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Border agents detained a U.S.-born NASA scientist until he unlocked his phone. Know your rights.

Posted by on Feb. 15, 2017 at 1:55 AM
  • 9 Replies

MIAMI, FL - MARCH 04:  A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer's patch is seen as they unveil a new mobile app for international travelers arriving at Miami International Airport on March 4, 2015 in Miami, Florida. Miami-Dade Aviation Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) unveiled a new mobile app for expedited passport and customs screening. The app for iOS and Android devices allows U.S. citizens and some Canadian citizens to enter and submit their passport and customs declaration information using their smartphone or tablet and to help avoid the long waits in the exit lanes.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

1) Bikkannavar is a natural-born U.S. citizen 2) who has had a background check through the Global Entry program and 3) hasn’t visited any of the countries targeted by Donald Trump’s Muslim ban. So there was no obvious reason, beyond his suspiciously foreign name (it’s Indian), for CBP to look twice at him. (And that’s no reason, to be clear.) 

Oh, and 4) Bikkannavar is a NASA scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and 5) he told CBP that the phone they wanted to search was NASA property containing sensitive information that shouldn’t be shared. But they insisted, telling him that they had the authority to search it. Which brings us to another messed up thing here:

Courts have upheld customs agents' power to manually search devices at the border, but any searches made solely on the basis of race or national origin are still illegal. More importantly, travelers are not legally required to unlock their devices, although agents can detain them for significant periods of time if they do not. “In each incident that I’ve seen, the subjects have been shown a Blue Paper that says CBP has legal authority to search phones at the border, which gives them the impression that they’re obligated to unlock the phone, which isn’t true,” Hassan Shibly, chief executive director of CAIR Florida, told The Verge. “They’re not obligated to unlock the phone.”

Nevertheless, Bikkannavar was not allowed to leave until he gave CBP his PIN. The officer insisted that CBP had the authority to search the phone. The document given to Bikkannavar listed a series of consequences for failure to offer information that would allow CBP to copy the contents of the device. “I didn’t really want to explore all those consequences,” he says. “It mentioned detention and seizure.” Ultimately, he agreed to hand over the phone and PIN. The officer left with the device and didn’t return for another 30 minutes.

CBP can tell you they have the authority to search your phone all they want, but they cannot actually force you to unlock it for them. If you are detained and CBP demands that you unlock your phone and tells you that they have the authority to search it, remember that. They certainly can make your life unpleasant, but—for now, anyway, even in Trump’s America—you have the right to refuse to unlock your phone. If it is passcode-protected. They can force you to use your fingerprint to unlock your phone. So set up a passcode on your phone and know your rights if CBP tells you they have the authority to search your device.

And the second CBP accepts your legal refusal to sign away your rights and lets you out of detention, use your phone to light up social media about their abuse of power. Unless, like Sidd Bikkannavar, you have to bring your phone to NASA to be inspected to see if Customs and Border Protection messed with the sensitive government information on it.


TRUMPS POLICIES IN ACTION FOR ALL HIS DUMB ASS SUPPORTERS OUT THERE

by on Feb. 15, 2017 at 1:55 AM
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Replies (1-9):
SuG4
by brown sugar on Feb. 15, 2017 at 2:29 AM
Why is he traveling with that phone, if it has sensitive info on it..... unless he used it for word, outside of the country! I don't think phones are that safe, anyway.

This is the first thing I thought of. Sorry.
bluefirewolf
by Gold Member on Feb. 15, 2017 at 3:13 AM
1 mom liked this

good question, and I don't know..

Quoting SuG4: Why is he traveling with that phone, if it has sensitive info on it..... unless he used it for word, outside of the country! I don't think phones are that safe, anyway. This is the first thing I thought of. Sorry.


GloriousChaos
by Silver Member on Feb. 15, 2017 at 8:49 AM
1 mom liked this
Or unless he is supposed to,

I keep a work phone with me when I travel. It's for business but no way in hell would I risk being fired by exposing my employer's business to a border agent without a warrant

Quoting SuG4: Why is he traveling with that phone, if it has sensitive info on it..... unless he used it for word, outside of the country! I don't think phones are that safe, anyway.

This is the first thing I thought of. Sorry.
VooDooB
by The Corrupter on Feb. 15, 2017 at 8:53 AM
1 mom liked this

CNN reported it was because his name matches a person of interest in a law enforcement database.

anxiousschk
by anxiouss on Feb. 15, 2017 at 9:56 AM

My husband travels with his work phone at all times.  If we went out of the country now, it would have to be a conversation before we left.  

It's very easy to say what we'd do -- but I think that the pressure applied at that moment, and the fear -- it's something else altogether.  He'd be worried about us, fearful for what would be happening to us, because it's not like I trust border agents.  We'd be worried about connecting flights, the kids, etc.  Sure, going into it now -- we'd be prepared and have the number of legal counsel with his job on my speed dial.  But then?  Yeah.  I can easily see how the guy was intimidated.  

Quoting GloriousChaos: Or unless he is supposed to, I keep a work phone with me when I travel. It's for business but no way in hell would I risk being fired by exposing my employer's business to a border agent without a warrant
Quoting SuG4: Why is he traveling with that phone, if it has sensitive info on it..... unless he used it for word, outside of the country! I don't think phones are that safe, anyway. This is the first thing I thought of. Sorry.


UnoDuoTres
by Gold Member on Feb. 15, 2017 at 10:02 AM

Just where were they proposing to deport a US citizen to?

GloriousChaos
by Silver Member on Feb. 15, 2017 at 11:39 AM
I would have legal on speed dial as well. Because that isn't my decision (to unlock the phone). It is my employer's

Quoting anxiousschk:

My husband travels with his work phone at all times.  If we went out of the country now, it would have to be a conversation before we left.  

It's very easy to say what we'd do -- but I think that the pressure applied at that moment, and the fear -- it's something else altogether.  He'd be worried about us, fearful for what would be happening to us, because it's not like I trust border agents.  We'd be worried about connecting flights, the kids, etc.  Sure, going into it now -- we'd be prepared and have the number of legal counsel with his job on my speed dial.  But then?  Yeah.  I can easily see how the guy was intimidated.  

Quoting GloriousChaos: Or unless he is supposed to,

I keep a work phone with me when I travel. It's for business but no way in hell would I risk being fired by exposing my employer's business to a border agent without a warrant

Quoting SuG4: Why is he traveling with that phone, if it has sensitive info on it..... unless he used it for word, outside of the country! I don't think phones are that safe, anyway.

This is the first thing I thought of. Sorry.

anxiousschk
by anxiouss on Feb. 15, 2017 at 11:50 AM

Also,  "Know your rights"  is a very easy phrase to put out there -- but when threatened with a variety of things, it can be very, very hard to put into practice.  


numbr1wmn
by Ruby Member on Feb. 15, 2017 at 11:52 AM

What does this have to do with Trump?

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