exaggeration to say they’re changing the world’s notions on what privacy is. Give them time. They’ll figure it out eventually.
But secretly paying a PR firm to pitch bloggers on stories going after Google, even offering to help write those stories and then get them published elsewhere, is not just offensive, dishonest and cowardly. It’s also really, really dumb. I have no idea how the Facebook PR team thought that they’d avoid being caught doing this.
First, it lets the tech world know that Facebook is scared enough of what Google’s up to to pull a stunt like this. Facebook isn’t supposed to be scared, ever, about anything. Supreme confidence in their destiny is the the way they should be acting.
Second, it shows a willingness by Facebook to engage in cowardly behavior in battle. It’s hard to trust them on other things when we know they’ll engage in these types of campaigns.
And third, some of these criticisms of Google are probably valid, but it doesn’t matter any more. The story from now on will only be about how Facebook went about trying to secretly smear Google, and got caught.
The truth is Google is probably engaging in some somewhat borderline behavior by scraping Facebook content, and are almost certainly violating Facebook’s terms and conditions. But many people argue, me included, that the key data, the social graph, really should belong to the users, not Facebook. And regardless, users probably don’t mind that this is happening at all. It’s just Facebook trying to protect something that it considers to be its property.
Next time Facebook should take a page from Google’s playbook when they want to trash a competitor. Catch them in the act and then go toe to toe with them, slugging it out in person. Right or wrong, no one called Google a coward when they duped Bing earlier this year.
You’ve lost much face today, Facebook.
Update: Sleazy PR Firm Throws Scummy Facebook Under The Sordid Bus


>

Hello all readers of the MasterBlogs!

Excuse us for the breakdown in our blog service, but Blogger is to blame!!! – not us!!

The MasterBlog: Blogger is (Finally) back

_______________________________________
Check it out on The MasterTech Blog

>

Stolen Camera Finder Finds Stolen Cameras

Drag a photo onto the box and it will search for other pictures with your camera’s serial number
If you lose your phone or your computer, there’s a fair chance you’ll get it back if you’re using some kind of tracking software. As we have seen before, Apple’s Find my iPhone service has rescued more than one lost phone. But what about your other gadgets?
If your camera is stolen, you now have at least a chance of finding it thanks to the Stolen Camera Finder by Matt Burns. It works by searching the web for photos bearing the serial number of your camera. This number is embedded in the EXIF data of every photograph you take.
Using the tool is easy. Just visit the site and drag a photo from your camera onto the waiting box. The tool searches its database for your camera and if it finds it, you can then go see the pictures. This may — hopefully — give you some clues as to where it is now. You’ll need to use a JPG image (RAW doesn’t work) and some cameras don’t write their serial number into the metadata.
The data comes from Flickr, and also from data crawled from the web. Matt has also written a browser extension for Google Chrome which will check the serial number of photos on every page you visit and add it to the database.
I tried the tool with a photo from my camera, and nothing showed up. I have a ton of photos online, on both on Flickr and here at Wired.com, so I was expecting something. I guess that the service will increase in value as time passes and the database grows. Still, the service is free, and if nothing else it lets you view a whole lot of information about your photos in the drop-down list.
Stolen Camera Finder [Stolen Camera Finder via Photography Bay]
See Also:

Stolen Camera Finder Finds Stolen Cameras | Gadget Lab | Wired.com

Sharevar addthis_config = { ui_cobrand: “The MasterFeeds”}

The MasterFeeds


>

Can You Frisk a Hard Drive?

If you stand with the Customs and Border Protection officers who staff the passport booths at Dulles airport near the nation’s capital, their task seems daunting. As a huge crowd of weary travelers shuffle along in serpentine lines, inspectors make quick decisions by asking a few questions (often across language barriers) and watching computer displays that don’t go much beyond name, date of birth and codes for a previous customs problem or an outstanding arrest warrant.
Illustrations by Jennifer Daniel, Photograph by Imagemore Co., Ltd./Corbis
The officers are supposed to pick out the possible smugglers, terrorists or child pornographers and send them to secondary screening.
The chosen few — 6.1 million of the 293 million who entered the United States in the year ending Sept. 30, 2010 — get a big letter written on their declaration forms: A for an agriculture check on foodstuffs, B for an immigration issue, and C for a luggage inspection. Into the computer the passport officers type the reasons for the selection, a heads-up to their colleagues in the back room, where more thorough databases are accessible.
And there is where concerns have developed about invasions of privacy, for the most complete records on the travelers may be the ones they are carrying: their laptop computers full of professional and personal e-mail messages, photographs, diaries, legal documents, tax returns, browsing histories and other windows into their lives far beyond anything that could be, or would be, stuffed into a suitcase for a trip abroad. Those revealing digital portraits can be immensely useful to inspectors, who now hunt for criminal activity and security threats by searching and copying people’s hard drives, cellphones and other electronic devices, which are sometimes held for weeks of analysis.
Digital inspections raise constitutional questions about how robust the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee “against unreasonable searches and seizures” should be on the border, especially in a time of terrorism. A total of 6,671 travelers, 2,995 of them American citizens, had electronic gear searched from Oct. 1, 2008, through June 2, 2010, just a tiny percentage of arrivals.

“But the government’s obligation is to obey the Constitution all the time,” said Catherine Crump, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Moreover, controversial government programs often start small and then grow,” after which “the government argues that it is merely carrying out the same policies it has been carrying out for years.”
One of the regular targets is Pascal Abidor, a Brooklyn-born student getting his Ph.D. in Islamic studies, who reported being frisked, handcuffed, taken off a train from Montreal and locked for several hours in a cell last May, apparently because his computer contained research material in Arabic and news photographs of Hezbollah and Hamas rallies. He said he was questioned about his political and religious views, and his laptop was held for 11 days.
Another is James Yee, a former Muslim chaplain at the Guantánamo Bay prison, who gets what he wryly calls a “V.I.P. escort” whenever he flies into the United States. In 2003, Mr. Yee was jailed and then exonerated by the Army after he had conveyed prisoners’ complaints about abuse, urged respect for their religious practices and reported obscene anti-Muslim caricatures being e-mailed among security staff.
Years later, he evidently remains on a “lookout” list. A federal agent stands at the door of Mr. Yee’s incoming plane, then escorts him to the front of the passport line and to secondary screening.
Arriving in Los Angeles last May from speaking engagements in Malaysia, he was thoroughly questioned and searched, he said, and his laptop was taken for three or four hours. He was not told why, but after it was returned and he was waiting to rebook a connecting flight he’d missed, a customs officer rushed up to the counter. “We left our disk inside your computer,” he quoted her as saying. “I said, ‘It’s mine now.’ She said no, and sure enough when I took the computer out, there was a disk.”
Customs won’t comment on specific cases. “The privacy rights that citizens have really supersede the government’s ability to go into any depth,” said Kelly Ivahnenko, a spokeswoman.
In general, “we’re looking for anyone who might be violating a U.S. law and is posing a threat to the country,” she explained. “We’re in the business of risk mitigation.”
Yet the mitigation itself has created a sense of risk among certain travelers, including lawyers who need to protect attorney-client privilege, business people with proprietary information, researchers who promise their subjects anonymity and photojournalists who may pledge to blur a face to conceal an identity. Some are now taking precautions to minimize data on computers they take overseas.
“I just had to do this myself when I traveled internationally,” said Ms. Crump, the lead attorney in a lawsuit challenging the policy on behalf of Mr. Abidor, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Press Photographers Association.
During a week in Paris, where she lectured on communications privacy, she had legal work to do for clients, which she could not risk the government seeing as she returned. “It’s a pain to get a new computer,” she said, “wipe it completely clean, travel through the border, put the new data on, wipe it completely clean again.”
In simpler days, as customs merely looked for drugs, ivory, undeclared diamonds and other contraband that could be held in an inspector’s hand, searches had clear boundaries and unambiguous results.
Either the traveler had banned items, or didn’t. Digital information is different. Some is clearly illegal, some only hints at criminal intent, and under existing law, all is vulnerable to the same inspection as hand-carried material on paper.
Most pirated intellectual property and child pornography, for example, cannot be uncovered without fishing around in hard drives. “We’ve seen a raft of people coming from Southeast Asia with kiddie porn,” said Christopher Downing, a supervisor at Dulles. If a person has been gone only two or three days and pictures of children are spotted in a bag, he explained, the laptop is a logical candidate for inspection. Such searches have been fruitful, judging by the bureau’s spreadsheets, which list numerous child pornography cases.
But terrorism is an amalgam of violence and ideas, so its potential is harder to define as officers scrutinize words and images as indicators of attitudes, affiliations and aspirations. Random searches are not done, Mr. Downing said, although courts so far have upheld computer inspections without any suspicion of wrongdoing. In practice, something needs to spark an officer’s interest. “If you open up a suitcase and see a picture of somebody holding an RPG,” he noted, referring to a rocket-propelled grenade, “you’d want to look into that a little more.”
The search power is preserved by its judicious use, Mr. Downing said. “If you abuse it, you lose it.” he added. The A.C.L.U. doesn’t want customs to lose it, Ms. Crump explained, but just wants the courts to require reasonable suspicion, as the Supreme Court did in 1985 for examinations of a person’s “alimentary canal.” The court distinguished such intrusive inspection from “routine searches” on the border, which “are not subject to any requirement of reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or warrant.” The justices added in a footnote that they were not deciding “what level of suspicion, if any, is required for nonroutine border searches” of other kinds.
Laptop searches should be considered “nonroutine,” Ms. Crump argues, something the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declined to do in 2008, when it reversed a judge’s decision to suppress evidence of child pornography obtained during a suspicionless airport computer search.
With the search powers intact, Mr. Abidor no longer dares take the train home from his studies at McGill University in Montreal. He doesn’t want to be stranded at the border, waiting hours for a bus, as he was in May. So last month his father drove up from New York to get him for vacation. The men were ordered to a room and told to keep their hands on a table while customs officers spent 45 minutes searching the car, and possibly the laptop, Mr. Abidor said. “I was told to expect this every time.”

David K. Shipler, a former reporter at The Times, is the author of “The Rights of the People: How Our Search for Safety Invades Our Liberties,” to be published in April.

‘Digital Inspections’ at U.S. Border Raise Constitutional Questions – NYTimes.com

var addthis_config = { ui_cobrand: “The MasterTech Blog”}

_______________________________________

Check it out on The MasterTech Blog




%d bloggers like this: