In one of those odd linguistic moments for which intelligence agencies are famous, the US Department of Homeland Security has confirmed today that laptops entering the country can be "detained" just like people can. Unlike people however, laptops (and any other device containing data) can be detained for any reason at all, for any length of time. Plus, DHS can share laptop data with government and private entities if they wish. Officials speaking to the Washington Post said this new policy was crucial in preventing terrorism.
According to the Post: Customs Deputy Commissioner Jayson P. Ahern said the efforts "do not infringe on Americans' privacy." In a statement submitted to [Senator Russell] Feingold for a June hearing on the issue, he noted that the executive branch has long had "plenary authority to conduct routine searches and seizures at the border without probable cause or a warrant" to prevent drugs and other contraband from entering the country.
What I find bizarre about this whole thing, aside from the idea that anybody's computer can be commandeered at the border, is the idea that these laptops are being "detained," as if they were sentient entities who were being interrogated. Pretty soon, robots are going to be detained too, and that may be the issue that gives us robot civil rights 100 years from now. Laptops May Be Detained [MSNBC republishing Washington Post]