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US-Born JPL scientist detained at the border until he unlocked his phone

Sidd Bikkannavar was born in the US. He hasn’t travelled to any of the countries on the list, and he has worked at the Jet Propulsion Lab for 10 years. He also has been cleared for travel through the Global Entry program, which is supposed to expedite going through Customs.

None of this mattered to the Customs officer who detained him and demanded that he unlock his phone. Only it technically wasn’t his phone, it was the phone issued to him by NASA. It even had a barcode identifying it as such attached to the outside of the phone. Still, the Customs officer demanded the passcode and presented him with a document that indicated the phone would have its contents copied. Bikkannvar ultimately felt he had no choice and handed it over. The agent disappeared with the phone for 1/2 a hour before returning it. Bikkannvar doesn’t know what they might have done, and isn’t allowed to say what might have been on the phone, but JPL is very, very unhappy that the phone was unlocked.


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