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  • U.S. customs -- what are my rights?

    Hi all,

    This will be my first Defcon and words cannot describe my excitement and anticipations. However, seeking my ESTA visa thingie I basically waivered any trace of rights I had left; US customs can deny me entry for any reason--or none at all--and from what I've heard they aren't afraid of having people in for interrogation. They will also take my photo, fingerprints and in case I'm denied entry I'm going to have to pay my return ticket out of my own pocket.

    So how do I act if I get taken into interrogation? Will I be OK saying I'm going to Defcon or will I be considered harmful for the nation's security? Will I be OK demanding an interpreter? Will I be OK refusing to give out the login details for my laptop? I take it they don't like cockiness, and though I absolutely detest authority figures, I will try to be as humble, open and obliging as I can possibly manage.

    I'm from Northern Europe so I might not fall into the prototype terrorist figure, but still I'd like some accounts of firsthand experience, if any. Thanks, and see y'all at Defcon.

  • #2
    Re: U.S. customs -- what are my rights?

    That visa waiver was pretty clear about our lack of rights, I felt a little uncomfortable agreeing to it, but there isn't a great deal of choice!
    I am going to say that I am attending an IT security conference and leave it at that.
    I have ensured there is nothing on my laptop that will be an issue, and so will happily give over login details if it means I can get through customs smoothly.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: U.S. customs -- what are my rights?

      Originally posted by jchillerup View Post
      So how do I act if I get taken into interrogation?
      Be respectful. You don't have to grovel, but being confrontational will guarantee that the process will not go easily for you.

      Originally posted by jchillerup View Post
      Will I be OK saying I'm going to Defcon or will I be considered harmful for the nation's security?
      Just tell the ICE officers the truth: that you're just attending a conference. Most likely the name "DefCon" will not mean anything to them. If pressed for details, you can certainly tell them the name, dates, and city. They will not think that it is a national security issue.

      Originally posted by jchillerup View Post
      Will I be OK demanding an interpreter?
      Sure, if one is needed. If you speak fluent English though, then demanding an interpreter may make the process more confrontational. It may also delay you for hours or even days, depending on the availability of interpreters are for your native language at the port you are entering.

      Originally posted by jchillerup View Post
      Will I be OK refusing to give out the login details for my laptop?
      No, that is not OK. That wil almost certainly insure that the laptop is confiscated for examination. It may also mean that you are held under suspicion of attempting to import something that is illegal.

      This is of course assuming that you're smart enough to not to actually have anything illegal on the laptop in the first place.

      Also realize that they may not even ask. I've made two entries into the US in the last two weeks, one in the in the company of a foreign national, and it was a very simple process. No demands for laptops or other things, other than questioning if we had anything to declare. On the other hand, entering Canada is and was a more intrusive process as far as the questions asked.

      Originally posted by jchillerup View Post
      I take it they don't like cockiness, and though I absolutely detest authority figures, I will try to be as humble, open and obliging as I can possibly manage.
      No they don't like cockiness, but they won't try and make it hard for you either, unless you start something. 99.999% of the people who enter this country don't have an issue. The ICE officers are just trying to do a sometimes difficult job. They don't set the policies. Also, you don't have to agree with the policies, you just have to abide by them while visiting.
      Thorn
      "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." - Catherine Aird

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: U.S. customs -- what are my rights?

        most of the time its really not a big deal, i fly in and out fairly often with all sorts of junk in my suitcase, the only time i got hassled was leaving manchester over a SCSI cable...

        they often give you the old i'm a scary usa federal officer attitude/glare but if your paperwork is fine, then no problems, lots of europeans visit las vegas, but you'll normally go through customs where you touch down first.

        i'd probably say holiday/conference vs defcon, not that i'd imagine they'd care.

        Once at LAX after i got my O1 visa the admitting officer said i wasn't dressed like someone with an O1 visa, t-shirt and shorts. i didn't really know what to say so i shrugged and carried on, so dress liek a tourist ! :)
        - Null Space Labs

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: U.S. customs -- what are my rights?

          Originally posted by charliex View Post
          so dress like a tourist ! :)
          i cannot begin to describe how much your appearance dictates the initial terms of any confrontation with authority figures. how you are dressed and how you carry yourself, along with how you speak at first, makes a huge impression on people.

          i'm not saying they'll let a cocaine dealer waltz on through because his shirt is pressed and tucked in, but wearing a polo shirt as opposed to a ragged hacker t-shirt and possibly dying your hair once you get here can make a difference.

          this applies much more to routine matters like airport passenger security than to ICE checkpoints, but still... it's something to consider.
          "I'll admit I had an OiNK account and frequented it quite often… What made OiNK a great place was that it was like the world's greatest record store… iTunes kind of feels like Sam Goody to me. I don't feel cool when I go there. I'm tired of seeing John Mayer's face pop up. I feel like I'm being hustled when I visit there, and I don't think their product is that great. DRM, low bit rate, etc... OiNK it existed because it filled a void of what people want."
          - Trent Reznor

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: U.S. customs -- what are my rights?

            Oh.for.God's.sake.

            You are *not* all that. Please don't let me dissuade you from your hysterical paranoia or anything but, seriously, if you have something so serious to hide and/or you are a danger to US National Security, do us all a favor and stay home.

            This is a computer security convention, it's not like the early 90s when there was no such thing as 'computer security' and "no one had any business" doing infosec research. You missed that boat, it has sailed.... Now, you're labeled. You are a geek, a nerd, a computer mega-dork who is going to a super sausage fest in Las Vegas.

            I'm sure that despite how awesome and dangerous you believe your particular skillset to be, the US Customs Service actually has to protect the citizenry from *actual* danger. My suggestion is to leave all your plutonium and detonators at home and just tell the freaking truth:

            You are not dangerous, you're going to Vegas in the middle of Summer wearing black to hang out in a cheap hotel and drink cheap booze to wretched excess with your peers. This is not as scary as it is sad. Trying to make yourself sound scary is just more sad.

            ok?
            That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: U.S. customs -- what are my rights?

              I think you misunderstood my first message entirely. I want to get through the customs smoothly. You don't need to tell me that I know nothing and am capable of nothing, I know that very well myself -- which is why I'm going to Defcon in the first place. Please understand that I have never been out of Europe before and as such never met any ridiculous customs people like in the US, and please understand that I don't want to be turned down in the airport, because I really, really want to go to this conference.

              I don't have anything illegal on my laptop, but I sure as hell don't like giving out my login details anyway.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: U.S. customs -- what are my rights?

                heh, everyone roll one and relax a bit.

                i think you may have misread ndex's style... her unique intensity is something that we all come to understand and then grow to love upon getting to know her. it's actually part of her charm and a unique skill... cutting right to the chase with the hard and fast details. this is an essential aspect of conversation, particularly in the week immediately prior to DEFCON when everyone is half out of their gourd with packing anxiety etc etc.

                her words are not just accurate, they should be a comfort to all. the fact that our government doesn't care about you or know you or want to deal with you is a good thing. pack smart, look clean, have proper papers, and make a nice smile.... and you'll cruise through. it's unconscionable to me that they ask people for login creds... but trust me, it's a long shot that you'll encounter that. you are smart to not have anything on the system. that is the best course of action.

                p.s. - ndex, we totally fail... we brought you no taste of east coast bakeries this year. forgive us? we have other goodness to share, cross paths with me whenever wherever and we'll sort you out with fun happy goodness.

                see everyone at the Riv thursday, or sooner in polo shirt country at Black Hat.
                "I'll admit I had an OiNK account and frequented it quite often… What made OiNK a great place was that it was like the world's greatest record store… iTunes kind of feels like Sam Goody to me. I don't feel cool when I go there. I'm tired of seeing John Mayer's face pop up. I feel like I'm being hustled when I visit there, and I don't think their product is that great. DRM, low bit rate, etc... OiNK it existed because it filled a void of what people want."
                - Trent Reznor

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: U.S. customs -- what are my rights?

                  jchiller:

                  Firstly, you're going to love DEF CON. It's full of thousands of brilliant people and it's worth the trouble to come to. You'll find friends here.

                  As far as customs goes - just don't give them any reason to care about you. Be cool and tell the truth, don't conceal the reason you're here. Tell them flat out that you're attending DEF CON in Las Vegas and tell them what it is if they ask.

                  It's extremely unlikely they will spin you around. Most of the time, you'll breeze right through. If you get a guy having a bad day, you're in for a real treat, as U.S. Immigration Officials can be real pricks sometimes. (Not all, but some.)

                  I've traveled internationally quite extensively and often carrying a shitload of technology from really obscure camera equipment to random computers. I always tell customs in each country exactly what I'm doing no matter how ridiculous it sounds (assuming I'm in the first world, of course.)

                  Also I'm sure you can figure out any number of clever ways to mitigate their need to access your computer, through the use of a little technical ingenuity.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: U.S. customs -- what are my rights?

                    I have crossed into the US from Canada a LOT, mostly on infosec endeavors, and I can tell you that they will not hassle you unless you give them reason to. Answer them honestly but don't volunteer anything. Do not refuse or demand anything, if they ask you to stand on your head, do it. Realize and understand that you have no rights. At all. Accept it. Embrace it. You might get someone who's having a bad day or who's a young guy trying to prove himself (happened to me Friday) so if you get grilled don't for the love of god get irritable. Remember there's 5,000 people behind you who s/he can pick on instead. You're coming to Defcon so you're probably somewhat intelligent. Use it. There WILL be someone in that line who is a dumbass and will hassle customs, let them be the punching bag.

                    I have crossed countless times and have never been hassled by them ever. I have seen people who have said so much as "You don't have a right to ask me that" and they end up in a very uncomfortable situation for a very long time. Customs is trained to deal with confrontation by giving it right back to you 10 fold (I know a few).

                    1) Answer honestly what they ask
                    2) Don't volunteer anything they didn't ask
                    3) Don't be a douchebag

                    Also I have NEVER had my laptop searched so I don't think you'll need to worry about that. I've had it checked to see if it booted but that's about the extent of it.

                    J

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: U.S. customs -- what are my rights?

                      Originally posted by diabolik View Post

                      1) Don't be a douchebag
                      2) Answer honestly what they ask
                      3) Don't volunteer anything they didn't ask
                      4) Don't be a douchebag


                      J
                      Fixed that for ya.
                      A third party security audit is the IT equivalent of a colonoscopy. It's long, intrusive, very uncomfortable, and when it's done, you'll have seen things you really didn't want to see, and you'll never forget that you've had one.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: U.S. customs -- what are my rights?

                        I know this is probably a rare situation, but one year returning from Amsterdam I had to pack pretty hastily and just shoved all of my tools, street sweeper bristles, tweezers, etc. into my big duffel bag instead of taking the time to organize them. Of course I then was searched and the poor guy digging everything out of my bag was just jamming his hand in there haphazardly. I noticed what he was doing and explained that he could well cut himself if he kept digging that aggressively, so he just took the bag, flipped it upside down and dumped everything out. He was displeased, but I think would have been angrier had he managed to slice his hand open or get the jagged end of a street sweeper bristle up under a fingernail.

                        Anyway, very simple moral to that story, pack smart! That way if something does come up you don't exacerbate the situation when they do dig through. If you think you have a higher likelihood of having your stuff dug through, definitely plan some extra time at the airport. Every year for DEFCON to avoid extra charges for overweight checked baggage I carry on 50-75 Lbs. of locks. I have been unfailingly polite and patient with the TSA staff who have to deal with my incomprehensible X-Ray images, stupidly heavy bag, and often individually boxed locks which some have decided to open every one of to check. The least I can do for them is pack those bags as efficiently as possible with the full expectation that they will be hand screened. The time this adds has been really variable, anywhere from ten minutes to half an hour..

                        And if east coast baked goods are needed, I can always hit Zaftig's or somewhere else to pick up your slack D. :P

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                        • #13
                          Re: U.S. customs -- what are my rights?

                          Just a quick update, customs was not at all painful...
                          I strolled through in a basketball singlet, I was a semi-intoxicated zombie from my 12 hour flight.
                          As everyone else has said, be polite and do as they say and you probably won't even be looked at.

                          PS Ceasars Palace is a nice hotel. =)

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