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Human Rights

U.S. Citizens Now Being Forced to Provide Their Social Media Passwords Upon Return to U.S.

The practice is government-sanctioned Islamophobia.

Photo Credit: infinity21 / Shutterstock

The word for it, in case you were searching, is “despicable.”

“Un-American” would also work.

But you might save time by just labeling it: Trump.

When Buffalo, New York couple Akram Shibly and Kelly McCormick returned to the U.S. from a trip to Toronto on Jan. 1, 2017, U.S. Customs & Border Protection officers held them for two hours, took their cellphones and demanded their passwords.

"It just felt like a gross violation of our rights," said Shibly, a 23-year-old filmmaker born and raised in New York. But he and McCormick complied, and their phones were searched.

This is what happens when Americans endorse through their votes a policy of xenophobia that deliberately disregards our history of laws, traditions, and Constitutional principles.

It is what is happening to Americans returning from trips abroad, by a newly deputized Gestapo,  the U.S. Customs and Border Service clearly feeling its oats after the rabid anti-Muslim campaign and ultimate election of Donald Trump (the like-minded  Border Patrol Agents and Immigration Customs and Enforcement were among the few unions endorsing him):

Three days later, they returned from another trip to Canada and were stopped again by CBP.

"One of the officers calls out to me and says, 'Hey, give me your phone,'" recalled Shibly. "And I said, 'No, because I already went through this.'"

The officer asked a second time.

Within seconds, he was surrounded: one man held his legs, another squeezed his throat from behind. A third reached into his pocket, pulling out his phone. McCormick watched her boyfriend's face turn red as the officer's chokehold tightened.

NBC news examined 25 cases of American citizens recently detained and abused by U.S. Customs officials.  In all of these cases, newly “empowered” border agents, eager and willing to channel their latent authoritarian impulses, abused American citizens, demanding they either hand over their cell phone passwords—or else.

The travelers came from across the nation, and were both naturalized citizens and people born and raised on American soil. They traveled by plane and by car at different times through different states. Businessmen, couples, senior citizens, and families with young kids, questioned, searched, and detained for hours when they tried to enter or leave the U.S. None were on terror watchlists. One had a speeding ticket. Some were asked about their religion and their ethnic origins, and had the validity of their U.S. citizenship questioned.

This is happening. This is real. And the Republican Party has enabled it.

Wait, did I mention? Most of them are Muslim.

The practice of searching certain people’s cellphones at the border did not start with Trump (the couple described above were interrogated in January, before Trump’s inauguration) but according to many, many reports the strong-arm behavior and attitude of border agents has worsened dramatically since the election. In February of this year alone, five thousand devices were “accessed,” more than the entirety of 2015, in what former privacy officers for the Department of Homeland Security see as a “conscious strategy.” The former acting Commissioner under both the Bush and Obama Administration, Jayson Ahern, says the policy of searching electronic items is supposed to be “based on specific, articulable facts that raise security concerns.”

It is apparent that under Trump the policy is now being applied on the basis of religion.

[T]he officials caution that rhetoric about a Muslim registry and ban during the presidential campaign also seems to have emboldened federal agents to act more forcefully.

"The shackles are off," said Hugh Handeyside, a staff attorney with the ACLU's National Security Project. "We see individual officers and perhaps supervisors as well pushing those limits, exceeding their authority and violating people's rights."

The article details several specific instances of what is happening right now on our borders to American citizens who happen to be Muslim, trying to re-enter the country of their birth from travelling abroad. It also is being applied to people leaving the country. Either way, the Constitutional protection of the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply at the border, and border agents have free rein to search anyone at any time. What is different now is that these same agents are being encouraged to be as intrusive as possible in furtherance of the political ideology of this Administration.

First they came for the Muslims. That’s bad enough. And we should be outraged.

But do you really think they’re going to stop with that?

Read the article.

Just read it.

 

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