The U.S. Border: A Constitution-Free Zone Where Officials Can Grab Your Computer And Copy Your Hard Drive

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CustomsDid you know that the U.S. government considers the U.S. border to be a “constitution-free zone”?  Did you know that customs officials can take your computer away from you, keep it for 30 days or more, and make a copy of everything that is on your hard drive?  Sadly, this is actually true.  According to the government, when you choose to cross the U.S. border you temporarily give up your constitutional rights.  They can look at anything on your computer that they want to, and if they find anything that violates any law, they can use it against you in court.  You may think twice about taking your computer out of the country after you read the rest of this article.


A lot of people think that it is the TSA that is doing this, but they are not supposed to be doing these kinds of searches.  According to the official TSA blog, only customs officials are authorized to search laptops and other electronic devices…

Our officers might visually inspect your laptop and perform an explosives trace detection test, but that’s it. Our officers don’t even turn computers on during inspection.

So where are the reports coming from? They’re coming from people who have had their laptops searched by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

According to the Fourth Amendment, U.S. citizens are never supposed to be searched without probable cause.  But the U.S. government has decided to throw out the Fourth Amendment, and the courts have gone along with it.  So now customs officials can search anything that you bring across the border – including your computer.  The following is from Wikipedia

The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP), ICE-HSI Special Agents, and Coast Guard officers (E4 grade and above) who are all customs officers (those tasked with enforcing Title 19 of the United States Code) with the United States Department of Homeland Security, are permitted to search travelers and their belongings at the American border without probable cause or a warrant.  Pursuant to this authority, customs officers may generally stop and search the property of any traveler entering or exiting the United States at random, or even based largely on ethnic profiles.

If you get “flagged” for some reason, you are much more likely to have your computer searched.

Of course this is going to make people much more hesitant to speak out against the government and it is going to have an incredibly chilling affect on our First Amendment rights, but that is probably what they want anyway.

One example of an individual that was “flagged” for special treatment was described in an article by Lisa Vaas

According to a report in Sunday’s Boston Globe, the consultant – a former MIT researcher, David House – was returning from rest and relaxation in Mexico when federal agents seized his laptop.

According to the Globe, the government wanted to know more about House’s connections to Bradley Manning, the US Army private accused of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks.

The seizure comes as no surprise. As Globe writer Katie Johnston notes, United States ports of entry are dubbed “Constitution-free zones” by civil liberties advocates.

Barring invasive techniques such as strip seizures, government agents are free to disregard Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. They don’t need reasonable suspicion or probable cause, and they can take what they like, be it laptops or smart phones.

It has been estimated that 5,000 laptops, cell phones, iPods and cameras are searched each year, but nobody really knows.

And if they do take your computer, you might not get it back for a very long time

Two years ago The Constitution Project issued a report on the issue, “Suspicionless Border Searches of Electronic Devices: Legal and Privacy Concerns with the Department of Homeland Security’s Policy.”

The group explained: Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement “officers may detain electronic devices for significant periods of time. For CBP, detentions can be extended well beyond the minimum five-day guideline with supervisory approval. If the device is detained by ICE, the detention can last for ‘a reasonable time,’ which according to its Directive can last 30 days or more.” Neither agency sets any firm time limit.

Does this upset you?

It should.

When I first heard about this, I was hesitant to believe it.

It just seemed too crazy to me.

But we live in a crazy world that is rapidly getting crazier.

The U.S. government has decided that any American citizen that chooses to cross the border temporarily gives up their constitutional rights, and the courts are going along with it.

So what should we do?

Well, number one, you might want to avoid going across the border if you can.

Secondly, you might want to consider not taking any computer with you when you do travel internationally.  Any little thing that they find can be used to put you away behind bars.

We are very quickly being transformed into a “Big Brother” society, and our rights are constantly being eroded.  Hopefully the American people will begin to stand up and say something about these issues, because if they don’t eventually we won’t have any privacy left at all.

Big Brother At The Border

  • Dave Webb

    Shocking to say the least.

    Our courts went along with it . . .
    If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, has web feet, then I suppose we can conclude that it is a duck. Course it could be something else. What do we do with corrupt court systems? Because that is what we are now dealing with.

    Anyone that looks at this should take a long hard look at our relations with the American Indians and the embezzlement of millions(billions now) of dollars. All sanctioned by the court system. So we have a long history of courts like this.

    I would suggest we should all study successful criminals. Because anarchy is here.
    The Godfather was fiction. Or was it? Michael(son of the Godfather and heir apparent) told his girlfriend that she was an innocent in the ways of the world. I too am innocent.
    A successful criminal always used a specially trained lawyer. One trained in the ways of the old country where tyranny reined and corruption was everywhere. Sound familiar?
    Amateurs need not apply. Our “legal” system has become a very bad joke. I have noticed that it all congregates around one place.
    We are desperately in need of new blood in our government and a complete cleaning up of the corruption. Don’t expect it to occur in this life time. But the entire house of cards is not far from falling down. When that occurs a lot of innocent people are going to get hurt.
    If you were in Nazi Germany sometime in 1936 or 37 what would you do? It is 20/20 hind sight to get out as quickly as possible. I think I would have been caught in the fact that all my family and children were there just as now we are caught here in this country by the same thing. I am not Jewish. But I have studied them because we are all going to have to be able to cross borders and work at whatever skilled level the world is willing to buy somewhere soon down the road. The wise wondering Jews learned skilled trades and professions that carried them to success where ever they went when tragic events made escape necessary. Those trades are mostly dead.
    So the Jews of today go into law, medicine, science, and other fields that pay well no matter where you go.
    We have lost control over the constitution. The constitution is the only thing that has historically held these people back.

    It will not change until the majority of the people in this country decide to change it. Your guess is as good as mine when and if that will ever occur.

  • El Pollo de Oro

    If you’re a citizen of The Banana Republic of America (formerly Les Etas Unis) and plan on visiting Canada, be very careful what you have on your smartphone or your laptop. Let’s say that you enjoy visiting prepper websites and the BRA fascists decide to confiscate your device when you reenter the BRA: the fascists will see that as proof of guilt. In a fascist junta, everyone is guilty until proven innocent, and therefore, perfectly innocent behavior (such as visiting prepper sites) is tantamount to “subversion.”

    If I spend a weekend in Québec, I don’t travel with a laptop or a smartphone. Only a very basic low-tech featurephone (or as some nerds call it, a “stupidphone”). No apps, no Web surfing, just basic phone calls as needed.

    • El Pollo de Oro

      One of the clueless Democrap trolls who posts on The Economic Collapse said that if the BRA were truly turning into a fascist military junta, preppers wouldn’t be posting on Michael T. Snyder’s sites. They would simply disappear in the middle of the night. But what Mr. Troll doesn’t realize is that fascists juntas don’t go into full-blown tyranny overnight. It happens incrementally, with checks and balances being eroded gradually. It’s frog soup, as Alex Jones points out: the frog gradually boils without realizing the temps are getting hotter and hotter.

      Yeah, you gotta love it when Democrap Obamabot trolls spew the same ignorant “if you’re innocent, you have nothing to worry about” rhetoric as neocons like Bill O’Reilly, a.k.a. Billo The Clown. By their language, you shall know them. And the language of the neocons (“if you’re innocent, you have nothing to worry about,” Homeland Security, protecting the homeland) is the language of tyrants.

      • MichaelfromTheEconomicCollapse

        Very good point.

      • Proud_to_be_American

        It was either Guhering or Himmler that came up with that “if you’re innocent, you have nothing to worry about” nonsense!

        • El Pollo de Oro

          I love what libertarian talk radio host Katherine Albrecht said on the subject of “homeland security” and “the need to give up civil liberties to make us safer.” She pointed out that authoritarian regimes with unchecked power (from Hitler and Pinochet to Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot) bring a much, much higher death toll than terrorists. A very astute observation, and so true.

          Death toll on 9/11: 3000 people.

          Death toll under Stalin: at least 20 million.

          Terrorists, drug lords and postal workers on the rampage have nothing on fascist and communist regimes when it comes to slaughtering people.

        • “Naturally, the common people don’t want war, but after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine policy. It is always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it is a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.

          This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.”

          Hermann Goering Hitler’s Reich-Marshall at the Nuremberg trials after WW II

          • Proud_to_be_American

            so true, but more often than not when the pacifist refuse to take defensive action, or as in the case of Cambodia, which established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million ‘educated’ people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. The list goes on and on.

      • You’re blaming Obma and democrats forgetting that it was Bush that lied about Iraq, pushed then “Patriot” Act on us and generally was the worst resident of all time.

        But you’re a Rethugnican and thinking is something you are ill-suited to do.

        I agree that Obama might as well be W’s hand-picked successor for all the difference he has made. You are not seeing the issue clearly but instead, making a knee-jerk reaction to anything not GOP (Great Obstructionist Party).

    • Sequoia

      It is so true what you said.I cross the border everyday to go to work from Tijuana to San Diego,and they are putting up a multi billion dollar customs will have the platform for the TSA goons to rape everyone who enters the country.Also you will have to have an exit visa just to leave the USSA.
      If you get on the San Diego trolley, from the border that goes downtown and beyond,you now see that the trolley police (revenue collectors) are now fully armed,like the military people and many of them get on the trolley to make their presence well known.
      If I were Canadian or mexican,I would not want to visit fascist Amerika, and spend my money there and support that criminal government.
      Every day, I see the opression worsen in the USSA and the majority of the sheeple seem not to be conserned about it.

    • Chilly8

      So, just use a program like KillDisk or Evidence Eliminator to securely wipe all of your browsing history before crossing the border.

    • Sequoia

      I live in Baja California and cross the border everyday to go to work,alongside with hundreds of thousands of other people.To enter the USSA,the border waits are long and slow.

      The Amerkan nazi government is spending hundreds of millions of tax dollars to make a new customs building.They are setting up the platform for the TSA goons to rape everyone who enters the USSA.

      Also they are going to require every person living in the USSA to have an exit visa to leave the country.

      Your freedoms to move around are going to be restricted even more.

      If I were Canadian or Mexican,I would not visit the USSA police state,because you are not welcomed by this criminal government and you are all suspicious,just like the Amerikan sheeple.

      Now when you cross over the border to get the trolley,the trolley police are now miliarized and make their presence known.The USSA is a police state and the majority of the sheeple seem to want it that way or don’t care.

      The constitution is DEAD and we are all subjects to the criminal government who is controlled by the banking mafias,industrial war complex and others.

      You CANADIANS and MEXICANS also can be indefinatly detained by this criminal government using the NSA and laws,and the prision industrial complex and FEMA camps will take you in,because you CANADIANS and MEXICANS also have no rights and protections here,in the USSA

    • ericpearson

      I would put a bunch of computer virus’s on my old laptop and let download them. . .

  • Graham

    Put any private or sensitive personal/business data up in the “cloud” prior to travelling then download the files individually when required. Dropbox is very handy for this type of cloud storage, retrieval and file/folder sharing.

    Doing this keeps a computer nice and clean for the goon inspection. You may also want to use software like CCleaner and empty all the “caches” prior to travelling. Doing so cleans out a lot of other trace/usage material.

    If they really want to dig deeper, they will resort to sending off your item for forensic imaging. The best way to eradicate file trace is by using a DOD 7 wipe system that will write zeros to the free space on the drive. Just remember they are “looking for terrorists”, but rarely ever find them because they fail to recognise what they see in the mirror.

    Re encryption tools, I doubt there is anything out there that their top NSA cryptologists cannot break. I wouldn’t use it anyway as they will think you have something to hide, even though you may legitimately want to add an additional layer of protection from your above average thief who knows how to remove a hard drive and hook it up via USB to another computer for accessing.

    If you own an Apple device, the FBI have to send it to Apple along with a warrant before Apple will decrypt it. There is a waiting list and it stands at around 7 weeks just now. Those with Retina MacBook Pro laptops won’t have a hard drive. It uses high speed flash storage, which is a step ahead of a removable SSD (Solid State Drive).

    If you really want a laugh, travel with a laptop that has had its hard drive removed and securely posted onto your destination. Just tell the goon that it suffered from catastrophic failure and was binned by a Mexican technician.

  • Constitution? We don’t need no stinkin Constitution!

  • Jason7189

    Police State here we come!

    • Proud_to_be_American

      Too late, it’s already here!

  • gweick

    Most Americans are unaware of the great deception and creeping constructive fraud that has taken place over the last 100 years (and much longer, stemming from the end of the Revolutionary War itself, if you include all the conniving of the European Elite, their attorneys and their agents in the New World). It’s quite true. The Federal Government has “exclusive
    legislative authority” over what is known as the Federal Zone–DC,
    territories, military bases, fed buildings, etc.–under Article 1,
    Section 8 of the Constitution. That exclusive authority does not extend to the individual states that
    remain sovereign in most areas except ones specifically enumerated,
    like foreign policy and interstate commerce. So, customs officials
    exercise constitutional tyranny over statutory U.S. Citizens (or U.S. persons or U.S.
    individuals or resident aliens,etc.) as defined legislatively. But most
    Americans are not statutory U.S. Citizens. They are Constitutional citizens of the United States of America or American Nationals as well as citizens of their own states, unless they voluntarily
    consent to be considered U.S. Citizens, also known as 14th Amendment Citizens. A state citizen is foreign the Federal
    Zone just as each state is foreign to each other and to the Federal
    government. Non-disclosure and presumption has led to the unwitting and gradual surrender of unalienable rights as delineated in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Details on this great deception can be found at Know who you are.

  • Chilly8

    When it comes to cell phones, you can wipe any Android phone, by using a feature in the phone, which resets the phone to the configuration when it left the factory.

    The steps to do this vary depending on which version of Android your phone has. In version 4.0, you just tap Backtup&Reset, and then tap Factory Data Reset, and that will erase ALL data on the phone, including all browing history.

    The only caveat is that you will have to reinstall all of your apps, after you do this, and if you are using Android 2.2 or earlier, you will have to wait to the Google Play store app to automatically be pushed to your phone, replacing the old Android Store app,

    • Graham

      Very good point, likewise with an Apple iDevice.

      Just reset the iDevice back to factory settings, cross the border, hook up to a fast Wi-Fi connection and restore it from an iCloud backup, or even better iTunes, assuming you have a laptop with you.

      Note that an iCloud based restore will not replenish any content that has been “removed” from any of the online Apple stores. That is why an iTunes backup is so important. All downloaded content is transferred from an iDevice to iTunes during syncing and can be recovered/restored that way as iTunes keeps a copy of “everything”.

      Note that an iCloud backup replenishes your downloaded store content “fresh from the stores”, hence content that is no longer available cannot be recovered.

  • seth datta

    One day they’ll do this within the border too.

  • oldfart

    Psst we do not have any privacy to start with. the eyes of big brother are upon you all of the time. the camps are already set up all that is left to do is set up the ovens.

  • DWornock

    First don’t trust Microsoft Windows. Windows hides stuff that you may want to get rid of in places not assessable or that are difficult to find. For example email such as Microsoft Office Outlook 2007. I deleted years of emails and emptied my delete folder and noticed that Outlook.pst was still 6 GB when it should have been less than 1 GB.

    That told me, even though I couldn’t access them, that the emails were still there in case law enforcement wanted them. So I renamed Outlook.pst and when I opened Outlook it created another Outlook.pst (265 KB). I then imported the email from the renamed file and none of the deleted emails was imported and the new Outlook.pst was less than 1 GB.

    Before crossing the border with your computer, I suggest writing random numbers to your hard drive, reformatting and reinstalling your operating systems, programs, and any files that you don’t need to hide. That will eliminate everything hidden that you should have gotten rid of. Also, download, install TrueCrypt, and encrypt the volume. Then create a hidden volume in the free space.

    This requires two passwords. One in case you are forced to provide a password that only reveals files that look like you want to hide such as income tax records (the government has those anyway) and a second very different password given you access to the hidden volume.

    The FBI had a computer for year and couldn’t unencrypt TrueCrypt so if you have a long random password, your data is safe. Although, I can read it if I type it, I don’t know my password. I type a 24 character pattern changing the position of my fingers on the keyboard three times.

    Even a better password is to open in Notepad a dll file located in System32 scroll down an copy and paste a string of characters that are not on the keyboard but you can create them with the Alt+ number-pad keys. For example:


    Even if the NSA could try a million billion trillion trillion passwords every nanosecond, the sun would die and freeze (30,000 billion trillion years) before they could crack that password.

    • Graham

      The key with Outlook is to compress the .pst file from time to time in order to gain back space from content deletions.

      That is why you noticed the file size had shrunk after importing the remaining data into a new .pst file. Compression of the original would have achieved the same result.

      • DWornock

        That’s good to know. Thank you.

  • They would have to be ready to kill me to get it. I’ll be ready to die to defend it.

    It isn’t as if any rational person still believes the USA is a free country. Think about it. No-warrant wire taps, indefinite detention of citizens without charges, approval of rendition of prisoners and torture, stop and frisk without probable cause, search and seizure without a warrant, no-knock entry, confiscation and destruction of cameras that might have been used to film police acting illegally, police brutality, police shootings that go without investigation, managed news, and the civil-rights destroying “Patriot” Act.

    Acts of police behaving illegally, with shootings, Tasers, and unwarranted violence now appear almost daily. Rarely are these offenses punished. Most often “an investigation” is claimed, but soon forgotten.


In addition, the USA, with 5% of the world population, has 25% of all of the prisoners in the world. That means the USA has the most people in prison of any nation in history. Even by percentage of residents incarcerated, not just sheer numbers. USA is # 1!

 Does any of that sound like a free country?

    As Dwight D. Eisenhower said about communism, “It’s like slicing sausage. First they out off a small slice. That isn’t worth fighting over. Then they take another small slice that isn’t worth fighting over. Then another and another. Finally, all you have left is the string and that isn’t worth fighting over, either.

  • arndebian

    U.S. border: “constitution-free zone”?
    No kidding !
    When a police officier will told you to pay $500 to pass the border for 2 weeks vacation in Las Vegas or stay at home you will understand what a banana republic stand for.
    “Amerika” as P.Roberts write it is now a lost cause.