US journalist describes being interrogated by US Customs at airport

Originally published at:




The full story is here:


I don’t feel so weird about deleting all my texts and emails these days.


He was told that he had to comply with a thorough search of his phone and laptop or he wouldn’t be allowed to enter the US.

I was under the impression that a US citizen cannot be denied readmission to the country.


Same here. Whenever I cross the U.S. border I backup and do a wipe of sensitive data on my devices (texts, e-mails, contacts, browser history, etc.) and then restore once I’m past. Pain in the arse, but better than wasting time like this. Might just be easier to travel with burners.

Correct. They were lying to him about that. They were also lying to him about not being able to have a lawyer present for questioning. They will lie to you, and if you don’t know your rights they’ll just brush it off as a permitted ruse.


Were you under the impression that a Gestapo officer can be punished for ignoring the law? If they gun you down for trying to seize the authority off their hip, will they have to fill out a form in duplicate or triplicate?


This one of my big eyerolls about BYOD policies. Oh look all your corporate and trade secrets are now open to the government. Where if you have a company device you can honestly I don’t own that and please talk to the company lawyer first. Also a sensible company that does frequent international things is going to issue clean hardware specifically for the trip so if they search it there should be nothing there.


I know for sure that some international law firms have very strict protocols about these things to protect attorney-client privilege. That’s what got me thinking about travelling with my own burners. This situation isn’t going to get better, and if Il Douche gets elected in 2020 it’s going to get much worse.


Also a sensible company that does frequent international things is going to issue clean hardware specifically for the trip so if they search it there should be nothing there.

This is 100% correct. We require our staff to go pick up loaner laptops for travel. They’re freshly rebuilt when they pick them up, and we wipe them when they get back. That way there’s nothing that can be found on them of a sensitive nature (assuming the person didn’t download stuff to the laptop while they were overseas).

Phones are a different story, though. No one has set up a loaner pool for burner phones, though, but it’s an interesting thought. I might have to put it to someone and see if it gets any traction given the overbearing border searches currently happening (at least until such time as someone realizes the Constitution applies to every inch of American soil, even those gosh darn airports).


From the article:

So I decided to take another tack: I told the officers I had nothing to hide, but I felt I had a professional obligation to call an attorney for further advice. Pomeroy said I could not because I wasn’t under arrest; I just wasn’t allowed to enter the United States.

American border controls are a civil rights grey area, which means that, yes, it is an effective police state. Understanding what few rights you have in those situations can (at least at present) make a difference. That’s why if they search my wallet they’ll find an ACLU membership card.


They won’t care. They did the same thing to a US-born scientist coming back to the US who works for NASA JPL and had a NASA-issued device. It’s literally a US government employee with US-government hardware, but they still demanded to search it.


Oh I am not saying they can’t search it. Just the traveler is not allowed to grant access only their legal department as it is not their property it is the employers property. You would probably still be detained though. Just hand them the info for contacting the company legal department. Let the lawyers fight it out.


This is an abuse of power. No one should have to tolerate this least of all a journalist. This is administration is criminal.


Stories like this make me want to leave the country and never return.


Yeah, you and everyone else here.

Thats kinda the point.

I want this entire agency wiped from the government. This is a disgrace of justice and freedom, and I would never consent to this.

It will only keep getting worse unless you get angry, stay angry, vote angry about it, and make your anger known.

This man should sue.

Edit- amazed at all the trump trolls in the comments at The Intercept on that one article.

The world seems to be full of people who absolutely think we have no rights as Citizens. I am glad I will be dead someday just so I don’t have to suffer through this so called “freedom” joke everyone believes in the US anymore. Living through this daily farce is a cycle of endless frothing rage and abject despair


Just a technical question - so you go through with phone that hasn’t been setup yet (as in it’s in the welcome screen) or do you set it up with the default apps?

1 Like

I would like to know what happens when you get the secondary interrogation, and they discover you have wiped devices. Oh great, now I’m on a list.

Not quite so far at this point. Right now I just clear out the stuff I don’t want them having easy access to (e-mail, browser history and cache, contacts, SMS, newsreader, calendar, map data, photos, remote access credentials – I don’t do FB or Twitter) and log out of everything. My passwords all reside in a password manager that’s also cloud-based. I also pull the SD card where most of my documents and data reside. There are other twists that I’m not going to discuss here.

It’s not perfect, but since my risk of my being pulled over for secondary screening is currently very low I can live with their looking through what’s left. I do think that will change for me and everyone else in the future, especially if Dolt-45 wins in 2020. At that point I might just switch to doing a full backup image, encrypting it, and putting it in cloud storage, and flashing a stock factory image before I cross into the U.S., then reversing the process once I’m in. To be honest, it would probably be the better course now from the point of view of convenience.


One reason I like Signal is you can set it to auto purge weekly.