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Uproar as Customs agents detain Apple employee

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An Apple employee, Andreas Gal, a software engineer with the premium smartphone maker, has narrated how three US Customs and Border Protection officers detained him last December.

Gal, who gave the narrative in a post on Medium on Tuesday, said he was returning from a business trip to Europe when he was detained at San Francisco International Airport.

Returning from the business trip in Sweden, Gal was carrying two company-owned devices: an iPhone XS that flashed “Confidential and Proprietary” on its lock screen and a MacBook Pro bearing a sticker that read “PROPERTY OF APPLE. PROPRIETARY.”

The three US Customs and Border Protection officers ordered Gal to unlock the phone and hand it over, he told them he couldn’t do anything without first consulting a lawyer or his employer, due to the nondisclosure agreement he had with Apple that specifically prohibited him from giving such access.

“This request seemed to aggravate the customs officers. They informed me that I had no right to speak to an attorney at the border despite being a US citizen, and threatened me that failure to immediately comply with their demand is a violation of federal criminal code.

“I’ve worked for Silicon Valley companies for more than a decade and international travel is a necessary part of my job. I’ve had my fair share of delays and missed connections, but one thing I’ve never experienced while traveling in airports is fear. That changed last December when I returned from a business trip to Europe.

“Going through customs is usually routine for me. I signed up for the Global Entry program years ago. It allows me to bypass lines using an electronic kiosk. With my travel schedule, Global Entry is a necessity,” he narrated.

The officers let him go about an hour later, but not before stripping him of the Global Entry card that gave him expedited travel privileges.

They also gave him a handwritten note with a supervisor’s name and phone number, and instructed Gal to have his boss at Apple call in.

This development has sparked an uproar by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of northern California that alleged in filing with the US Department of Homeland Security that Gal was subjected to interrogation and retaliation by customs officers.

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In a statement issued Wednesday, Customs and Border Protection said, “All travellers arriving to the US are subject to CBP inspection,” which may include computers, mobile phones, cameras and other devices.

“Keeping America safe and enforcing our nation’s laws in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully examine all materials entering the US”

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