More US customs officers searching travelers’….

More US customs officers searching travelers’….

Updated: 7 days ago

A new report from watchdog observed that the Customs and border protection officers of the United States have started searching more often for the electronic devices from the travelers and do not always follow the correct protocol.

Photo Credit: Denis Poroy/AP

The report, published on the last Monday found that over 29,000 devices had been searched at a port of entry in the 2017 budget year, which is an increase from 18,400 in the previous year. In fact, only 1% of all the travelers (coming from all the routes) actually had passed by using a port of entry. At the same time, only 397 million travelers passed through a port of entry in 2017 compared to 390 million travelers in 2016 (less than 1% of the all travelers, according to the official notes of the Customs and border protection, United States).

Under the current law, the officers are permitted to examine the devices belonging to the travelers referred for secondary inspections. At the time of the primary inspection, examination of the passports and other necessary travel documents are carried out. In case there is a requirement for a secondary inspection, officers can for devices such as computers, thumb drives and phones to decide admissibility in the country as well as, to recognize potential violations of the law.

As an instance, officers discovered videos and images of terrorist materials in March 2018. In another search, violent and graphic images, which include child pornography, were also located. According to the report, neither of the two cases the individual was allowed admission to the United States. However, the Office of the Inspector General of the Homeland Security discovered that several searches were not correctly documented and data were not secured in the right manner. A number of the searched devices were not conducted offline, which is a direct procedure violation stating clearly that officers may carry out the search of any physical device, but is not permitted to look what is present on the cloud network of the traveler. Homeland Security is the department responsible to oversee the borders of the nation.

Furthermore, in some cases, officers may also carry out an “advanced” search under a pilot program, where a specifically trained officer is allowed to download information. However, the system was not properly maintained as the software licensing was not timely renewed and much information copied to different thumb drives was not deleted at all when it really should have been. The watchdog has given the recommendation of better search documentation, renewing equipment, better disabling of data connections prior to searches and immediately deleting of up-to-date data from different thumb drives as well as developing an evaluation system to assess whether the pilot program is functioning properly.

The Officials of the Customs and Border Protection of the United States stated that they are in agreement with all the recommendations and also have already undertaken necessary steps to address them, which include making sure that the device is kept in the aircraft mode when the officers are conducting searches. They are in the process of developing an assessment method.