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Attention All Journalists: US Border Patrol Agents Can Search Your Phones


Attention All Journalists: US Border Patrol Agents Can Search Your Phones

Trevor Timm

Award-winning photojournalist and filmmaker Ed Ou, who has covered the Middle East for over a decade, has worked under threat as a journalist in almost too many countries to count. Authorities in Turkey, Egypt, Somalia, Djibouti, and Bahrain have arrested or detained him at some point in his career. But he always assumed working in the United States would be safe—until last month.


Having worked in several towns along the US/Canadian Border during the past quarter century I noticed new, much larger Border Patrol Stations being built in many small border towns and found out that US Border Patrol staff at many of these locations has increased twentyfold in the 21st century.

With little visible threat on the border, I figured that border security was being bolstered to keep single payer medical insurance from invading the US from Canada, so its no surprise that censorship is now a big part of their mission.


It's a stark reminder that there are plenty of zombie-sycophants perfectly willing to harass, intimidate, violate, and abuse their fellow citizens, because they earn a salary doing so. Just give them a buck that they can spend on some big ticket item: they're your drooling slave forever.


It's more than the money. It's power.


The Snowden case was revealing not only in what it made public about the NSA and its outsourced minions, but also with respect to the naivete about digital manipulations among generally superb journalists. Prominently, it was remarkable and ironic that a journalist so sophisticated about First and Fourth Amendment issues as Glenn Greenwald, with his extensive and admirably integrated background in law, should be so naive about the immediate mechanics of digital surveillance.

One of the major things that journalists and people in general appear to misunderstand or forget is that traces of one's activities remain long after one has created them, including when these are created inadvertently. Actions that may be safe when they are made may become unsafe at any point that the journalist may remain alive. To get a feel for what this means, consider how many ways the political climate has changed since Seymour Hersch's coverage of My Lai Massacre, the release of the Pentagon Papers, or Woodward and Bernstein's work with respect to Watergate. Consider also the increasing prevalence of extremely oppressive acts against journalists:

1) The de facto imprisonment and very probable murder of Julian Assange
2) The torture of Chelsea Manning
3) The prevalence of Muslim clergy in Obama's murder lists
4) The rocket-bombing of Al Jazeera's offices at the start of the invasion of Iraq
5) Obama's blatantly excessive abuse of the so-called Espionage Act
6) The statistically improbable circle of deaths around the publicity and legal defense of leaked information, particularly around the DNC and Clinton campaign
7) The illegal forcing down of a commercial airline flight believed to be transporting Edward Snowden
8) The abusive singling out of whistleblowers for egregious punishment
9) The extraordinary legal threats and bogus charges against journalists covering the Dakota Pipeline protests.
10) Calls by government-embedded one-time "news" media institutions like the NYT and WaPo to maintain commercial hegemony by government prosecution of alternate information sources, ranging from the NYT's bizarre calls to prosecute its own sources to the current polemic gambit of action against so-called "false" news.
11) Extraordinary collusion of media with government or special interests within government, particularly the recent DNC-media collusions involving altered polls and primaries and deliberately fraudulent reporting designed to exclude Sanders from the Democratic nomination.

We have clearly entered an environment with neither the spirit nor the letter of First Amendment protections as these were understood after the fall of Joe McCarthy. The political climate of the US in particular has become extraordinarily volatile. Journalists ought to look to protecting their work not only when may be controversial, but when it is not. This may be less a matter of protecting themselves in the event of a notable piece or scoop that would generate controversy, but a matter of mutual protection of other journalists working with little fame: only by having a large mass of thoroughly encrypted writing can any place for controversial journalists be created.


Well, next time I go up visiting my radical anarchist brother and his partner in Toronto - on the way back home, I'll just tell the fucking USAn border-thug that he can take his fucking rude questions about me - a lifetime US citizen - and shove then up his fucking ass. What the fuck is this ICE thug going to do? Banish me the fuck back across the Niagara to Canada forever? Good God! I only wish they would do this! Would this mean the Canadians would have to give give me immigrant status and eventual citizenship if they did this? Would I become a "man without a country" - forever banished riding on a ship on the high seas (and maybe the St. Lawrence/Great Lakes Seaway) forever? That would not be so bad either...