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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 23rd year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Papers please, secrets please

9 March 2017

Nobody can say that the USA isn't very smart.

Oh yes, they (and I'm talking about their government and its agencies) are also very stupid -- but they have introduced some strategies which are doubtless paying them huge economic dividends right now.

Let's talk about their "homeland security" initiative for a moment.

Under provisions now in place, anyone entering the USA must, if asked, hand over their electronic devices and the passwords associated with them. They must also hand over the passwords to their social media accounts and other online identities.

The justification for this is "security" but I see a much greater driving force -- $money$.

How much incredibly valuable intellectual property, trade secrets and other bits of highly commercially sensitive information are being extracted at the US border I wonder?

It is far, far more likely that the gentleman in the 3-piece suit approaching the immigration counter is going to be carrying devices or passwords that give access to a trove of valuable commercial, scientific or industrial information than it is that he's got a bomb in his shoe, and that's why he'll be asked for his phone, laptop, tablet and passwords.

Of course savvy business people, researchers and such will not carry anything over the border in hard-form. They'll simply upload everything to the cloud and access it once clear and free of immigration -- but wouldn't a half-smart terrorist do exactly the same?

I'm picking that the USA has already siphoned billions of dollars worth of data from visitors by way of their "security" checks.

"No, they would never do this" I hear some of you saying.

Excuse me? Have you read the revelations of Ed Snowden and, more recently, Wikileaks -- in respect to the nefarious activities of the CIA and NSA with their hacking, malware and other methods of getting inside the computerised stores of data held by foreign companies and governments?

Obviously the USA goes after anything and everything it can, when that data is in electronic form and they think they have a chance to get their hands on it.

I'm sure they're self-justifying such commercial, scientific and industrial espionage by telling themselves that "it will make America great" and therefore the ends justifies the means.

The more I read about the lack of ethics and principles of the US government (and many of its allies, including our own government), the more I fear for the future of the planet.

Sometimes I think that the very things which make us human (honesty, respect, empathy, morals, ethics and principles) are being eroded by a handful of powerful men in suits who put their own interests ahead of all others.

I'm almost tempted to think that the next "world war" won't be a war between nations but a war between "the people" and those who would treat them so badly. A global civil war might be a lot more likely than anyone had considered and we only need look at the "protest votes" that are taking place over issues like Brexit and the choice of US president to see that public mood is swinging in rebellion against such overt bullying.

What do readers think? Is the USA leveraging a perceived threat against national security to boost its espionage activities at the border?

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