You?ve gotten used to being asked to turn on your laptop as you go through airport security so the authorities can confirm it?s really a computer and not a bomb. But you may not expect, on returning home from abroad, to have U.S. Customs demand your computer password so they can scrutinize your computer?s contents, make a mirror image of your entire hard drive, or ?temporarily? seize your laptop.
Start expecting it. Customs has been making such demands and engaging in such invasive searches and seizures. And last week the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the government has unfettered discretion to do so, with no requirement of reasonable suspicion to think you or your computer are implicated in any criminal activity. United States v. Arnold, No. 06-50581 (9th Cir. April 21, 2008).
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