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Canadian journalist's detention at US border raises press freedom alarms (nytimes.com)
439 points by anigbrowl on Dec 2, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 241 comments

Don't be fooled, Canadian border patrol proudly engages in this as well. I was recently driving across the border to Montreal on vacation when Canadian border agents, in addition to searching my car and personal belongings, demanded to see my cell phone and turn over the password. I simply asked why, since I didn't think I was doing anything suspicious, at which point the agent angrily responded "because I can and now I'm going to search it extra thoroughly." I asked what would happen if I didn't turn the password over and just went back home to the US, they told me they'd seize the device and put me in prison until they break into it. So, I gave the password, 3 agents took it in the back for 45 minutes, came back and questioned me about some texts I had with a friend from months ago who was talking about marijuana, and eventually let me pass to Canada. Hopefully they didn't hold on to all my personal data or install backdoors but just in case I wiped the phone and reinstalled from a backup.

In any case, this was extremely intrusive and I couldn't stop thinking about it the whole trip. I wondered what would happen if I had actually forgotten my phone password - just weeks before I changed from a 6 digit numeric code to a longer alphanumeric and almost forgot it since it had been a while since the last time I restarted my phone requiring password entry. I had a lot of very private photos and conversations on there with my SO. Definitely ruined my whole vacation.

Edit: Also, they didn't just stick to private photos and messages, they even opened up dating apps checking for messages there, opened up unread snap and kik messages too.

I’ve always found it ridiculous that the content of devices is fair game. There is literally nothing on a phone that couldn’t be digitally downloaded after crossing the border (therefore no “threat” by bringing the phone with you). Similarly, there is no possible way to harm an airplane based on what is present on a laptop; and even if there were, you could buy in-flight WiFi and download the bits after boarding. You could cross the checkpoint with a blank device and in seconds have it populated with whatever you wanted to have. It’s insane.

> I’ve always found it ridiculous that the content of devices is fair game. There is literally nothing on a phone that couldn’t be digitally downloaded after crossing the border (therefore no “threat” by bringing the phone with you).

Not quite that it's "no threat", more like no additional threat than memorizing a long passphrase and downloading / decrypting your illegal Canadian porno on the other side.

> Similarly, there is no possible way to harm an airplane based on what is present on a laptop; and even if there were, you could buy in-flight WiFi and download the bits after boarding. You could cross the checkpoint with a blank device and in seconds have it populated with whatever you wanted to have. It’s insane.

It's not insane though. The point isn't to catch anything, it's to acclimate the populace to this type of search and seizure. Kind of like how refusing to go through the body scanners at the airport earns you "What's up with that guy?" looks from other travelers.

Right - and apparently this is exactly what you should do. Always travel with throwaway and/or wiped devices. Don't trust a device that's been seized and returned.

I can't upvote this enough. I'm a law abiding citizen, but I still wipe my phone and restore from iCloud after I've made my way through customs or border control.

Yes and you have to keep in mind that just because someone has the legal authority to seize your posession, you have no reason to trust that what they will do with it will be legal as well. For all you know they can do any number of stupid and/or malicious things with your device that don't reflect the intentions of the government they represent either (being generous here). They are just people, after all.

If you run a startup with millions of users it is reckless to assume you will not be the target of industrial espionage when crossing a foreign border or traveling in a foreign state.

> I still wipe my phone and restore from iCloud after I've made my way through customs or border control.

It's not enough to just re-install the OS. You have to have your hardware recycled (discarded). Within a couple of seconds, they can put spyware onto your firmware by simply inserting a prepared USB device. The only way to get rid of that kind of spyware is to destroy the hardware.

The other solution is to not travel to any totalitarian countries or to travel there without any hardware, if you must.

if its in icloud, they don't need to take your phone...

I don't think border agents take phones because they need to.

No what you should do is realise you live in a democracy, which was passed on to you by the blood and sweat of previous generations, recognize that our generation in its complacency and greed has allowed it to be be hijacked by a bunch of despots and accept the responsibility to secure it for future generations.

You should not acknowledge, recognize or legitimise these 'unnatural rights'.

> I’ve always found it ridiculous that the content of devices is fair game.

Even more important to me is the fact that once you lose exclusive physical control over your hardware, you must consider it compromised, and therefor have it recycled (it is enough to simply connect a prepared USB device to your device for a couple of seconds in order for you to lose total control over it and be under permanent and total remote surveillance).

To me, this is more than enough of a reason to simply not travel to countries like the US (and now apparently Canada as well) anymore. And any such country certainly doesn't deserve us.

Out of curiosity where do you live now?

I don't think they'd ever make the argument that the content itself is dangerous - but it may give them more information about you, and let them decide that you are dangerous.

At an extreme - if you had a document plan_to_takedown_flight_123ABC.pdf or diary_about_my_drug_smuggling_operation.txt, whether or not the data itself is a threat, it could indicate that you are.

I mean, I think it's bullshit, the same way I think most security screening and border guard questioning is bullshit, but if you wanted to maximize your border security (and keep out, ahem, "undesirables") and don't care about people's privacy, it's perfectly logical.

> if you wanted to maximize your border security... it's perfectly logical

If your threat model is that someone capable enough to take down a flight is dumb enough to keep "plan_to_takedown_flight_123ABC.pdf" on their laptop, then it's logical. Otherwise you're wasting resources and _minimizing_ your security.

yea, it's a nice attempt to justify your actions, but when drug smuggling and gun running is conducted by federal agencies and the TSA fails 95% of bomb detection tests, you have to wonder what the actual goal is.

I see the actual goal as showing the populace who is in charge as well as getting them used to searches and interrogation. Combined with the newly militarized police, it decreases the probability of another revolution.

Tin foil hat and all, I actually agree

I would hate to be a fiction writer crossing boarders.

Most boarders are pirates, so I wouldn't want to cross them either.

Nawh, they're just a few days late on rent.

Between the quality airport Wi-Fi and the fact that they ask you nicely to put your phone in airplane mode, I submit to you that it's mildly inconvenient to download malicious stuff after security checkpoints.

Someone should mod android so when you enter a second password it wipes everything but gives the appearance of a regular login.

That would be like the cryptosetup nuke patch on Kali Linux - http://linuxbsdos.com/2014/01/14/apply-the-nuke-patch-to-luk...

Cryptosetup is at version 1.7.x, but the latest patch was for cryptosetup 1.6.x. So the existing patch does not work for the latest cryptosetup.

Although then you'll probably run afoul of some jurisdictions that make it illegal to lie to the police in some circumstances (not that it necessarily needs to apply, it's the sort of thing they might throw at you to make an example and dissuade others, and quietly drop after they've caused enough mayhem in your life).

Can they know? Not most the clowns on the borders. It wouldnt brick it, just rm a directory and background shred.

> I asked what would happen if I didn't turn the password over and just went back home to the US, they told me they'd seize the device and put me in prison until they break into it.

I guess it depends on how much you care about your personal info or how sensitive your data is, but I wouldn't budge based on this. I'd say, "Okay, I want to talk to the American embassy," then wait it out.

Edit: To be clear, this would be my response without knowing anything about the relevant Canadian law — since I don't – because the statement sounds like a lie. LE lies all the time. Indefinite imprisonment of a random person? Nah. And breaking into a locked phone is actually very difficult — see Apple versus FBI.

You're under the mistaken impression that when you enter a border crossing you can turn around and go home without the permission of the country you're attempting to enter.

This is not true. You've already entered the country, and so the border staff (US, Canadian, whoever) can indeed detain you, throw you into immigration detention, take all your stuff, really whatever they want. You don't have any rights. You could call your embassy, but they will tell you that so long as the other country is following its own laws, you're stuck, and they can't help you.

If you don't like it, don't go.

There is one exception. US immigration runs "preclearance" facilities at major Canadian airports (and a handful of other places). Here, you clear US customs and immigration before you ever board your flight. Because these facilities are still on Canadian soil, you are free to turn around and walk away at any time; they cannot detain you as they can at land borders or US airports.

Under the proposed Preclearance Bill (Bill C-23), if you are legally detained by a U.S. preclearance officer you do not have the right to withdraw anymore.


So Canada is willingly becoming a literal American colony?

What if I make a break for the US border? Will they bring me back to the Canadians?

Actually if I were alone I would have done that just to prove a point, but I was with my SO and I didn't want to ruin his vacation as well.

Once you are denied entry in to Canada (or the us) be prepared to answer questions about it for the rest of your life every time you cross the border.

Even if you decide not to enter as opposed to being denied I bet it pops up on their screen for a long time.

Once you are denied entry in to Canada (or the us) be prepared to answer questions about it for the rest of your life every time you cross the border.

If a border agent threatened me with jail, I don't think that being unable to return would be a problem for me. :-)

(Disclaimer: having no family in Canada, or any real need to be there.)

Even if you've done nothing "suspicious", you can get automatic screenings just for having a name that is a Soundex match to a fugitive.

Forever, actually.

I think the correct legal approach there is to say that you are withdrawing your application to enter Canada. They're supposed to let you go back to the US at this point. I am not a lawyer.

I believe they still track this with your fingerprints so next time you try to enter you'll be asked about it. Best to be nice to the agents even if they're not being nice back. People that create a scene are the ones that end up basically banned for life.

It can be better than some alternatives. There have been stories about Canadians being asked questions about drug use at the border. Upon admitting to some historic use getting barred for life for entering. Supposedly they could have avoided answering the question by withdrawing their application (according to the lawyer consulted). This is better than getting barred for life or being refused entry and you have time to consider your options. Obviously best not get into this position in the first place but sometimes it's not your choice.

Is this a right you have in Canada? Can't they just be like "yeah, no"?

Maybe. I don't know. But law enforcement routinely lie, so I default to not taking them at face value. If I had a pressing medical need or something like that, I would probably bet differently.

I was asking because while I have never had a personal experience regarding the subject, one of my wife's (US citizen) friends was once locked up in the United Arab Emirates for the heinous crime of being drunk and it took quite a bit of effort to get him out of jail (and even then he wasn't allowed to leave the country for another 6 months) and he received _zero_ assistance from the US government. Now obviously Canada is not comparable to the United Arab Emirates in this regard but clearly when you're abroad you enjoy no legal protection beyond what the host nation's local laws provide you with?

Unlike in the US, illegal and unadmitted entrants to Canada, the UK, Australia (and probably everywhere else) don't have constitutional protection. So while a Canadian could possibly protest, a non-Canadian really hasn't got a leg to stand on.

> Unlike in the US

No, just like the US:


Um, no. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms specifically grants rights to everyone and not just Canadian citizens. Except in a few cases like mobility rights where the right is specifically restricted to citizens.

A non citizen can be refused entry but they absolutely have a right to not be arbitrarily detained.

Sadly, that's not true. Read this paper titled "How the Charter Has Failed Non‐Citizens in Canada – Reviewing Thirty Years of Supreme Court of Canada Jurisprudence".


Most of these are about deportation and immigration, where it's clear that non-citizens do not have a right to remain in Canada and are trying to use other sections of the charter to say, for example, that deportation would deprive them of section 7 rights. Of course many of these types of claims will fail.

But I'm not seeing where "non citizens have no rights" or the court says that whole sections cannot be applied to non-citizens and the word everyone doesn't mean what we think. In fact I'm seeing some rulings where the court acknowledged for example that equality rights do apply to non citizens.

I am seeing a case where they allowed someone to be detained, but it seems they found a way to decide that the restriction was reasonable and therefore constitutional, but they didn't decide that non-citizens cannot benefit from this right.

The American constitution obviously doesn't apply in the UK, but laws like the Human Rights Act do, and regardless of nationality.

" I'd say, "Okay, I want to talk to the American embassy," then wait it out."

You'd be waiting forever.

I doubt it, because it would end up being a PR storm for Canada, just like this event. I have people who would want to know where I was. I might end up waiting weeks or months, though. It's hard to be sure without knowing more about Canadian law and enforcement norms.

No, it would not be a 'PR storm'.

This kind of stuff happens all day, every day, at every one of the major border crossings.

You'd be denied entry and that would be the end of it.

"I might end up waiting weeks or months, though."

The American embassy will tell you there's nothing they can do, and you'd be waiting in perpetuity in a hotel on the American side of the border.

Exactly. This topic has come up on HN before and we've had HNers tell even more horrifying stories than today and nothing comes of it. Getting an attitude and trying to appeal to your legal rights will just embolden some of these powertripping authority figures. It's best to come prepared, either with a TrueCrypt plausible deniability type solution or just by wiping / clearing out your OS beforehand. I chose the latter option when I flew into the US, because I'd imagine even FDE might look suspicious enough to warrant getting hastled or detained.

"Getting an attitude and trying to appeal to your legal rights will just embolden some of these powertripping authority figures."

The thing is, you may not have such 'rights', at least not in a legal sense. I suggest the duderinos at the border are well aware of what they can, and cannot do.

If you have a beef, it's with Homeland Security or Congress, not the border guy.

And if you're entering a foreign country ... well, your legal rights are pretty thin. So there's that.

I think the point was that it was an answer to the jail threat...

>I doubt it, because it would end up being a PR storm for Canada, just like this event.

PR Storm? This is the first I've read about it, and it's the NY Times. I don't see anything relating to it on CBC, Globe or National Post sites. Nothing on CBC Radio 1 in my drive to or from work, either.

The company I work for is located in Canada and I've been heavily involved in the Bitcoin ecosystem. So I've been back and forth fair amount and this mirrors my experience.

I normally wipe my devices while crossing the border, phone and laptop but one time while I was doing a much shorter round trip, I decided not to wipe my phone.

on my way into Canada, i was identified for enhanced screening at like 10pm, After waiting an hour, the agent asked for my return flight ticket, which I didn't have printed. so it's late, im dangerously close to missing my connection, and I think, "Oh! I probably have the confirmation email on my phone!"

So i pull out my trusty CIA surveillance device, unlock it, and pull up the confirmation email. The agent then takes it directly out of my hands and walks into the back. I don't know how long he was gone (long enough to miss my flight) but when he came back he had a bunch of questions about a girl I had been texting and who had sent me some provocative photos. I don't know that helped Canada's national security but sure, whatever.

To be fair, the US CBP has never taken any devices from me but they do stop me routinely and dump my bag and ask all sorts of ridiculous questions. I used to fight it but now I just sit/stand quietly until they are done. On my latest trip, i guess I was too polite so the agent decided that was suspicious. His face got all twisted as he began asking me the questions.

There are no rights at the border so don't cross with anything.

I had a similar situation, and also ended up getting stuck going through a ton of "interviews" until I got Nexus. It's proved to be a major time saver, even just for domestic flights. Among the most useful $50 purchases I've ever made.

yea, i tried that but got denied. :/

Just curious, what reason did they give for your denial?

they don't. they tell you to file a bunch of FOIA requests on yourself and then appeal if feel like you'd win.

pretty ambiguous.

Where do you store your data so that you can retrieve it once you've crossed the border?

I don't. by this point I've got a relatively small personal digital footprint.

Everything I need I can download again, or log back into. working out 2fa was a blessing and a curse. decoupling it from sms has been great but I do rely on a centralized service to store a theoretically encrypted backup. I'm lucky to have a pretty decent memory, so I everything else I just remember.

I guess the part that is the most frustrating is that as a result I don't really save or take many pictures. i don't backup or save any additional contacts. I don't save anything important in messaging applications. Oh, and I can't decrypt pgp communications when I'm out of the country, because like hell I'm bringing that accross the border.

I've had my encounters with law enforcement, I won't ever feel comfortable again. I'll never forget the look on their faces when they look at you like they know something super private and they find it hilarious.

Thanks for sharing in detail. What is the service you use for backup?

theres a few different ones. i think authy, duo, and last pass all provide a similar service.

I think that settles it. I was already considering this before, but now I'm actually going to do it. Before crossing the border, I'm rooting my phone so I can take a full disk image, which I'll leave at home. Then I'll factory reset and just load what I need for the trip^. It's a pain, but worth it to avoid the chance of this kind of invasion of privacy.

^Can make an image of that too for ease of use on future trips.

Of course, if they can do this, there's nothing really stopping them from forcing you to log into your webmail either, so maybe there's nothing you can ultimately do. (At least short of creating elaborate decoy accounts, but then you're actively lying to them, which probably isn't a great idea.)

better yet is to buy a cheap unlocked phone from walmart and just take your sim out and put it in the cheap phone and leave your real phone at home.

Even so, the main thing I wouldn't want someone snooping in is my email, and as long as that's online it seems just as feasible that I would be forced to log into that as into my phone.

Also, I tend to use my phone a lot when I'm traveling, so I'd like to have it!

On entering Canada, I've been asked to open my laptop, turn it on, enter an administrator level password, and then search for *.jpg. Everything shows up -- cached browser images as well. The agent asked a lot of questions, but I was allowed to pass eventually. This all took place out in the open, where they would normally collect a form from you.

I immediately started using TrueCrypt with the plausible deniability option, which allows you to enter an alternate password to open a completely different part of the encrypted area seeded with some random files that look realistic enough to pass scrutiny.

It was always fun to unmount the volume and remount it with the plausible deniability volume. Or, just shutting down before crossing the border and knowing that, if needed, I'd enter the alternate password.

Recently I started using a Mac and Apple's own full disk encryption, but reading this just highlights the risk. Maybe I should start using TrueCrypt again.

Ugh...it's frustrating.

Why *.jpg? Do they just assume everyone is smuggling porn on laptop hard drives or something? You'd think if you were looking for evidence of terrorism or immigration issues you'd be more interested in emails and documents.

These searches, if true, have nothing to do with border security and more to do with fishing for anything and everything they can charge you with once they aren't encumbered with warrants and courts and due process.


With obscenity laws and laws outlawing certain drawings and such, porn is just the low hanging fruit.

Or maybe it's just rogue agents that want to see if you have any provocative pictures of your spouse on your devices?

And it's about to get worse for Canadians:


Please take time to answer this survey if you are a Canadian. It took me over an hour and a half today, but it's worth it. You can find some answers at https://mascherari.press/canadas-online-consultation-on-nati... (including mine after moderation, I hope)

Thanks for bringing this to my attention so I could give them my thoughts on these matters.

Someone's probably already thought of this:

Make a second password which "unlocks" the phone to some innocuous mode that won't hold the meatheads attention any longer.

Assuming you aren't specifically targeted.

how about just back your stuff up to the cloud, and on a micro USB card. Those should be easy enough to hide, and if they find it say it's an extra one for your camera.

Like with TrueCrypt?

Android allows creating multiple users.

I'm curious, do you think anything about your appearance or car made them profile you specifically? I crossed over a few years ago at Niagara falls and found the border agents extremely courteous and friendly, probably more so than any other crossing I've made in the world. I mention it not as anecdata, but just to wonder if even the same border agent might treat someone very negatively today (change in policy over time) or simply because they are looking at silly factors like how old your car looks.

I'm all for being friendly, but sometimes being real friendly is also a sign that they're up to something. I remember reading an article about a Geo Cacher who got stopped by the Secret Service for circling around the White House in a car too many times. he said the guys on bikes were real nice and friendly, talked all about him and his geocaching....until the marked car of thugs showed up and detained him.

Also, if driving a nice car was the key to getting past BP, drug smugglers would have figured this out ages ago and adopted it as SOP.

Isn't that the point though? These kinds of games don't actually catch professionals. They catch normal people and normal people making foolish choices or mistakes.

If judges have a problem with sugar or after a football game expect the border guards to have the same problem.

Differential access to civil rights are a big part of why I gave up my driver's license.

Pulling over a driver and pointing a gun at them? Trivial. Pulling over a livery vehicle and searching the passenger? Complicated. Demanding someone in a car give you their phone's password? Trivial. Doing the same at the airport? My weekends filled for a month hosting fundraisers for PACs.

I am not sure I understand the last part of your post could you elaborate further?

Some risk averse people are following one rule: Do not carry any electronics at any border crossing. It's a hostile territory.

I travel for few months every year to Europe to work from my home country (I work remotely). After reading so many crazy stories, I have adopted few rules:

I have SSD drive that I use in States. Once I'm ready to go, I swap it with "empty" drive and fire up the OS just to get some updates on files on it, so it doesn't look like it hasn't been used for a long time.

Once in Europe, I put the drive that has more tools and my files I use daily. I also use personal DropBox and the most important files are sync over the net when I login from Europe.

As to the phone - my network doesn't work in Europe anyways, so instead of selling/throwing away my perfectly working Iphone5, I use it in Europe and my new phone I leave in states.

Moreover I cannot say much about driving to Canada, but I was tempted once with saving $150 on a ticket and flying to Europe through Montreal instead of Chicago. That was horrible mistake. That airport is super disorganized and there is literally no staff to help you. No other information than to research for yourself. Few years ago some guy got teased to death because he was so frustrated and I don't blame him...

As of the phone in US, I have jailbroken version with an app that allows me to do a triple-click to shut it down completely. I got used to using this trick when I'm pulled over by LE or entering airports or other places... just in case!

I don't think I would ever give out my password without talking to a lawyer first.

I will take YUL over ORD any day. It's a very well-organized airport. As for the "tasering", it was at YVR (Vancouver). Should I list the number of incidents at US airports?

I can't say about YUL, but ORD is very organized and very prepared for where you may travel to.

To me, that just makes you more suspicious. Last time I had to cross borders CAN/USA/MEX, I just popped my SIM in an old Blackberry Q10 and connected it to a lightly-used email account. Made a few calls and texts in the days leading up to trip.

I reasoned that an old Blackberry is good because there really isn't much you can do with it beyond text/email/web. And it makes me look like a tech-illiterate luddite.

Indeed, from now on I will back up my phone to the cloud, wipe it before going over a border, then reinstalling after. It's the only sane thing to do.

Here's the thing though; you can do that, and it'll protect your data, but any nation can still prevent your entry for exactly that reason.

"Oh, you brought an empty phone? Give me access to your cloud account. No? Ok, you're never entering our country. Bye."

Ultimately yeah, they can refuse you for any reason they want and they don't have to tell you why. You're not a citizen, you don't have a right to enter.

Obviously you'd seed it with some fake data...

lulz, you should assume the NSA has access to anything you store in the "cloud".

Of course, but they already have it, and aren't impeding my travel. The Candian Border Control guys don't, and can.

> (...) but they already have it, and aren't impeding my travel.

But don't be mistaken, that based on the Snowden revelations, "they" may not have already had it, and needed another country's intelligence agency to access it first -- for them to get to whatever it might be, and possibly even use it against you, legally.

The Five Eyes may actually have it - so even if border guys don't, the Canadians may have access.

Okay but I encrypt locally first?

For that you would need to be able to fully trust your cloud storage provider, the ISPs used in transint to and from, the used encryption methods and last but not least: the baseband firmware of your phone.

It's highly unlikely that the Canada Border Services Agency, of all organizations, is able to defeat competent modern crypto implementations.

It's also quite unlikely that they can circumvent a basic `tar -c /dev/block/* | gpg -se ...` scheme that's trivially doable on unlockable Android phones. (Replacing the bootloader with a maliciously crafted variant that returns false partition data after bootup would work, but once again: CBSA.)

You're probably safe if you just do an iCloud backup and wipe followed later by a restore.

Certainly do replace the SIM card as soon as possible though, IMO. Unless you can verify it somehow.

If you are asked to provide your password, encryption will not help you.

Perhaps still better than trusting border patrol with physical access to the device.

No, if you trust the encryption (which implies the firmware), you don't need to trust the ISP or storage provider. That's the whole point of encrypting stuff.

Interestingly, in the case of handing over your phone, there are some odd quirks in security that make things a little topsy turvy. Normally, while the iphone has better device security, in the case where you are conceivably worried about firmware hacks (to the degree you think it's possible), the iphone presents as a juicier target, as the hardware is far more homologous.

This is what I don't get. Would you carry a briefcase over the border filled with confidential documents, photos, love letters, and a porno magazine? Would you think that customs has no right to open it and ask you for the combination of the briefcase is locked?

How is a cell phone any different?

Asking for passwords to Facebook accounts or other information that isn't on your phone, now that's another story.

When crossing the border... backup and factory reset. Don't carry anything with you over the border you don't want customs officers looking at. I just hang onto one of my older phones to use when I travel.

It is different: Cellphone, especially smartphone nowadays, has extended reach.

When your phone is taken away after they forced you enter SU level password, you have no control of it, they do.

Whoever took it inside the room, they can:

>Browser your email, check who you contacted since you have you email box: Why you bought this on amazon? Why you bought that from Ebay? For what reason you purchase two pressure cookers from and nails from Walmart at the same time?

>Check your contacts: Who is Mr.X? When was the last time you talk to Mr. Y? What was in the conversation?

>Check what you have posted on facebook/Twitter. You supported Aaron Swartz? You are in the protest called The Day we Fight Back? What was the protest about? Who you are with?

>You may have home security Cam APP installed: Who sitting in the sofa? How many rooms do you have? Is this your wife? What is her social security number? What is her first name? On the day of Feb 21, 2013, who are the two male visited your home? What's their name and what's the purpose of the visit? How long they stayed in your house? What car they are diving? What is the plate number?

>Copy all your photos for further investation.

>Install Spyware, Copy your RSA key stored in your phone.

Some friends of mine were turned back at the border because they didn't make advance reservations for a hotel and therefore prove their trip really was legit.

That's sad.

Border staff often have a set of rules they have to follow, a lot of it is to ward off attempts at illegal migration.

Getting into America or Canada via that border is rather common.

When I was at the Canadian border once, a woman from Jamaica, with a carload of luggage was denied entry essentially on the same basis - no proof of return travel, reservations etc. - they essentially suspected she was trying to gain illegal status. Which is not entirely unreasonable in that case, but even then, tricky.

The rough part is how normal folks get caught up in the policies.

The one about dope is particularly pernicious - if you admit to 'having ever smoked dope' to American border agents - they can deny you entry for quite a long time. That one's a little crazy-crazy if you ask me, just a bad policy.

I didn't get a good feeling from your comment's contrast between "a woman from Jamaica" and "normal folks".

Surely being from Jamaica is a thing that normal folks do, if that's where they're from.

A) At the Canadian / American physical border crossing, you get mostly Canadians and Americans, not other nationalities.

B) A lone Jamaican, with a car full of luggage

C) No travel reservations

D) Jamaica is a poor country, likely higher rates of immigration issues.

These are red flags.

The 'border game' is a game of probabilities.

Per your last comment, you'd likely hit a three year or ten year bar. If they determine that you ever lied to them about anything, they can bar you from entering the country for life.

My spouse always had to provide my address to customs when he flew in to see me. Without that and a return trip booked, he'd be denied entry. This isn't only the US, however.

When I moved to Norway from the US, I had to have a return flight booked to get entry into the country the first time, otherwise there is a chance of being denied entry, which can really ruin your chances for immigration.

This isn't that uncommon. I nearly had this happen to me traveling to Europe years ago. I wasn't sure where I was going to stay and didn't book a hotel. It was a problem at customs. I believe the same can be true if you don't book a return flight.

I'm sorry this happened to you. I don't think anyone should do this under any pretext - accepting will open you to so much more potential risk than not.

In moments like this, I'm happy to be employed by a large company that has a strong vested interest against people snooping through my emails.

If such a situation were to happen in my case, I would just reply "I cannot do that as this phone belongs to $company. My employer knows of my travel itinerary and if I am delayed they will be very happy to send lawyers to sort things out."

It's sad and dystopian, but I trust my employer to watch out for my interests more so than any government.

I've mused to myself about factory wiping my phone before I travel, since it's simply a matter of getting wifi and time to restore, or if that would only infuriate them more handing them a phone with quite literally nothing installed on it.

The worst part is they aren't looking for anything related to security, they're primarily checking that you're not going to try to work in Canada.

After hearing about these stories on Canada, why would I ever want to go back there? They sound atrocious.

CBSA basically has full authority to censor whatever they wish and detain whomever they wish while they take whatever they wish and search however they wish.

> Don't be fooled

I don't get it. Are you a journalist, too?

No I'm not. I am a 30 year old white guy traveling with my SO on vacation.

Are you a journalist?

Why should journalists have more rights than ordinary civilians?

They shouldn't, legitimate "press freedoms" don't belong to a special journalistic class, they protect activities no matter who is engaged in them.

US government seems to think that there is, in fact, a special journalistic class:


US immigration policies aren't even in principle based on any conception of rights, but of national interest.

So that the rest of us can stay informed and sources can be protected. The tricky hit is regulating who is a journalist - bloggers here in NZ are running into this.

But do you trust the same governments hassling journalists at the border and rooting through their electronic data to decide who is, and is not, a journalist?

That's pretty much exactly what I was getting at - the journalists police the state, but the state polices the journalists.

What makes you think you can trust the journalists to keep you correctly informed?

I read a story on /r/hentai (yes, bear with me) who said that he was stopped at the Canadian border and they searched his laptop. In his browser image cache they found drawings of fictional characters who appeared to be under the age of 18 engaged in sexual acts. They detained him for a day (or two, I can't remember) and confiscated his laptop permanently.

Laws like this are silly, horrible, and have no place in a democracy. Even disgusting speech ought to be defended.

Canada, the UK and NZ (edit: and Australia, where someone was, I believe, jailed for having "Simpsons porn" on his computer) are places that I know have laws like this. As a citizen of one of these places, it worries me greatly, even though I am not interested in such drawings. It actually enrages me, far more than any other problem in the Western world.

Please be careful when crossing borders.

> Laws like this are silly, horrible, and have no place in a democracy. Even disgusting speech ought to be defended.

I agree. Furthermore, to the best of my knowledge I would guess these cases would not hold up to the scrutiny of the supreme court, if they were ever brought there.

As a non legal expert, my reading has been that the Supreme Court usually has, at least in the past, set a very high bar in ruling against free expression, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memoirs_v._Massachusetts

Maybe someone has a more educated opinion than I, though.

I really don't want to see our Bill of Rights torn apart. As one user said here, they have a theory these policies serve a purpose to acclimate us to a new kind of authoritarian government. I have a lot of personal family pride in fighting for civil and human rights, and I am personally troubled by what seems to be an ever-steady march towards 1984, if we're not already there.

> Canada, the UK and NZ (edit: and Australia, where someone was, I believe, jailed for having "Simpsons porn" on his computer) are places that I know have laws like this.

By the way, NZ is particularly outrageous and ridiculous with these laws. What I find particularly bemusing is that while in NZ has they can ban a book for mainstream sexual content with little quarrel, Auckland has a visible prostitution market. I'm not necessarily saying one thing or another about prostitution, but I think it says something about the recklessness with free speech there. Their failed War on Drugs is also outrageous, arguably the highest per-capita WoD programs in the world, and is expanding.

To be clear: Auckland has a _legal_ prostitution industry, as does the rest of NZ. The censorship board can indeed ban certain media, but it's never really an issue here.

Yea, I know, I think it's crazy.

> it's never really an issue here.

Fair enough, but I think that's an opinion we just disagree on.

Someone posted under this topic the idea that the point of these violations of civil liberties, even if "they aren't really an issue," is exactly that: to acclimate us to think, "it's not really an issue."

Freedom of expression is something I believe we are very lucky to have, people have fought and died for much lesser freedoms. Banning books is a threatening move by government and something that should happen only in utterly extreme circumstances, if at all. In this case, Auckland has not just a legal, but a visible, obvious prostitution market. I think the age of consent there is even 16(?) yet that same teenager couldn't even buy this book on the topic of sex. It's very much just kind of ridiculous.

The country also spends just about the most in the world on its War on Drugs (per capita), so maybe it's no wonder the police didn't have the time when one friendly traveller at a hostel got his orbital bone broken by some local thugs, or when at another hostel someone had their backpack stolen.

An episode of Border Security had a furry trying to enter Canada, complete with the border guards trying to work out if furry porn counted as bestiality porn.


It's probably best to not draw attention to yourself when crossing borders. i.e., don't wear a giant tail when talking to border guards.

What recourse does one have when a device is seized? These things aren't cheap and I'd feel a bit better knowing that my sole option wasn't "save up for a new one."

At this point? Save up for a new one, pay a hundred times its cost to a lawyer to maybe have it back, or start a revolution and overthrow the government.

"Sorry, I don't remember the passcode," or say the phone isn't yours.

>"Sorry, I don't remember the passcode," or say the phone isn't yours.

Then you get detained. Indefinitely if they believe you to be lying.

Do you think they'll let you go with this excuse?

'Agents requested access to his phones and to look through his photos so that they could make sure he was “not posing next to any dead bodies,” he said. When he refused, citing the need to protect his sources as a journalist, they took the phones, he said.

The phones were later returned and showed signs that the SIM cards had been replaced, he said. Giving up the contents of his private phone would be akin to a doctor giving up confidential patient information, he said.

“I’m not going to open my phone for any other country,” Mr. Ou, a New York Times contributor who was an intern for the news organization in 2010, said in a phone interview on Thursday from Nunavut, Canada. “I can’t be expected to do the same for the U.S.”

Jason Givens, a United States Customs and Border Protection spokesman, declined to comment on Mr. Ou’s case, citing privacy laws.'


  citing privacy laws
l o l

The irony is fucking palpatable.

You mean palpable?

I'm so embarrassed how America treats people entering the U.S.

It's the first experience foreigners have in our country, and we make it one of the worst experiences in the developed world.

Industries that benefit from tourism should lobby the Federal Government to improve the travel experience to, from, and within the US. I personally would fly at least a few more times a year if the TSA/CBP process treated people with urgency and dignity.

I recently was in the Houston airport and encountered a surprisingly tiny security checkpoint with an insane number of TSA officers. There were so few passengers, it felt like it was almost 2:1 passengers to officers. And it was the slowest, rudest, stupidest travel experience yet.

How can so many employees be so incredibly inefficient!? For some, it was pretty obvious: they were just standing around doing literally nothing while people were clearly frustrated by lines that did not move for long periods of time. Some of the “officers” were wandering the area with no apparent end goal. One (as usual) was bellowing ridiculous instructions with fear-of-death seriousness: a job that any sane manager should have eliminated years ago to save money.

And every time, it freaks me out: I don’t want my laptop stolen (say) but there is zero attention paid to the people walking up and walking away with bags from the conveyor belt on the other side, and when the line grows longer and longer I CAN’T go over there and keep adequate watch on my things. Invariably, my bag and stuff makes it through LONG before I do and I just have to hope it hasn’t disappeared.

The entire system is insane. Every Last Rule they introduced based on some random threat or other is pointless. The only thing worse than these pointless rules is knowing that these employees will freak the hell out over every violation of their pointless rules, while completely ignoring real threats.

I've found MCO to be one of the worst run TSA checkpoints. Agents constantly yelling instructions that contradict what their signage says. Example: guy yells to put shoes directly on the conveyor and not in a bin. Sign right next to him says put in a bin... and they wonder why people get frustrated with them.

I entered US as a non-citizen and citizen many times, and yeah it is not pretty. It largely depends on where you enter though.

The experience that made most upset is when my parents were leaving and I was saying goodbye to them. They are in their 70s and don't speak much English. My mom was trying to say thank you and smile at the ticket agent. And he marked her ticked with a bunch of red "S" letters. I knew what that meant.

Next thing, I was helplessly watching my parents being harassed by TSA agents, a bunch 20 year old punks. They were pulling and tugging at them, my mom almost in tears not understanding what they want from them. Made them empty all the luggage and such.

The thing is they are used to that treatment but just in their country not here What upset them is that they had to lower their expectation of how this country treats its visitors as well.

Appalled is probably a better word. I'm not sure how the process is now (I got Global Entry, which pretty much short cuts the entire horrible experience), but I remember coming back into the country as an American citizen and being appalled at not only how difficult the process was as a citizen, but how unfriendly it was to non-citizens.

Not only was a lot of the signage and printed instructions only in English, the customs officers were down right berating people in English (many of whom obviously didn't speak English) for things they had no way of knowing, like standing in the proper line, because they couldn't read or speak English. In many cases the customs officer would simply lead people (who had no idea where they were going) into a line, then leave. The wait for translators was hours in some cases. And if you were lucky enough to get through customs, you were rushed through another security line and required to put your bags on one of five conveyer belts to the bowels of the airport to be screened AGAIN (even if you weren't taking a connecting flight). Only you had no idea which belt you were supposed to choose because there was no signage, only a scant few attendants yelling out which belt you were supposed to put your bags on (in English, of course) while streams of people rushed by.

> I'm so embarrassed how America treats people entering the U.S.

The contrast between entering other civilised countries and entering the United States is one of the things I hate about travelling. Every other country I visit manages to control its borders and have a pleasant, polite entry process, but not my own! I've seen border agents scream and holler at people who clearly don't understand English: there's just no excuse for that. It's rude.

The United States and Europe are political units of approximately the same population and area; there's no reason why entry into the U.S. must be so much more miserable than entry in the E.U., any more than there's a reason why we Americans pay such relatively high taxes for such relatively little in services.

I don't know the particulars of this incident, so I won't comment on it. The man's not a citizen, so he certainly doesn't have a right to enter, but I do think that the border exception to the Fourth Amendment is terrible, and that requiring citizens to share the contents of their electronic devices without a warrant is an invasion of privacy.

Have you ever travelled to Canada? I've had a much worse experience with their border police than I have with the US and I'm a Canadian!

Eh? Canadian border guards have always been what I've come to expect out of all Canadians: pleasant and polite to a fault. But my crossings, save two or three, are always on a motorcycle so my anecdata isn't very useful.

U. S., OTOH, I dread and I'm a citizen.

I'm Canadian but I've never had any problems coming back into Canada. Sure I go through smaller crossings into the Maritimes that could be part of it.

My theory is I think it's almost a relief when border police deal with a fellow Canadian. If it's someone from the US I bet 99% of their worry is they have a gun.

But US customs seem to have a chip on their shoulder as if they want to torment you.

Do you mind sharing your story?

Crossed the US/Canada border probably 30-40 times, both via plane and car. Of the 4 rough incidents I've had with border agents, 3 have been with the Canadians and 1 with the US.

I've had the Canadian border agents accuse me of trying to smuggle in a car to sell (depending on the exchange rate it can be profitable). I've also had them grill me as to why I'm coming to Canada. "Who are you meeting? What will you be doing?". I'm Canadian, you have to let me in!

On the US side, it's mostly "Welcome home!" even though I only had a green card. There was one time when a CBP officer got testy wanting to know who owned the car while my wife was driving. It was more his foul mood than anything.

Logically, you'd expect the US agents to grill me considering I'm not a citizen, not the Canadians.

That said, the US and Canadian border agents work very closely together. They share their lists of "suspects" and are more than willing to hand someone over to the other side if it makes their life easier.

Another comment said that since this happened in a Canadian airport, the guy should have just left. I'm pretty sure the US CBP would have let their Canadian colleagues know about this guy and he wouldn't have made it out of the aiport.

My first time visiting the US was by car, as we planned a road trip to visit some of the bigger cities and parks along the way. We were held for 2 hours at the first border crossing, since the agent processing our paperwork believed the address we provided for our first stop was made up: "There is no address in SF that is just the number 1, it's always in the hundreds.". We were being treated as if he had made his catch of the day and we'd be denied entry, or worse, any time now.

They had to verify the address (surprise, some streets start with the number 1, who would've thought?) and then another officer gave us the needed visa and let us into the country, all the while the original officer was glaring at us as if we somehow managed to find a loophole to gain entry into the country.

It's usually a pretty grim experience even as a citizen reentering the US, but at least we're not required to give our fingerprints. I would never travel to a country which demanded that.

I don't know about your state, but a few years ago mine started requiring a full set of fingerprints for driver's license renewal.

>a few years ago mine started requiring a full set of fingerprints for driver's license renewal.

Is it Texas? I think they gave up on that last year:


Texas still does fingerprints at the DMV. I'm amazed how many texans have no clue until they renew.

It was years ago, but I think I had my fingerprints taken to enter the USA. I'm British.

Plenty of articles about it online. I used to be involved with organising meetings for scientists, and we'd never arrange one in the USA because of the hostility towards foreigners, particularly from Africa.

Economic prosperity vs not giving up my fingerprints.


Seemed like an easy decision when getting my visa and every time I reenter.

I specifically pay extra and fly longer to avoid the US when possible because the experience is so bad. That's money the US economy misses out on. Especially since it's much less likely that a US airline is involved.

I specifically remember coming back from a trip to China and witnessing a customs agent screaming at this small group of old Chinese folks "YOU NO GO THERE. YOU COME HERE. NOW."

Like, how hard is it to do a basic 2 hour training in "communicating with non english speakers" so you can stop your staff insulting and screaming at non-native speakers?

Even more depressing is the fact that many countries take the US as their idol and start also requiring all 10 finger prints at border crossing. It's an epidemic these days.

Here in Brazil we demand fingerprints only for Americans, as a reciprocity measure. A mix of revenge and incentivising change.

It's controversial, cause it hurts tourism and business.

I don't think you're up to date on this. The Brazilian government began doing this in January 2004, but then discontinued the practice within a matter of weeks or months. I read several reports that it was initially ordered by a judge in Mato Grosso do Sul but that the government then successfully appealed against the judge's order.

I've visited Brazil with a U.S. passport at least once per year since 2003, most recently in December 2015, and have never been fingerprinted.

I think that's the point - reading state communications and using government spy apparatus for private enterprises also hurts trade and that is presumably part of the escalation.

Can you please remind me what is the problem with fingerprints? It's not akin to searching for furry porn on your computer and blaming it as child porn depiction – Fingerprints don't link you to supposed-crimes-that-everyone-has-done. Is it the same topic as privacy?

Fingerprints don't link you to supposed-crimes-that-everyone-has-done.

No, but they might link you to real crimes that you didn't actually commit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandon_Mayfield

Having a huge database encourages this kind of sweeping searches, wherein false positives become very likely.

The problem is that you and everyone else will be a suspect.

That list is not complete - unfortunately many more countries have begun fingerprinting since the last update.

Could you suggest them to RMS? In my experience he's interested in new information for the list.

Edit: is there anyone else systematically keeping track? You can get good information on FlyerTalk, but it seems to be a one-off kind of thing (asking a particular question about a particular country at a particular moment).

I confirm: I don't go to USA conferences because of the TSA/CSP. If Europe follows USA with a 15-year delay, I'll either have to stay in France or reconsider my policy.

Same here. I am citizen, yet I am not comfortable crossing the border, I can't imagine how it is for others.

Leaving is apparently no better...


It really varies from crossing to crossing.

In Canada most of the major international airports have US border crossings inside the airport inside Canadian territory. In my experience those are strangely the most hostile and confrontational to Canadians. I've found land border guards, and guards inside US airports themselves to be friendlier. I don't know why, but it seems others have this experience too.

In any case given the change of political tide in the US I will no longer be traveling there for pleasure. Only for work.

I work remotely and travel the world. I'm also a staunch privacy advocate. My mode for travel is to ensure any device I bring with me has a minimum of data on it, has full encryption, and is powered off before crossing any security boundary.

If the device is powered off it requires a complete pass phrase to decrypt and is not susceptible to cold boot attacks. Beyond that I will adamantly refuse to turn over my passwords to ANYONE, EVER. Anybody who has a legitimate need to bypass my authentication has the ability to do so without my passwords (ala SSO at work). If that ends up with me being unjustly imprisoned, I will fight that battle when it happens.

My findings though are there are two types of border agents that ask inanely stupid things like having you login to a device. The first are bullies on a power trip. These guys will make spurious claims and try to hold you to them, hopefully their supervisors are more reasonable or things go South fast.

The second type are wheedling opportunists. These guys will ask for unreasonable things as an opening to negotiate a large bribe or because they think you'll play along and let them display a power trip to their nearby cronies. If you're adamant and serious, they'll usually just not target you.

The fact this sort of behavior is becoming commonplace in the "more civilized" parts of the world is truly worrisome though. Corruption in most Western governments tends to be at the top, not officers taking bribes. That means this behavior has the full backing of the law (or at least some semblance) and you play a real risk of your entire life being ruined if you don't comply. Personally I still plan to refuse and not give in, but that's not a reasonable choice for most people in this situation. The whole thing is disgusting.

This guy gets it.

I have the laptop I'm currently working on, and then I have a specialized "travel" laptop that contains nothing. It is pretty much a basic Linux laptop that contains an unencrypted volume containing a basic workstation. We're talking netbook level of sophistication. Same goes with the phone. I have a Dual SIM device that I use when traveling, and it has no email creds or anything on it. Both devices could get cooked and I will just be out a shitty computer and phone. (I also have "China only" devices, but that's a special case.) They contain basic applications I need to use when traveling and that's all.

If I really need one of my work machines and I can't get data from it in country, I will just EMS it to my hotel before I get on the plane.

Border crossings are hostile territory. Take as little as you need for your trip, and don't take any electronic device you will feel bad forfeiting to border patrol or being compromised when it gets taken "in the back room". Assume anything you have on you will be stolen from you or used against you to get a bribe. Doesn't matter if it's North America or South America, Southeast Asia or the Middle East.

Another case from 2013...

US Citizens, Phones stolen, detained without explanation, and officers refused to give names.

"OTM producer Sarah Abdurrahman, her family, and her friends were detained for hours by US Customs and Border Protection on their way home from Canada. Everyone being held was a US citizen, and no one received an explanation. Sarah tells the story of their detainment, and her difficulty getting any answers from one of the least transparent agencies in the country."

It's an audio podcasts, but there are transcript as well.


More on the subject. http://www.wnyc.org/story/on-the-media-2014-02-28/

"Keeping America safe and enforcing our nation’s laws in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully examine all materials entering the U.S.,"

What does "lawfully" even mean in this context? It's one of those words used specifically to excuse legally questionable practices at best, and outright illegal or unethical behavior by people in positions of authority, like parallel construction and evidence suppression.

You can say we lawfully performed a civil forfieture. Or lawfully detained a suspect for 8 months.

It's also absurd given the quantity of data that "enters the US" over the wires.

That is 'lawfully' 'examined' as well.

Keep in mind that constitutional principles do not apply fully at US borders.

Constitutional principles do fully apply at borders, just as they fully apply to all people, including non-citizens outside of the country.

The courts have helpfully manufactured justifications for violating them though, just as any tyrant would.

and the torture sections of the Geneva convention do not apply to the US govt outside US borders either, cause war on terror, war on drugs, <insert crazy justification here>

This appears to be a horrifying development. There has been similar treatment of journalists writing about Edward Snowden. I wish there was will to change our laws to restrict such searches, but it aint happening right now.

Notably Laura Poitras (US citizen) even before she covered Snowden was harassed at border crossing for her coverage of the Iraq war.

It is truly scary how bad things have gotten just under Obama, someone who campaigned for "change" and disclosure.

With Trump, a man who has been extremely litigious against journalist who cover him negatively, it's terrifying to consider how much worse things can get.

One can only hope our judicial system is ready to stand up to these challenges in the next four years because I'm not sure what other support we'll have, and they have already been pretty awful protecting press freedom...

hope our judicial system is ready to stand up to these challenges

Even if it is, have you noticed how little regard the extreme right has for the judicial branch? They claim to be constitutionalists while ignoring any interpretations (or citations) that don't support their position on any given issue.

Yep... I honestly have little to no hope.

Consider too that the overall policy of the existing administration is strongly in favor of immigration reform (although there is scant enthusiasm for such reform among the people who work in border security). If you think it's bad now, just wait a few weeks.

I tried arguing this persons privacy yet I got highly downvoted on /r/canada, for points that I felt I couldn't refute, specifically that crossing a nations border is not a right but a privilege, and that most Western nations have similar POVs when it comes to the right for border officers to inspect laptops/phones.

I know that the ACLU and EFF have fought to defend Americans from having their laptops/phones inspected at the border, but I believe I read they haven't had much success in the legal system.

I still don't understand the rationale behind being able to inspect someones computer/mobile phone. Even in the case of say, possessing child pornography, I would assume most people are caught by tracked websites than random searches at the border?

Canadians don't believe in absolute free speech or privacy.

In legal situations, this pops up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace,_order,_and_good_governm...

Don't forget Canada is very homogeneous and they are just as likely to fall victim to "other-ing" and fear mongering.

If you are fitting in, you're ok in Canada. If you arent, well no end of troubles awaits you. Just ask all the queer bookstores that had their shipments endlessly fucked with by the border/customs agents.

Canada isn't quite a liberal nirvana, they just happen to have less crime and single payer healthcare.

In what way is Canada homogeneous? I've never heard anyone say that before. I would think it was much less homogeneous than much of the western world, especially the US. I know Toronto is usually called the most diverse city in the world.

Rights are independent of laws and not subject to geography. We talk about universal rights; the U.S. Declaration of Independence says, for example,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights ...

The government may not respect your rights, but you still have them.

Not a defense as I somewhat agree with you, (and yes, it is a privilege not a right): Juggling processing the millions and millions of people coming in and out and doing it quickly and affordably vs utilizing a courts when you need to inspect/assess something seems impossible, for example just between canada and the US alone last year, well over 11 million trucks crossed the border.

As an American, I find this extremely disconcerting. I've long been deeply bothered by the unlimited power the border patrol has, and the lack of transparency it shows when it takes action. Nor am I comfortable how far beyond the border these extended powers are claimed by CBP to exist either.

Frankly, entering the country should be a much more transparent process - and barring something I dont know, I see no reason why this journalist should have been denied entry, other than someone at the border got a hair up their ass about it.

I am deeply concerned for the state of my country people say stupid shit like this:

> “Keeping America safe and enforcing our nation’s laws in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully examine all materials entering the U.S.,” Mr. Givens said in a statement on Thursday.

People who say this fail to realize they are the threat.

> People who say this fail to realize they are the threat.

I don't think they care, honestly.

Does that make them more or less dangerous?

It doesn't mention in the article if he had a work visa, but I imagine he did if he was assigned by CBC to cover the event. It's pretty terrible that a journalist would be denied entry into a country that supposedly has high press freedom on an official assignment because the government (or maybe just the officer who denied him) doesn't like what's happening in Standing Rock. It's even stranger that 1) he is a well known Canadian journalist, so he's probably as low risk as someone could be, and 2) if this would have been a problem, I'm sure that CBC would have taken care of it ahead of time and made sure everything was in order, but it must be so routine for journalists to come from Canada that there wasn't any other necessary preparations besides getting the visa (which should be enough anyway...). We might not have "minders" while we're in the country, but it seems we now have them when entering.

Given how everything in most phones is by default encrypted these days, I wonder how diffult I would be for someone like Apple to offer a border crossing mode that has whatever apps you deem acceptable, while firewalling off others in an undetectable way?

> Given how everything in most phones is by default encrypted these days

Android isn't encrypted, is it? You can encrypt it BUT say goodbye to your pattern-based login, you'll have to type a password on the Qwerty keyboard every time. So, I don't think anyone enables encryption on Android.

Actually, Android is encrypted per default (required) since 5.0.

You can encrypt with different passphrases at boot and login time, too.

You can also use a pattern login to decrypt at boot and unlock at login, contrary to what the grandparent comment stated.

If he actually flew out of YVR, he was probably in a us preclearance area -- us customs are located in some Canadian airports so flights can go directly into us domestic terminals.

Since those screenings are on Canadian territory, us agents do not have police powers or the right to detain people. They can deny entry but people can leave at any time unless they have violated Canadian law. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_border_preclea...)

If this was the case, he could have simply left the airport at any time.

I prefer going through US Preclearance in Canada due to the fact that I am still subject to Canadian law when doing so. I don't understand why this wasn't even mentioned in the article.

Interestingly, even US citizens aren't exempted from this. Constitutional rights seemingly don't apply at the border.

And CBP considers the "border" as a 100-mile strip inland around borders and coastlines.


> Roughly two-thirds of the United States' population lives within the 100-mile zone

I knew it was a lot but I didn't guess two thirds. That makes it laughable.

This is worth remembering when (probably next month) the incoming administration has to decide whether to make good on the promise of deporting millions of people, which promise is very dear to the hearts of core supporters who have felt very let down by previous administrations.

There is a high probability of aggressive mass action within the US under the banner of 'border security' in the not-very distant future which is going to force people to choose sides.

What's weird to me is that basically "reasonable suspicion" is simply substituted for a court order when it comes to border enforcement officers, however, it seems that at no point during your encounter with one are they obliged to convey to you what that "reasonable suspicion" is.

the arbitrary enforcement of unclear policies makes egregious violations less noticeable—the increase of control through variance

Q: do customs agents (in either USA or Canada) have the right to ask for social network passwords, even if you don't cross with a device? e.g. Facebook? Gmail? what about Dropbox? I suppose you could try "I don't have an account on that" but what if they know you do?

You would violate the terms of service for sharing your passwords with third-parties.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/terms Section 4, number 8:

"You will not share your password (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account."

Gmail: https://www.google.com/intl/en/policies/terms/

"To protect your Google Account, keep your password confidential. You are responsible for the activity that happens on or through your Google Account. Try not to reuse your Google Account password on third-party applications."

Dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com/privacy#terms

"Please safeguard your password to the Services, make sure that others don't have access to it, and keep your account information current."

"what if they know you do?" -- how?

Maybe your FB identity is public even if your detailed profile isn't

I'm sure the journalist would have used a burner phone if he were traveling to China or North Korea. He just needs to understand that the United States of America has a similar view of his human rights.

OT but pertaining to increasing frictions at/across borders.

I'm in the U.S. Today -- for the first time in quite some time -- I went to the post office to mail a small box to an old friend in Belgium. Five paperback books and an inexpensive ceramic dish with a catchy/inspiring quote on it. $38 worth of gifts. Weighed in at 3 lbs, 10 oz.

I'm used to being able to mail something like that for, I don't know, $15 -$20. Maybe $25.

Today, the cheapest option they have for such a thing is "first class". $50. For less than four pounds, in a small cardboard box.

The postal clerk told me she herself has been shocked by the increases. The supposed explanation: "Security."

As I commented elsewhere, it's almost like they don't want us to have international family and friends, anymore.

> questioned about whether he had seen anyone die.

"Why, yes; that 151 foot copper lady standing between New York and Jersey, what's'erface."

search, interrogation, and intimidation are timeless and scary-effective ways of maintaining control of narratives and perspectives

the maintenance of physical borders is not only about the physicality of keeping people out, but ideas and expression, the conceptual border guard, too

As a Canadian living in the US, I've had a lot of trouble with US Customs at both airports (YVR, YYZ) and border crossing (Vancouver, Niagara).

However, I don't deny that it is at times necessary for Customs officers to be more strict. I would rather the officers do their jobs correctly and prevent incidents (drug smuggling, terrorism etc.) from happening.

Although at times they do seem to be unnecessarily aggressive.

99% of my experiences crossing the border between the US and CA have been pretty pleasant though I have had some stand out bad ones. At YYZ flying to Florida my wife and I were pulled out of line into secondary screening. We go up to the desk and they ask us how we can afford to be in the US for 3 months without working. We tell them we have savings they ask if they can see our bank accounts and we say sure then they say "thats ok go take a seat for a minute". They then held us there for over an hour until exactly when our flight was scheduled to depart then called us up and told us we could go. The whole time we had to sit there and watch them sit behind their desks chatting. It was infuriating and we lost our business class seats because the next flight was nearly full.

Ambassador bridge is constantly a positive experience for us but Rainbow bridge my wife(Australian) always gets grilled rudely.

As a green card holder, living in Seattle I travel a lot to Vancouver, BC (15-20 times a year). I haven't had a single problem with US CBP, but Canadian one gives me a hard time every other visit. Though it's an anecdotal evidence of course.

Journalists should start publishing under anonymous public/private keys over VPN's and Tor...or something along those lines Satoshi style.

I have a feeling with all this ugly Nationalism starting to rear its head in the world, journalists publishing unpopular opinions towards the mainstream Zeitgeist are going to be vulnerable to witch hunts.

“That wall of naïveté that I had about the freedom of the press in the U.S. kind of shattered at that moment.”

Freedom of the press means reporters can publish whatever they like. The CBP isn't stopping him from doing that. It certainly doesn't mean that reporters are free from searches that the average citizen has to put up with.

Woah now, the average citizen shouldn't be subject to digital cavity searches either!

First off, no cavity searches here.

Second, yes I agree the border police take things too far. However, I resent the "but you're taking away the freedom of the press" hyperbole.

Sorry, just because you're a journalist doesn't mean you get a free pass at the borders. Maybe that should be the focus of the story?

Having recently returned to the US after moving abroad 5 years ago, I was pretty shocked by how much more security there was in the airports. Not only that, the manner and air of the various security workers made it feel like everyone was a terrorist threat. I felt guilty when being checked even though I had nothing to be guilty of. Has the American populace really become used to this level of treatment like a frog slowly being boiled alive?

Compare this to the many countries I visited on vacation and while some, for example China, have similarly strict and high levels of security, none of them made me feel like I was some sort of terrorist. It makes me wonder what sort of training the security staff goes through. Are they taught to treat people like this? Or are people skills simply not a requirement for a job that requires talking to people all day?

I clicked this expecting to read that they wanted to know if he was allowed to work there or that he needed some obscure work permit or something, however what unfolded is truly bizarre, especially the part about looking for photos with dead bodies. Tangentially: I've crossed the border from Canada to the US so many times, applied for multiple visas etc. Sometimes I feel like if the enforcement officers wonder that they themselves are ignorant of the law (I do imagine there is some complexity and nuance to approving crossings outside of the standard tourist or B1 visa) they go into random and long checks to figure out what they are supposed to do, but on the traveler side it feels like they're figuring out if you are doing the right thing (if that makes sense).

When you're entering the U.S. or Canada, you surrender your rights by default. The border agents can search all your belongings, including any of your digital device. At the border, less is more; bring less, tell less. Once they start digging, be prepared to answer a lot of questions.

Is there a truecrypt for iPhone?

What kind of mobile filesystem wipers and SIM wipers are available?

I use Signal for txts, and while I believe it does not store plaintext txts on the SIM card (haven't analyzed it), SSDs strew cleartext data all over the place. Border guards using a disk imager like EnCase or something similar would get significant fragments of browser and communications history.

Key thing is if you have an iPhone, don't use TouchID, or as I call it, "Apple Bad Touch," because they can just hold you down and run your finger over it.

It's best to travel with a burner. Maybe we need a cyanogenmod image that includes a "duress key" like TC had, and old RSA tokens, but if there is anything on your phone that could be used against people you know, don't take it across borders.

Disclaimer: US border control, including in this case, is in my view terrible, unjust, and counterproductive. That being said:

There's a weird "OMG A JOURNALIST WAS HASSLED!" angle to the story that, frankly, smells of aristocratic entitlement. Journalists aren't some superior class entitled to swan about the world freely while us filthy plebeians wait in line for toilet paper; at least in America, they're citizens with no more -- and no fewer -- rights than anyone else, and that's the way it should be. The First Amendment is for every citizen, not just those who've managed to get credentials with someone.

Indeed, anyone advocating a reduction to border search insanity is likely harming their cause by linking it to journalists in particular, since journalists are such a widely despised group. There's going to be a nonzero number of people who are going to hear about a journalist being given trouble at the border, even unjustly, and think "good," not "wow, that could happen to me."

> at least in America, they're citizens with no more -- and no fewer -- rights than anyone else

The border problems journalists have are mostly not connected to their 1st amendment rights (which, after all, only operate for journalists inside the US) but are about protecting sources.

Many of the US states have laws to protect journalistic materials and journalist's sources.

why would they tamper with or replace the sim cards?

seems like it'd be smarter these days to be more covert about your photojournalism career; might be smart to have a cover.

also standing rock is reaching a boiling point. it's obviously becoming a national security issue if they're stopping people at the border.

You can clone modern SIM cards to extract the contacts later on or any data that is stored on it (some phones save texts there)

"Replace" makes it sound like they gave a new one. Of course they didn't. The phone wouldn't work until you contacted your cell provider. If they did indeed take the card out, they probably used to gather the IMSI number and to download any contact information stored on the card itself.

perhaps to track the phone later? see if there are any contacts on the sim card and cross reference those. replace it with some other chip that does something else?

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