Tu misera America

August 2, 2008

As if taking off your shoes, being inspected in a machine that I can only describe as a miniature gas chamber while your shoes are checked for hazardous materials (boy, they should just smell mine, there’s a chemical WMD for ya!), and then being grunted at by an unfriendly immigration officer wasn’t enough of a hassle when going to the U.S. No, now I could also have my laptop detained, my data inspected, copied and stored by the Department of Homeland Security for God knows how long, and all that without even being under suspicion.

What happened to the Fourth Amendment that I was taught in U.S. History class?

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

How much paint thinner do you have sniff to not find the DHS’s practice “unreasonable?” How can this not be unconstitutional? I suppose you’ll have to go to law school to understand your own rights, or the absence thereof in this case…

How cynical does New Hampshire’s number plate inscription “Live Free or Die” sound now! If this is America’s new interpretation of freedom, dying is starting to look like a serious alternative. Or at least not going there anymore.

17 Responses to “Tu misera America”

  1. philikon Says:

    Aaah. I feel better now… Nothing beats a good rant once in a while.

  2. Florian Schulze Says:

    This is one of the reasons I won’t go to this years Plone conference.

  3. David Says:

    Schneier also comments on this U.S. borders policy: http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2008/08/us_government_p.html

  4. finelli Says:

    I will not go for he same reason as Florian.

  5. Robert Says:

    If you are changing the way YOU live because of this, that is the saddest part. Shame on you.

    I am hoping it goes to the supremes where we can discover if it is considered “UNREASONABLE searches and seizures”. I hope it is.

  6. Aaron VanDerlip Says:

    After speaking to individuals in Naples, I have been saying to anyone that would listen that ease of visa and lack of onerous travel restrictions should be a key consideration for planning future conferences. Currently the US makes it quite difficult for many individuals who live outside of Western Europe to travel there and it is difficult for me to see the current security policies relaxing in the next 5 years. There are quite a few nice cities in Canada if there is a need for a North American locale, though I think the coastal cities of Mexico are quite pleasant as well🙂.

  7. Alex Clark Says:

    I’m very to sorry to hear that people are not attending the conference due to U.S government restrictions, etc. If there is anything I can do to make it easier for anyone, please let me know. Personally, I think attendance should be about the software and the community and not about who’s government does what, but I understand the frustrations. I can’t fix my government’s problems (at least not by October 6😉 but I can help organize and run the Plone Conference. I just hope that others can see past the temporary inconveniences and try to do what is best and most important: protecting and preserving the Plone software and brand around the world. If we do this, then we all win.

  8. philikon Says:

    Alex, just to be clear, this isn’t the reason I can’t come to PloneConf. I’ve been travelling a lot this year already (incl. a trip to the U.S.) and I just can’t fit another week’s leave into my calendar.

    That said, it’s certainly things *like* this DHS policy that make me and other people want to go to the U.S. less often in general. The sad thing about that is that I actually love visiting the U.S.A. I’ve lived there and I would do it again. I think. Can you blame me for having second thoughts now?

  9. Jota Says:

    I’m from Spain, Europe. Since I was a child I have the dream to travel to the USA. Recently, I turn down a good job offer to work at USA (with Zope/Plone consulting and implementation), because I’m afraid I can not keep up with this kind of policies.
    Now, the Americans are somehow prisoners in their own country. The bad guys wins, the good and honest people lost. That’s it!!

  10. Balazs Ree Says:

    The saddest part of this new rule is that it’s mostly useless. Those who do want to cryptographically protect and hide their data for good or bad purpose, can continue doing it with a minimal effort. So the same thing will happen as with most previous anti-terrorist measures: the new regulations will hardly bring any of the expected results, but will make life of the ordinary people more complicated, and in some unlucky cases, severely damaged.

    Having lived big part of my life under a communist dictature, these practices are familiar and transparent for me (as just for anyone from these countries). I am convinced that the US will also learn from its mistakes and change its politics just before it would be too late. It is much more easy to destroy a working democracy then to build a new one from scratch, later on.

    As for us, tech people, I believe we can do only one thing: reinforce the legal usage of cryptographic and file sharing technologies, as part of our everyday development and business practices. Just to make sure that using ssh does not bring anyone to prison one day.

  11. Malthe Says:

    People tend to forget that the US isn’t the only country in the world that has legislation that undermines basic civil liberties.

    Philip himself wrote previously on Sweden’s turn on privacy issues, in Cuba there is no freedom of speech (neither in Russia), the English have widely adopted the US policies to combat terrorism (a friend of mine was detained for several hours for apparently having the same name and _almost_ date of birth as a known felon).

    In my own country, Denmark, we violate EU immigration laws to prevent certain groups of foreigners to take residence. I’m here already, so I can’t choose to not go here, but I could choose to leave. I could also choose to stay and hope the left wing parties are able to convince voters that there’s a better way.

    I’m ashamed of what’s happening in my country and I think many Americans share this feeling. The solution is not to jump ship, but rather to work for change.


  12. Yes, this is what the Bush administration did to the United States. I’ve spent most of the year 2000 in Colorado and had the impression to live in a free country. A couple of years later, after 9-11, with Bush being the president, I returned to the US (this time Ohio) for a few weeks and it felt as if a dictatorship had taken over.

    I decided to not visit the US again as long as a republican president is running the country. The state of civil rights in Europe is already bad enough, but it’s still looking good compared to what’s currently happening in “the land of the free, home of the brave”.

    It’s time that we all remember what Benjamin Franklin said: „Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.“

  13. Jon Stahl Says:

    Just to point out for the record, nobody who wanted to attend Plone Conference 2006 reported having any visa or border difficulties whatsoever. 🙂

    Crossing an international border has always been legal grounds for search. You can debate whether that is appropriate, but it’s entirely consistent with long-standing legal rulings in the US and elsewhere.

  14. philikon Says:

    Jon: I understand that searches are common practice and even justified when crossing borders. I’m not really criticizing the *fact* of the search, I’m criticizing the new *quality* of the search, especially the not-being-under-any-suspicion and we-keep-all-your-data-as-long-as-it-takes part.


  15. […] a while, maybe even permanently at some point. This article is still very useful, especially with laptop searches now happening at U.S. borders, so I’ve reposted it here for other people’s and my reference.) Let’s face it, you always […]

  16. philikon Says:

    As MrTopf remarks (in German: http://mrtopf.de/blog/vlog/topftaglich-34-482008-der-richtig-harte-terrorismus), the movie and music industries have benefited greatly from computer-related anti-terror laws, perhaps even more than the anti-terror government units themselves. If officials continue to pass on personal data from confiscated hard drives to private industry, we’ve seen the ultimate perversion of these so-called anti-terror laws.


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