Now it’s come to light that any papers you have with you when you travel are fair game, and may be taken, read and even copied for any reason or no reason at all. “The Bush administration has overturned a 22-year-old policy and now allows customs agents to seize, read and copy documents from travelers at airports and borders without suspicion of wrongdoing, civil rights lawyers in San Francisco said Tuesday in releasing records obtained in a lawsuit. The records also indicate that the government gives customs agents unlimited authority to question travelers about their religious beliefs and political opinions, said lawyers from the Asian Law Caucus and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.” http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/23/BA9P133LEA.DTL&tsp=1
More from the EFF: “Recently obtained documents show that last year the Department of Homeland Security quietly reversed a two-decades-old policy that restricted customs agents from reading and copying the personal papers carried by travelers, including U.S. citizens. The documents were made public today by the Asian Law Caucus (ALC) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which sued the government under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain policies governing the searches and questioning of travelers at the nation’s borders.
The documents show that in 2007, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) loosened restrictions on the examination of travelers’ documents and papers that had existed since 1986. While CBP agents could previously read travelers’ documents only if they had “reasonable suspicion” that the documents would reveal violations of agency rules, in 2007 officers were given the power to “review and analyze” papers without any individualized suspicion. Furthermore, whereas CBP agents could previously copy materials only where they had “probable cause” to believe a law had been violated, in 2007 they were empowered to copy travelers’ papers without suspicion of wrongdoing and keep them for a “reasonable period of time” to conduct a border search.”