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Federal Authorities Detain, Search Phone of NASA Scientist at Airport

nasaBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Sidd Bikkannavar, who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and is a natural-born U.S. citizen, was detained while trying to reenter the United States just as the President Trump’s controversial immigration ban took effect.

But it didn’t stop there. He said Border Patrol agents confiscated his NASA-issued phone, which could include sensitive information, Gizmodo reports. 

Bikkannavar posted about the incident on Facebook:

Sorry for the absence. On my way home to the US last weekend, I was detained by Homeland Security and held with others who were stranded under the Muslim ban. CBP officers seized my phone and wouldn’t release me until I gave my access PIN for them to copy the data. I initially refused, since it’s a JPL-issued phone (Jet Propulsion Lab property) and I must protect access. Just to be clear – I’m a US-born citizen and NASA engineer, traveling with a valid US passport. Once they took both my phone and the access PIN, they returned me to the holding area with the cots and other sleeping detainees until they finished copying my data.

I’m back home, and JPL has been running forensics on the phone to determine what CBP/Homeland Security might have taken, or whether they installed anything on the device. I’ve also been working with JPL legal counsel. I removed my Facebook page until I was sure this account wasn’t also compromised by the intrusion into my phone and connected apps. I hope no one was worried. JPL issued me a new phone and new phone number, which I’ll give out soon.

Bikkannavar had landed at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, on Jan. 30, when he was detained and told that the Border Patrol was going to search his phone.

Bikkannavar told authorities that he was no allowed to hand over his phone because he’s required to protect it.


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