A US-born Nasa scientist of Indian-origin was detained by US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) authorities on his return to America from a trip to Chile and pressured into unlocking his phone, amid an anxious debate on how far the Trump administration intends to take the "extreme vetting" that it has promised and whether it would be applied to more recent US-citizens of foreign origin.
In addition, he has never visited the countries on the immigration ban, and he's 10-year employee of a major USA federal agency.
"I asked a question, 'Why was I chosen?' And he wouldn't tell me", he says.
Initially Bikkannavar declined as the phone was issued to him by Nasa and contained sensitive information, but he had to give them the phone's access code when they wouldn't let him go. "But he insisted they had the authority to search it".
Eventually, he handed over the PIN and phone.
"Sorry for my absence". On my way home to the U.S. last weekend, I was detained by Homeland Security and held with others who were stranded under the Muslim ban.
Instead, CBP officers pulled him aside and demanded that he turn over his work-issued phone and access PIN code, Bikkannavar first described in a February 5 Facebook post. Since this means the phone is technically the property of NASA, Bikkannavar is expected to protect its contents.
A USA -born NASA scientist was apparently one of the thousands of people ensnarled in the Trump administration's now-suspended travel ban.
"They had no way of knowing I could have had something in there".
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. The phone was taken for 30 minutes before being returned to Bikkannavar, who turned it off and took it JPL's IT department immediately upon returning to Los Angeles. "And he wouldn't tell me", Bikkannayar told The Verge. He has since been issued a new phone and number.
"Sometimes I get stopped and searched, but never anything like this".
Bikkannavar, whose name originates from southern India, said it could be a "huge coincidence" that this happened days after the travel ban, although he acknowledged he has a "foreign-sounding name". However, according to Hassan Shibly, chief executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Florida, travellers are not legally required to unlock their phones, although refusing to cooperate with CBP agents on the matter could lead to individuals being held for significant periods of time. Sidd Bikkannavar, 35, said in a post on social media that US Customs and Border Protection officers wanted his cell phone and password - before they would let him through at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport. "They're not obligated to unlock the phone".