This is not hyperbole. It is simply fact. Not in cases, but the precedent has been set. So what happens when the scope of the present state of the law is inevitably expanded?
Probable cause? Warrant issued by a judge? Bill of Rights? Come on! So you know now that the Feds (customs agents) now have the right to search any electronic item you own and its contents on its own whims, now, right? Once, for the government to put its hand in your pockets and start fishing around, it either needed a warrant or probable cause to do so. Now, it doesn't even need that. And in the digital age, our electronics are where all our most valuable and intimate possessions are.
Probable cause or a warrant is the only thing that separates me, a citizen, from the arbitrary whim of the state. Where the Sam Hell have American values gone? How can even the broadest interpretation of the meaning of the 4th Amendment mean this? The main purpose of that part of the Bill of Rights even EXISTING was to force the state to show a SPECIFIC REASON to conduct a search. The burden of proof, very importantly, is on the STATE. Once that element is gone, it is left up to arbitrary whim. And that power, in the hands of the state, will be abused. Period.
So, you look at the customs official the wrong way? Seize and search your computer. The guy thinks all brown people "look suspicious?" Seize and search. Or someone just gets up on the wrong side of the bed? Seize and search. Whatever -- you make the scenario. The point is, anything's possible now. And that's for customs. For now. But since the precedent's been set, what about the next overzealous police action that gets defended on the basis of this principle? Then becomes the law of the land. For the police to force you to yield your cellphone for pictures/phone numbers? Or someone's PDA? Or -- and is far more likely -- a photographer's camera at a protest rally?
Before, you needed a subpoena to get a photog's pics, say, if the police wanted to use them after a protest rally to round up participants. And now, in the digital age, and with the ease of erasing pics and cards, the urge to perhaps immediately demand such items is going to be greater. This all adds up to freedom of the press being restricted, since if any photog is basically (albeit involuntarily) a snitch, either protesters are going to be (rightfully) wary of photographers, or responsible photographers will be selective in the pictures they take.
Either way, it adds up to less truth getting out there, and additional danger in trying to gather it.
Although people think the word "police state" is harsh, history has always shown that 1) this is the most common thought before the actual implementation of one, and 2) the thought that "it can never happen here" is actually what allows it to happen in the first place.
Our Constitution -- both in spirit and to the letter -- is being perfunctorily shat upon. Seriously. Where is the country called America, where I once used to staunchly defend to non-Americans as a place where "certain things don't happen." Once, that thing was torture used by the state. It also used to be a fairly active freedom from the press from state interference -- until the Pentagon started forcing news agencies to EMPLOY its agents to push news stories (seriously, people -- did you miss that one?).
Now, the state can freely, in theory, search your electronic items. For now, in customs. In a year, perhaps directly taken from your person?
My next question, to those who would call me "paranoid" or a "conspiracy theorist", neither of which are even applicable to these perfectly rational concerns: at what point would you consider erosion of the Constitution to be problematic? Specifically, I mean. Seriously -- why are the American people and those who call themselves "patriots" and dare wave around the American flag, especially, sitting still for this?