Going Too Far?

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"When Uncle Sam Can Nab Your Laptop," [July 7-14] states, "Customs insists that terrorism and child pornography are sufficient justification for electronics searches."

This is akin to saying that crashes are sufficient justification for searching and seizing every vehicle on the road. I'm old enough to have been around the block throughout the world since the 1950s, so it may come as a surprise to my younger Americans that this type of government "rationale" was used by every single communist and tin-horn dictatorship in the twentieth century to "justify" its systematic control and imprisonment of its own citizens. The critical difference between those dictatorships and the United States of America has been the Constitutional requirement that government, including its dozens of different police entities, first be able to demonstrate, in a public court of law if necessary, defensible "probable cause" for any searches and seizures involving individual US citizens, including their homes. In recent times the US government has gone to increasingly convoluted lengths to justify pervasive fishing expeditions to compensate for its failure to apply constitutionally legal methods in meeting its mission — fishing expeditions that very greatly reduce our freedoms. Only a fool fails to learn the lessons of history. By systematically building our own prison, as well as prisons for others, all in the interest of "safety and security", we have become our own worst enemy. We have become, tragically, shamefully, "un-American".

Robert J. Lavin

US Army (ret)
Lakeside , Mont.  

In your July 7 issue there is an article on how the customs agents can confiscate a personal laptop, among other things, at the airport. The article was interesting and informative, and a balanced coverage of a complicated subject. Then I got to the part which stated that "Customs insists that terrorism and child pornography are sufficient justification for electronics searches". How can the Government mind work in such a way that equates child pornography to terrorism? There are times in my life when I am glad that I am a senior citizen and will not have to deal with such ridiculous reasoning in the long term. This is one of those times.

Kenneth W. Pichon

Melbourne , Fla.