Houston: An Indian-origin NASA scientist has said he was detained and forced to unlock his PIN-protected work phone at the US border by custom officials.
1. It is a Federal felony offence to go into a Federal website that is password protected when one has no business there. And most certainly, if they obtained the password using duress. So the TSA agints were either taking a huge risk or they were entirely entitled to do what they did. I mean, if JPL complains then the agints can expect visits from ppl in dark glasses carrying nice plastic/shiny steel bangles and to spend the next 10 years of their life in courts, torture chambers or courts and to be absolutely destroyed.
2. So why did someone on a "personal trip" have a secure Federal gizmo? Oh, yes! So that JPL could call him. But they could do that on a personal cell phone too. So again, why did someone on a "personal trip" have a secure Federal gizmo?
3. What if Chile had detained him and seized the phone? Apparently China seizes laptops where they can hope to steal anything.
4. What happens if someone tries to enter India carrying a sat-phone, government issue or otherwise?
5. Anyone traveling abroad even from universities signs a form that asks whether they are carrying any computer/disk with sensitive info, because search and seizure are more of less expected, if not theft. Ppl are STRONGLY advised not to travel with any such thing even on business trips. Not even MatLab which is not permitted for export.
6. So if you say you were on a personal trip, but are found to be carrying a secured Federal gadget, then it is perfectly to be expected that the Feds will ask what you carried and why, and check that out.
7. IOW, the net result is that he was carrying nothing sensitive, or he would be in jail now.
Most ppl arrested and convicted for espionage in the US are US-born US citizens, AFAIK.