In July, the Department of Homeland Security disclosed policies that showed that federal agents may copy books, documents, and the data on laptops and other electronic devices without suspecting a traveler of wrongdoing. But what DHS did not disclose was that since 1986 and until last year, the government generally required a higher standard: Federal agents needed probable cause that a law was being broken before they could copy material a traveler was bringing into the country.
The changes are part of a broader trend across the government to harness technology in the fight against terrorism. But they are taking place largely without public input or review, critics said, raising concerns that federal border agents are acting without proper guidelines or oversight and that policies are being adopted that do not adequately protect travelers’ civil liberties when they are being questioned or their belongings searched.
[…] In July 2007, the government dropped the requirement that there be reasonable suspicion to review material but specified that the review had to take place in connection with laws enforced by CBP, according to a copy of a policy the groups obtained.
Then, this July, the government issued its broadest policy to date regarding information searches at the border, allowing documents and electronic devices to be detained for an unspecified period. Moreover, they may now be copied without any suspicion of wrongdoing, the lowest legal standard.
We suspect that most Senate Republicans know how to use a computer and all of the other devices of the electronic age. Which means there is no excuse — except a desire to slow the public’s right to know — for their ongoing efforts to block electronic filing of their reports on campaign donations.
THE latest recordings by a couple of popular country music acts will never hit the Billboard charts but, to paraphrase the title of a song from the movie “Nashville,” it don’t worry them.
That’s because the recordings — by the singer Phil Vassar and the group Little Big Town — were made on behalf of Red Roof Inn, a leading budget lodging chain. As part of a multimedia campaign, the voices of Mr. Vassar and the members of Little Big Town can be heard when guests at Red Roof motels ask for wake-up calls or potential guests are placed on hold when calling to book rooms.
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