Another Scary Government Program: the Government Gets to Seize Your Electronic Gear at the Border

07/02/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Here's the scenario: You're entering a country after a business trip (or a holiday) and while you're going through customs customs agents take your laptop. Or your digital camera. Or both.

For no particular reason other than you were randomly selected and because they can.

You get a receipt and a promise that you'll get your gear back eventually. It might take a few weeks or even months. What's the government doing with the info? Sorry -- that's none of your business. It looks like they're copying the data, though.

This is the stuff of the Cold War Soviet Union, right? Or maybe a third world dictatorship?

Try these United States. My colleague Alex Kingsbury has a great article up now focusing on this little-noticed but really quite scary program.

Read the whole thing through. It's apparently -- unbelievably -- legal. They get to rifle through your briefcase or backpack right? Apparently there's no legal difference between that and seizing your electronic data (though of course they don't make photocopies of the papers in your briefcase).