LISTen: The Podcast -- Episode 32

This week's episode brings a mix bound by the thread of "borders". The program this week brings an interview with Amy Kudwa, a spokesperson at the United States Department of Homeland Security, as well as a commentary looking at how history plays a role in the way we look at borders.

The engineer put forward a new question for folks to answer. That question is: "What is Web 2.0?" The deadline for answering either by leaving a voice mail or sending an MP3 file is 0700 UTC on August 24th. Talk To LISNews remains an audio project so while text-based replies are appreciated they are not likely to be read on-air.

Related links:
Fixed time converter showing local equivalents for the deadline
The Secretary of Homeland Security speaking to Wired

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On episode 32 there was an interview with a Dept of Homeland Security representative regarding the potential for inspection/seizure of laptops as part of a border inspection. The representative posited that this was not new, and that "more and more information is electronic and so to have a hole in our policy that we couldn't treat electronics in the same way as others would create a very ironic hole in our ability to prevent dangerous materials coming into this country".

To me, the obvious followup question would be to ask how this applies, or does not apply, to electronic material which is not being physically carried by a person crossing the border. What about inspection of user searches of overseas databases? Are purely electronic data transmissions / connections / communications subject to this same analysis? If so, I would find that far more disturbing than the inspection of my laptop or flash drive.

While I am sure these communications are 'covered' under the expansion of communications surveillance authorized by our current President on communications between U.S. citizens and overseas persons, it sounded to me like the argument put forward by the Homeland Security representative on this podcast could be used to say that such oversight of all electronic transborder transmissions is also covered by the U.S. Constitution and does not require additional authorization/legislation.

Perhaps I am misunderstanding the argument. Or perhaps my concerns are moot due to other legislation or constitutional arguments of which I am unaware that already make this a 'done deal'.

Either way - I think this would have been a logical point to follow up on and I would suggest you consider arranging a followon interview to explore such issues.

-Edward Spodick, [email protected]
(a U.S. Citizen living overseas and exchanging a variety of transborder electronic communications with friends, family members, and colleagues in the U.S.).

Electronic surveillance is something not carried out by Homeland Security. That is a matter for the National Security Agency which is a combat command of the Department of Defense. The question would have been way outside the scope of that interview context. Since the Truman administration such electronic surveillance has been mainly a function of the military rather than a civilian agency.

I can try to get such an interview lined up. It may take a while, though. While the press team at Homeland Security's office in DC responds to every e-mail and phone call, the press office at NSA does not have such a history.
Stephen Michael Kellat, Host, LISTen