“When Buffalo, New York couple Akram Shibly and Kelly McCormick returned to the U.S. from a trip to Toronto on Jan. 1, 2017, U.S. Customs & Border Protection officers held them for two hours, took their cellphones and demanded their passwords,” Cynthia Mcfadden, E.D. Cauchi, William M. Arkin and Kevin Monahan report for NBC News. “‘It just felt like a gross violation of our rights,’ said Shibly, a 23-year-old filmmaker born and raised in New York. But he and McCormick complied, and their phones were searched.”

“Three days later, they returned from another trip to Canada and were stopped again by CBP. ‘One of the officers calls out to me and says, ‘Hey, give me your phone,” recalled Shibly. ‘And I said, ‘No, because I already went through this.” The officer asked a second time,” Mcfadden, Cauchi, Arkin and Monahan report. “Within seconds, he was surrounded: one man held his legs, another squeezed his throat from behind. A third reached into his pocket, pulling out his phone. McCormick watched her boyfriend’s face turn red as the officer’s chokehold tightened. Then they asked McCormick for her phone. ‘I was not about to get tackled,’ she said. She handed it over.”

“Shibly and McCormick’s experience is not unique. In 25 cases examined by NBC News, American citizens said that CBP officers at airports and border crossings demanded that they hand over their phones and their passwords, or unlock them,” Mcfadden, Cauchi, Arkin and Monahan report. “Some were asked about their religion and their ethnic origins, and had the validity of their U.S. citizenship questioned.”

“What CBP agents call “detaining” cellphones didn’t start after Donald Trump’s election. The practice began a decade ago,” Mcfadden, Cauchi, Arkin and Monahan report. “The more aggressive tactics of the past two years, two senior intelligence officials told NBC News, were sparked by a string of domestic incidents in 2015 and 2016 in which the watch list system and the FBI failed to stop American citizens from conducting attacks… Under the Fourth Amendment, law enforcement needs at least reasonable suspicion if they want to search people or their possessions within the United States. But not at border crossings, and not at airport terminals. ‘The Fourth Amendment, even for U.S. citizens, doesn’t apply at the border,’ said [Mary Ellen Callahan, former chief privacy officer at the Department of Homeland Security]. ‘That’s under case law that goes back 150 years.'”

“Now [U.S. Senator Ron Wyden] says that as early as next week he plans to propose a bill that would require CBP to at least obtain a warrant to search electronics of U.S. citizens, and explicitly prevent officers from demanding passwords,” Mcfadden, Cauchi, Arkin and Monahan report. “‘The old rules … seem to be on the way to being tossed in the garbage can,’ said Senator Wyden. ‘I think it is time to update the law.'”

Much more in the full article here.

“According to federal statutes, regulations and court decisions, CBP officers have the authority to inspect, without a warrant, any person trying to gain entry into the country and their belongings,” Patrick G. Lee reports for ProPublica. “CBP can also question individuals about their citizenship or immigration status and ask for documents that prove admissibility into the country.”

“Does CBP’s search authority cover electronic devices like smartphones and laptops?” Patrick G. Lee reports for ProPublica. “Yes. CBP refers to several statutes and regulations in justifying its authority to examine ‘computers, disks, drives, tapes, mobile phones and other communication devices, cameras, music and other media players, and any other electronic or digital devices.’ According to current CBP policy, officials should search electronic devices with a supervisor in the room, when feasible, and also in front of the person being questioned ‘unless there are national security, law enforcement, or other operational considerations’ that take priority.”

“With a supervisor’s sign-off, CBP officers can also seize an electronic device — or a copy of the information on the device — ‘for a brief, reasonable period of time to perform a thorough border search.’ Such seizures typically shouldn’t exceed five days, although officers can apply for extensions in up to one-week increments, according to CBP policy,” Lee reports. “During the 2016 fiscal year, CBP officials conducted 23,877 electronic media searches, a five-fold increase from the previous year.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Until/unless some legal clarification(s)/protection(s) arise, travelers concerned about their privacy could extend their Fourth Amendment rights around the world by using a “traveler phone” that only contains what you want it to contain. “Sure, ossifer, here’s my iPhone and Passcode. Have at it!”

Barring that tactic, look to the cloud:

“Since at least the Snowden disclosures, conventional wisdom has been that your data is safest in your immediate physical possession, rather than the cloud, because while general warrants can (apparently) be issued against cloud data, media in one’s possession is immune to anything but an old fashioned physical search,” Ken Kinder writes for Hacker Noon. “But in the case of a border crossing, the cloud actually becomes a safer place, provided your laptop or cell phone doesn’t have access to it. As long as there’s no nexus between your device and the cloud, you aren’t crossing the border with that cloud data, so it’s not subject to search (bold emphasis added- MDN Ed.).”

“Since cloud data is immune from a border search, you can encrypt your data, store it in the cloud, wipe your devices prior to crossing, then restore your data after crossing in relative safety,” Kinder writes. “This is, obviously, an arduous process… Even worse, traveling is when we use our devices most. We entertain ourselves on planes, find amenities at airports, and even change itineraries during travel using those devices. To ameliorate some of the pain, I am creating special ‘travel-only’ Google accounts and user profiles on my devices, which will remain active while I travel.”

Much more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz,” “TxUser,” and “Sparkles” for the heads up.]