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Detained By CBP and They needed all my Passwords !! @ Miami

Detained By CBP and They needed all my Passwords !! @ Miami

Old Dec 28, 13, 7:34 am
  #1  
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Detained By CBP and They needed all my Passwords !! @ Miami

So.... I am new to Flyertalk but here is what happened to me last night.
On Dec. 24, 2013, my wife thought we are going From Detroit (Home) to Miami to Celebrate Christmas, our anniversary and her birthday. We arrive to Miami after an hour delay in Detroit and I told her to run to the other gate cause we are going to The Bahamas !!! So was so excited !
We stayed at the Sandals - Emerald Bay and had a wonderful romantic relaxing 3 nights there.
On the way back to Miami, yesterday, we arrived at 6 pm and I planned to stay a night in Miami to visit Joe's Stone Crab restaurant.

As I left the airplane, I noticed that CBP officers were following me. I asked my wife, and she said that I am just so paranoid !
They as we entered the lines for the passport control (mind you, I am a US citizen), 3 CBP agents approach us and asked us not to wait in line, but to follow them !!!
The first thing they asked us for is we have phones and computers with us.
We said yes, they then said that they need to take them and put them in a safe !!!! I said, why is that? they answered: " We need to put them in a secured place while we talk to you". We then handed them our phones, iPad and the laptop. To my surprise, they then asked us for all our passwords for the devices.. ! That's when I said " Why the hell do you need my passwords". There answer was" The supervisor wants to ensure they are turned off before placing them in the safe"... The only thing that went thru my mind is that they want to make copies of all the data (just like their partners in crime, the NSA) without any legal grounds or court orders !

Then they took us to a holding room where I was surprised to see more than 30 people waiting in there with young children.
We waited for about an hour and then 2 CBP officers asked us to follow them to a room where they searched our bags and belongings and made us count the amount of cash we carried.

Then we went back to the waiting room where we sat for another hour.
After that, the same agents came and said we need to take you to 2 separate interview rooms. My poor wife, she was really worried.
We entered these small cubical rooms with mirrors all over (like the ones you see on TV).

The agent, politely said " The more cooperative you are, the nicer I will be".
He went on by asking were I was born, am I muslim (because my name is Ahmad), what was I doing in The Bahamas, and what I did for a living.

Then he said, we are done and we went back to the waiting room. It felt like I was the only guy that spoke english in the room. Everybody else including the officers were speaking spanish.

5 hours went by already and I started loosing my cool. I asked for the supervisor and expressed my concerns on why am I going thru this. The answer that I received is that " We are going our job and you can write your congressman if you would like but till then, you have to wait here".

Its almost midnight and we are still sitting on the chair in the holding room. My wife is getting really hungry and my mom (back in Detroit) is probably panicking as hell cause we didn't call her to tell her that we arrived safely !

Then the officers came over with our laptop, iPad and 2 phones and said, you are all set to go !
I said again: " What was this all about ?" " Am I in trouble of some sort ? "
There was answer was vague again and said we do this to people all the time.

I noticed that they have mistakenly left the bluetooth on on all the devices (We never turn the bluetook on)...that was an indication that they were messing around with our phones and computer.

We left miami airport after midnight, to find out that the off-site rental car company closed at 12. Did I mention that it was raining like crazy !

We ended up calling a cab, waiting under the rain with 2 luggages and being so exhausted !

I am almost over it now and had a good night sleep.
Has anyone experienced anything like that ? Is it legal for the agents to detain law-abiding citizens for more than 6 hours, copy their data and then let them go without explaining the reasons ?

Happy New Year everyone !

-Ahmad
ahhodro2001 is offline  
Old Dec 28, 13, 8:03 am
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Apparently at boarder crossings, they can 'demand' passwords. Next time, wipe data on all devices and store sensitive info encrypted in the cloud.

Edit: they will likely confiscate items and delay or deny your travel outside of the US if you do not provide passwords.

Last edited by spyvsspy; Dec 29, 13 at 6:17 am Reason: update
spyvsspy is offline  
Old Dec 28, 13, 8:13 am
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Doesn't the NSA already have your passwords? (Only being 1/2 sarcastic)
petaluma1 is offline  
Old Dec 28, 13, 8:41 am
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Originally Posted by spyvsspy View Post
Apparently at boarder crossings, they can demand passwords. Next time, wipe data on all devices and store sensitive info encrypted in the cloud.
The funny thing is that I asked them: " Are you going to go thru my private data without a subpoena ?
The CBP Officers looked at each other and answered sarcastically; No, No , No !
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Old Dec 28, 13, 9:03 am
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Originally Posted by ahhodro2001 View Post
The funny thing is that I asked them: " Are you going to go thru my private data without a subpoena ?
The CBP Officers looked at each other and answered sarcastically; No, No , No !
They do not need a subpoena sadly.You can contact your congressman and his staff will most likely get a canned response from CBP.

Is this the first time you have gone outside of the US in some time?
YOur name could match or be similar to one on a watch list.
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Old Dec 28, 13, 10:04 am
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He went on by asking were I was born, am I muslim (because my name is Ahmad)
Just a shot in dark......
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Old Dec 28, 13, 10:13 am
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Unfortunately, legal. Something you did/something about you certainly tripped their radar.
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Old Dec 28, 13, 10:16 am
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Originally Posted by Loren Pechtel View Post
Unfortunately, legal.
Until someone in power grows a pair and shows that it's all "emperor's new clothes"
Originally Posted by Loren Pechtel View Post
Something you did/something about you certainly tripped their radar.
Being Brown
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Old Dec 28, 13, 10:21 am
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Sounds like you got pegged at the border. In which case the CBP can pretty much do what ever they want (i.e. the 4th amendment does not apply) except as a citizen they can not deny you entry into the USA.

However, while the CBP can ask you for computer passwords you do not have to comply - that is true for any questions the CBP may ask you (i.e. the 5th amendment does apply). Not complying can lead to your computers and other electronics being temporally being confiscated - i.e. the disks copied for further analysis.

Here is a good primmer from the EFF:

https://www.eff.org/wp/defending-pri...igital-devices
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Old Dec 28, 13, 10:37 am
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OP was not required to provide passwords or answer any questions. As a USN, he can't be denied entry to the US.

That said, CBP can certainly retain the electronics and eventually break the passwords. During that time which could be weeks, OP would not have the devices. Same thing with refusal to answer questions. Eventually OP would be through, but it would just take longer and, in this case, might be days.

I wouldn't jump to conclusions here given that not one person on FT has any insight into the "why". OP is certainly free to write his Congressman and to complain to the DHS Inspector General. But, neither will likely yield anything worth the postage stamps.
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Old Dec 28, 13, 5:06 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
That said, CBP can certainly retain the electronics and eventually break the passwords.
Maybe, depending on strength. Good luck breaking it on my computer.
FredAnderssen is offline  
Old Dec 28, 13, 7:26 pm
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Originally Posted by alanR View Post
Until someone in power grows a pair and shows that it's all "emperor's new clothes"
Being Brown
It's more than that, most brown people don't get that treatment.
Loren Pechtel is offline  
Old Dec 28, 13, 9:16 pm
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Originally Posted by Loren Pechtel View Post
Unfortunately, legal. Something you did/something about you certainly tripped their radar.
Actually, when I was there, A dad was very angry cause they kept flagging his 13 year daughter for secondary searches. The supervisor told him Quote: " In here, common sense doesn't exist! We see 13 years old and year all day long and we have to search them. As long as they are between the ages of 3 and 99, they are considered suspects !!! "

I think their radar needs maintenance cause it trips on its own !

And being a brown dude doesn't help at all !
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Old Dec 28, 13, 10:16 pm
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Originally Posted by FredAnderssen View Post
Maybe, depending on strength. Good luck breaking it on my computer.
CBP will not bother - give them enough and they will just present their suspicions to a judge and have the court order you to turn it over.
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Old Dec 28, 13, 11:56 pm
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I don't believe that CBP demands passwords and searches the computers of everyone named Ahmad or everyone with dark skin. The OP and his wife are on CBP's radar for some reason, and the OP would know that reason better than anyone. If the OP was born in a middle eastern country and has unwittingly had contacts with people who the US government has tagged as potential terrorists, that certainly might explain this.

It's incorrect to say the 4th Amendment doesn't apply at the border (even though most CBP officers would probably claim this). The 4th Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, but courts have simply determined that it's reasonable for CBP to search your luggage without a warrant when you cross the border, just like cops can search your car without a warrant if they have probable cause. It doesn't mean the 4th Amendment doesn't apply at the border, you have other 4th Amendment protections at the border - right to be free from excessive use of force, right to be free from a cavity search or monitored bowel movement without a court order, etc.

The US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has ruled that the Fourth Amendment also protects you from having your electronic devices seized and forensically searched at the border unless the CBP officers have "reasonable suspicion." But they can turn on your devices and look through them on the spot and ask for your passwords, and if you voluntarily give them the passwords they can use them to search your devices right then and there.

As a general rule, if someone says "I need your password to make sure your device is off," they are probably lying. Also, giving law enforcement officers your passwords will rarely speed up your interaction with them. So I wouldn't have given them the passwords.
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