U.S. border agents may scrutinize the family pictures you have on your digital camera.
And they can check the audio files you have on your iPod.
And they can look up your Google keyword searches and any files on your laptop computer.
Welcome home to the land of the free!
Who are these people acting like the United States is a dictatorship with strict controls?
Customs and Border Protection, part of the Department of Homeland Security, asserts that it has constitutional authority to conduct routine searches at the border - without suspicion of wrongdoing - to prevent dangerous people and property from entering the country.
This authority, the government maintains, applies not only to suitcases and bags, but also to books, documents and other printed materials - as well as to electronic devices.
To what does this lead?
Take Tahir Anwar; a U.S. citizen from San Jose, California.
He has travelled abroad 12 times over the past 2 1/2 years and he has been detained returning to the U.S. every time.
Border agents have searched his laptop and once took away his cell phone for 15 minutes.
Tahir Anwar is an imam at a mosque…
But there is also Mohamed Shommo, an engineer for Cisco Systems Inc.
He travels overseas several times a year for work, so he is accustomed to opening his bags for border inspections upon returning to the U.S.
But in recent years, these inspections have gone much deeper than his luggage.
Border agents have scrutinized family pictures on Mr. Shommo's digital camera, examined Koranic verses and other audio files on his iPod and even looked up Google keyword searches he had typed into his company laptop.
"They literally searched everywhere and every device they could," said Mr. Shommo, who now minimizes what he takes on international trips and deletes pictures off his camera before returning to the U.S.
"I don't think anyone has a right to look at my private belongings without my permission. You never know how they will interpret what they find."
Mohammed Shommo is a native of Sudan who has been in the U.S. for more than a decade and plans to apply for citizenship next year.
But Amy Kudwa, a spokeswoman for the department of Homeland Security, stressed that they do not profile based on religion, race, ethnicity or any other criteria in conducting such searches.
Any American could be searched.
That policy makes many Americans afraid.
Susan Gurley, executive director of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, noted that border searches pose a particular concern for international business travellers. That's because they often carry sensitive corporate information on their laptops and don't have the option of leaving their computers at home.
And for many travellers, the concerns go beyond their own privacy or the privacy of their employers.
Lawyers may have documents subject to attorney-client privilege.
Doctors may be carrying patient records.
In some cases, travellers who were suspected saw border agents copying their files after taking their laptops and cell phones away for anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks or longer.
The situation is so serious that the Congress is getting involved now.
A handful of bills have been introduced that could pass next year.
One measure, sponsored by Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., chairman of the Constitution subcommittee, would require reasonable suspicion of illegal activity to search the contents of electronic devices carried by U.S. citizens and legal residents.
It would also require probable cause and a warrant or court order to detain a device for more than 24 hours.
"It's outrageous that on a whim, a border agent can just ask you for your laptop," Representative Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. said.
"We can't just throw our constitutional rights out the window."
The fact is though that this police state policy of the Homeland Security predates the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers.
It has been going on for over 7 years.
Congress is rather slow to act…
Fortunately for the U.S. citizens, as part of the renaissance the United States might experience under the leadership of Barack Obama next year, laws will start limiting the Homeland Security in performing their excessive interferences in the private lives of the U.S. citizens.
Check the full story about how Homeland Security will be restricted by new laws by clicking on: