NASA scientist detained at US border until handing over PIN to unlock his phone

Sidd Bikkannavar understands that his last name may sound foreign, but he is a natural-born U.S. citizen who has been working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab for 10 years. He was flagged by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for extra scrutiny when returning to the U.S. from Patagonia where his vacation consisted of racing solar-powered cars.

After his passport was scanned at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Bikkannavar was detained by CBP until he handed over the PIN to his government-issued phone.

At first, the border agent asked him questions that CBP already knew the answers to since Bikkannavar is enrolled in CPB’s Global Entry program which gives “pre-approved, low-risk travelers” expedited entry into the U.S.; before being approved for the program, CBP says “all applicants undergo a rigorous background check and in-person interview before enrollment.”

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