US-born Muslim scientist at NASA detained at the border until he unlocked pin-protected phone

Sidd Bikkannavar

In a shocking event, a Muslim employee of NASA who went abroad on a personal trip was detained from entering the US until he unlocked the pin of his phone and allowed officials to copy the data. Sidd Bikkannavar, who was born in the US and works of Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) went to South America and was detained at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport when he flew back to the country nearly two weeks ago.

“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,” Bikkannavar wrote in a Facebook post. “I initially refused, since it’s a (NASA)-issued phone and I must protect access,” Bikkannavar wrote.
He revealed, the incident happened after President Donald Trump imposed the ban on the entry of Muslims in the country on Jan 30. He further added but the US-born Muslims are allowed to enter the nation. Bikkannavar, who was born in Pasadena was shocked when was stopped at the airport by the custom officials.
Bukkannar did not want to share the sensitive data on the phone, but the custom officials forced him to unlock the pin-protected phone and copied the data which is unethical as he is working to for the prestigious space company for last 10 years, said the Bukkannar. The 35-year-old space scientist develops technology for NASA and is also the member of the team developing World’s largest space telescope — James Webb Telescope scheduled to launch in 2018.
Bukkannar was caught off guard when he was asked by the officials for the possessions in order to make sure he was not carrying any dangerous thing.
Now, he is back to his home and has also resumed his duty at the JPL. However, he still wants the changes in the rule as it is creating trouble for US-born Muslims as well.
“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,” Bikkannavar said.

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  • Unintended consequences. When you set out a new policy you have to think through the possibilities of worst case scenarios. Border and customs agents are just of average intelligence and expecting them to be able to do the critical thinking so this sort of thing doesn’t happen is unlikely. All new orders have to be checked and rechecked but because Trump’s team doesn’t think more than 15 minutes ahead of anything these things are bound to happen.

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