After reading this news piece on how an american journalist was pulled in for secondary screening while entering the US, a question that popped up in my mind is what happens if, as a foreigner, I refused to provide my passwords to accounts/devices or unlock my electronic devices myself.
Say I am traveling from Europe to the USA and at the airport I am picked for secondary screening. The CBP or TSA or whatever entity asks me to provide my passwords and I say no. Then what?
- Can they detain me for that?
- For how long can they keep me in custody/detained before allowing me to leave (either into the USA or back to my home country)?
- More importantly, can I be arrested for refusing to unlock my devices or provide access to my online accounts such as email or social media?
The distinction between being temporarily detained or actually arrested matters to me. If the worst that can happen is being refused entry and being sent back home, I can live with that. Being thrown into jail for weeks, months, or years, however, is an entire different story.