ACLU Sues for Records on Border Laptop Searches

From TechPolitik:

The American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday that it had filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), demanding records from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) policy of searching laptops at border crossings without any suspicion of wrongdoing.

CBP instituted the policy last year, saying it had the right to look at the contents of traveler’s laptops without any need for a warrant. Obviously, the agency is framing this as an anti-terrorism measure, hoping to prevent terrorists and other criminals from entering the country.

However, the scope of what they can search is quite expansive. According to the ACLU, personal financial information, web site histories, and photgraphs are fair game, as well as “documents, books, pamphlets and other printed material, as well as computers, disks, hard drives and other electronic or digital storage devices.”

It is irrelevant whether or not the traveler is a US citizen or not: everyone is subject to search at the CBP’s discretion. The ACLU argues that this is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which reads:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

“Under CBP’s policy, innumerable international travelers have had their most personal information searched by government officials and retained by the government indefinitely,” ACLU attorney Larry Schwartztol said. He said the group was using the lawsuit to see if the CBP may be violating the Constitution under this policy.

While I can understand the Border Patrol’s desire to use this policy as an anti-terrorism tool, its expansiveness as to what it can include makes me leery. There is too much of an opportunity here for abuse, and it seems to violate in some way our rights to privacy, especially for American citizens that may have been subjected to these searches.

The CBP did not respond to requests for comment on the ACLU’s action.

Read it here:

http://www.techpolitik.com/2009/08/26/aclu-sues-for-records-on-border-laptop-searches/

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