Cabinet & furniture shipment yields $22 million cocaine bust

Cocaine Philly port

The number is approximately 0.007% of arriving global travelers processed by CBP officers (more than 397 million), said the CBP.

CBP issued the updated statistics on searches along with a new directive for its officers that state they may search data that is physically on an electronic device but not information stored on a cloud or other remote location.

Privacy advocate Ron Wyden, a USA senator, said "far too many" searches were being carried out by the CBP, and argued constitutional rights should not disappear at the border.

Ronald D. Vitiello, Acting Deputy Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Thomas Homan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Francis Cissna, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), at a Department of Homeland Security press conference, December 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. The directive calls for the establishment of a "Filter Team" or other means of segregating legally privileged information from the information under search.

If an agent is presented with an electronic device that is locked with a passcode or any other security mechanism, they can ask the traveler to unlock the device. Officials in Philadelphia say they recently discovered the more than 700 pounds (317 kilograms) of cocaine hidden inside false walls of the furniture, making it the area's largest illicit drug bust in a decade.

Despite the present uncertainty regarding whether USCBP actually has the lawful authority to perform a warrantless search of a traveler's electronic device, refusing to unlock an electronic device at the request of a USCBP officer may still lead to undesirable consequences. In other words, officers may not use the device to access information stored exclusively in the "Cloud". And, again, the directive does not impose any suspicion standard on basic searches. However, the new directive restricts them from searching anything that is stored in the cloud.

Passwords provided by travelers would be destroyed and not retained by the government, the CBP official said.

The updated policy reflects how law enforcement continues to grapple with the impact of new technologies in the digital age while attempting to balance their law enforcement mission with individual privacy rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union partnered with the Electronic Frontier Foundation previous year to sue the Department of Homeland Security, claiming that searches of electronic devices at the US border should require a warrant.

According to officials, the containers were being shipped to an address in Cinnaminson, NJ. The rest are permanent residents, visitors or other travelers whose admissibility to the United States is subject to CBP discretion. If there is none, then an advanced search will most likely be denied.

In the month of August, agents searched the electronic devices of 3,133 travelers, according to CBP data.

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