U.S. Border Agents Take, Store And Search Americans’ Emails And Photos At “Massive Scale”

The power of U.S. Customers and Border Protection is almost unlimited at the borders – or, surprising to many Americans, within 100 miles of a border where two-thirds of the U.S. population lives.

The federal government maintains they can search your devices and call it a ‘border search’ – no fourth amendment protections – anywhere within that zone. However in 9 states there has to be at least reasonable suspicion (which is a low bar to clear).

And did you know that they claim the authority to collect DNA samples of travelers they detain entering the country, even U.S. citizens, and put the samples into a central database? Of course they’ve mistakenly detained Americans entitled to enter the U.S.

So it really didn’t surprise me two years ago when they revealed plans to build a central database for all of the emails they collect from traveler devices. And readers of this blog, then, shouldn’t be surprised by the news that they’ve actually done it.

  • They’re adding “contacts, call logs, messages and photos” from the devices of tens of thousands of people per year and “much of which is captured from people not suspected of any crime.”
  • “2,700 CBP officers [can] access it without a warrant” according the office of Senator Ron Wyden, while the agency clarifies it’s actually 3,000 officers.

The agency says trust us, searches of the database are “exercised judiciously, responsibly, and consistent with the public trust.” The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, though, says agents don’t properly document their searches so there’s no way to know whether this is true.

CBP officials declined, however, to answer questions about how many Americans’ phone records are in the database, how many searches have been run or how long the practice has gone on, saying it has made no additional statistics available “due to law enforcement sensitivities and national security implications.”

…CBP officials said their default configuration for some of the searches had been to download and retain all contact lists, call logs and messages, a Wyden aide said. ..CBP conducted roughly 37,000 searches of travelers’ devices in the 12 months ending in October 2021, according to agency data

There’s no suggestion that any terrorist plot has ever been foiled by this program, and the agency is quick to grasp at straws to make that claim whenever they possibly can.

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