23 December 2011
As most of us know, security checks while traveling are not limited to airports. Those entering the U.S. at highway border crossings are subject to similar scrutiny ~ including the need to have upon your person a current passport, even if you are a U.S. citizen returning to this country. One aspect of security searches has always troubled me, because of the potential for physical damage to one's belongings. That is using Xrays or other radiation detection on cameras, computers, and other film or digital devices (not to mention the cumulative carcinogenic effect upon the human body). TSA is quick to assure us that the screening devices used are used at sufficiently small strengths as to be harmless. This is not true. Anecdotally, back in the days of film photography, I've had exposed film fogged so badly that the images were useless, which is why I started carrying my rolls of 35mm film in lead-lined containers, easily opened for visual inspection, but not to be sent through a scanner.
Times have changed, but the threat of damage and issues of privacy remain. Hence the timeliness of an online guide called Defending Privacy at the U.S. Border: A Guide for Travelers Carrying Digital Devices. You can navigate through the document by using the scroll bar at the right, or by using the arrows at the bottom. It is a thorough and informative read, especially for those who may not be well-informed about (a) their rights, and (b) technical issues associated with our computers, cameras, and mobile phones. Table of contents headers include ~
~ Why can my devices be searched at the border?
~ How the government searches devices at the border
~ Deciding how to protect your data (the bulk of the document)
~ Interacting with border agents
Travel safely, travel wisely, and travel well-informed. By the way, did you know that if you live within 100 miles of any land or coastal section of the U.S. border, your rights under the U.S. Constitution might be summarily suspended in the name of national security? Further, did you know that 2 out of 3 Americans (197.4 million people) live within that 100-mile strip? Click on the map above for a better view.
Speaking of border security, it's useful to remind ourselves how we became Fortress U.S.A. in the first place. Gone are the days when your verbal assurance of American citizenship was sufficient at the Canada border, or a simple visa was adequate at the Mexico border. Here is a lively, provocative video entitled "9/11~ A Conspiracy Theory", complete with transcript. It is worth reminding ourselves repeatedly that the events surrounding that tragic day are shrouded in secrecy and double-dealing at the highest levels of our government, and that the resulting war in Iraq was justified by layers of lies, half-lies, and damned lies, spreading fear of non-existent weapons of mass destruction and terrorist cells, when the true driving force was assuring the flow of oil from that country. Terrorism undeniably exists ~ but we ourselves, by our words and deeds, are too often the cause of its being directed at us.