Oct 06


German violonist Yuki Manuela Janke

German customs demand $1.5 million for confiscated Stradivarius violin (RT, Oct 5, 2012):

German customs have confiscated a Stradivarius violin worth $7.6m from a professional violinist claiming she may plan to sell it, the Japanese owner of the violin says. The musician must pay $1.5m customs duty if she wants it back.

Yuki Manuela Janke was returning home to Germany on September 28 after giving a performance in Tokyo, when customs officers confiscated the instrument at Frankfurt airport, according to the Nippon Music Foundation. The customs said it would hold the instrument until the import tax is paid.

The instrument known as ‘The Muntz’ violin is owned by the Japan-based Nippon Foundation and has been leased to Janke since 2007. It was seized even though the musician had documentation, including her loan contract with the foundation, proof of insurance on the instrument, the violin’s photograph, and papers proving that the instrument was legally imported to Japan, AFP reports. The 1741 violin is one of the last instruments made by Antonio Stradivari.

The foundation says there is no reason Janke has to pay the duty because it owns the violin and she is only leasing it.

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May 20

Australian customs officers have been given new powers to search incoming travellers’ laptops and mobile phones for pornography, a spokeswoman for the Australian sex industry says.

Fiona Patten, president of the Australian Sex Party, is demanding an inquiry into why a new question appears on Incoming Passenger Cards asking people if they are carrying “pornography”.

Patten said officials now had an unfettered right to examine travellers’ electronic devices, marking the beginning of a new era of official investigation into people’s private lives. She questioned whether it was appropriate to search people for legal R18+ and X18+ material.

“Is it fair that customs officers rummage through someone’s luggage and pull out a legal men’s magazine or a lesbian journal in front of their children or their mother-in-law?” she said. Continue reading »

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Aug 27

laptop-searches
An airport screener looks at a laptop computer. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol now has the ability to copy the contents of laptops from any travelers entering the United States. (AP)

The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday sued the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to uncover documents related to laptop searches at the border.

“The ACLU believes that suspicionless searches of laptops violate the First and Fourth Amendments,” the group wrote in the suit, filed in a New York District Court.

In July 2008, the Customs and Border Protection agency within DHS published formal guidelines for laptop border searches that gave CBP officials permission to search laptops and electronic devices at the border. Court cases on the topic have generally found that citizens should have diminished expectations of privacy when re-entering the country because the U.S. has a right to protect itself and control what crosses its borders.

Critics of the policy claim that laptop searches are an invasion of privacy – a personal computer holds a lot more information than a suitcase full of clothes or briefcase full of paperwork. What’s to stop CBP from copying the contents of your computer and keeping it on file indefinitely, they have argued

As a result, the ACLU wants to know exactly what types of data the government has collected. The organization first filed a Freedom of Information request in June 2009, but after some back and forth between the ACLU and DHS, the ACLU said that it had “exhausted the applicable administrative remedies” and that “DHS and its components have wrongfully withheld the requested records from the ACLU.”

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May 03

Now that US customs agents have unfettered access to laptops and other electronic devices at borders, a coalition of travel groups, civil liberties advocates and technologists is calling on Congress to rein in the Department of Homeland Security’s search and seizure practices. They’re also providing practical advice on how to prevent trade secrets and other sensitive data from being breached.

In a letter dated Thursday, the group, which includes the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union and the Business Travel Coalition, called on the House Committee on Homeland Security to ensure searches aren’t arbitrary or overly invasive. They also urged the passage of legislation outlawing abusive searches.

The letter comes 10 days after a US appeals court ruled Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have the right to rummage through electronic devices even if they have no reason to suspect the hardware holds illegal contents. Not only are they free to view the files during passage; they are also permitted to copy the entire contents of a device. There are no stated policies about what can and can’t be done with the data.

Over the past few months, several news reports have raised eyebrows after detailing border searches that involved electronic devices. The best known of them is this story from The Washington Post, which recounted the experiences of individuals who were forced to reveal data on cell phones and laptop devices when passing through US borders. One individual even reported some of the call history on her cell phone had been deleted.

“The Fourth Amendment protects us all against unreasonable government intrusions,” the letter, which was also signed by the Center for Democracy and Technology and security expert Bruce Schneier, states. “But this guarantee means nothing if CBP can arbitrarily search and seize our digital information at the border and indefinitely store and reuse it.”

Several of the groups are also providing advice to US-bound travelers carrying electronic devices. The Association of Corporate Travel Executives is encouraging members to remove photos, financial information and other personal data before leaving home. This is good advice even if you’re not traveling to the US. There is no reason to store five years worth of email on a portable machine.

In this posting, the EFF agrees that laptops, cell phones, digital cameras and other gizmos should be cleaned of any sensitive information. Then, after passing through customs, travelers can download the data they need, work on it, transmit it back and then digitally destroy the files before returning.

The post also urges the use of strong encryption to scramble sensitive data, although it warns this approach is by no means perfect. For one thing, CBP agents are free to deny entry to travelers who refuse to divulge their passwords. They may also be able to seize the laptop.

If it sounds like a lot of work, consider this: so far, the federal government has refused to reveal any information about border searches, including what it does with the electronic data it seizes. Under the circumstances, there’s no way of knowing what will happen to, say, source code or company memos that may get confiscated. Or the email sent to your lawyer.

By Dan Goodin in San Francisco
Published Thursday 1st May 2008 21:11 GMT

Source: The Register

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Apr 10

There are many police and law enforcement officials who are concerned with the growing trend of using military-trained mercenaries to train and work with local police officers in the United States, but there are many who believe the events of September 11, 2001 dictate the need for a new paradigm.

For example, Kentucky’s Lexington Police Department contracted Blackwater Security International to provide what’s described as homeland security training. Meanwhile that city’s Mayor Jim Newberry and its chief of police Anthony Beatty refused free training provided by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement federal program that prepares police officers to enforce immigration and border security as part of their duties.

Lexington is on the nation’s list of so-called Sanctuary Cities in which police officers are prohibited from working with ICE or Border Patrol agents in the United States. Critics are angry over the use of local tax dollars to hire Blackwater personnel to train the police.

But Lexington isn’t the only city using hired guns to help local police officers. In New Orleans, heavily armed operatives from the Blackwater private security firm, infamous for their work in Iraq, are openly patrolling the streets of that beleaguered city.

Some of the mercenaries were reportedly “deputized” by the Louisiana governor and were issued gold Louisiana State law enforcement badges to wear on their chests and Blackwater photo identification cards to be worn on their arms.

While they are working in Louisiana, Blackwater officials say they are on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and have been given the authority to use lethal force if necessary. Some of the mercenaries assigned to patrol the streets of New Orleans recently returned from Iraq, where they provided personal security details for the former head of the US occupation, L. Paul Bremer, and the former US ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte. Continue reading »

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