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US Secret Service checking laptops at airports

Has anyone else had this happen to them?

I'd love to have two independent corroborations of this, instead of hearing
it third-hand...

Bob Hettinga

--- begin forwarded text

From: "Sidney Markowitz" <[email protected]>
To: <[email protected]>
Subject: US Secret Service checking laptops at airports
Date: Sat, 3 Oct 1998 18:26:52 -0700
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Sender: [email protected]

A friend of mine recently traveled from one of the Washington DC area
airports to Ireland and reports that US Secret Service agents checked her
laptop for the domestic 128-bit crypto versions of Netscape Navigator and
Microsoft Internet Explorer at the metal detector station. She said she saw
about six other people who were checked as she was going through. As is now
common, anyone carrying a laptop computer was asked to boot it up,
presumably to demonstrate that if the case hid a bomb at least it was
programmable with a reasonable looking user interface. But in her instance,
people who identified themselves as Secret Service agents had her start up
her web browser so they could check the encryption level, and made her
uninstall her 128-bit Navigator.

It didn't seem to matter to them that there are exemptions for devices that
are for personal use as long as they are kept with the person while out of
the country, or that she is an international banker who was going to conduct
business with an overseas office. They didn't bother to determine whether
she had a copy of the Navigator install file in a backup directory and could
simply reinstall on the airplane. And of course it made no difference that
she was going to Ireland where she picked up a locally produced 128-bit
crypto plugin for Navigator that she says works just as well if not better
than the version from Netscape. (I don't know if her "plugin" is simply one
of the scripts that enable the Netscape strong crypto in the export

 -- Sidney Markowitz <[email protected]>

--- end forwarded text

Robert A. Hettinga <mailto: [email protected]>
Philodox Financial Technology Evangelism <http://www.philodox.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'