ACLU challenges Suspicionless Laptop Border Searches

Today, the ACLU and related parties filed a class-action lawsuit challenging the U.S. Government’s policy of allowing suspicionless searches and seizures of laptops and other electronic devices at the border. The allegations include violations of the First and Fourth amendments. It is seeking a declaration that the Department of Homeland Security policies, which are restatements of the Bush administration’s policies, are unconstitutional.

The complaint is interesting reading, it can be found here in PDF.

The ACLU’s press release had this interesting paragraph, explaining the rationale for the suit:

“We are not saying that the government can never search or seize electronic devices at the border, but only that border agents should have some suspicion that the search will turn up evidence of wrongdoing before looking through all the private information that people have stored in their devices. Americans travel internationally more than in the past, and usually with private information and intimate details of our lives condensed in small, electronic devices. We hope that the court will recognize that Americans don’t give up their right to privacy at the border, and strike down the DHS’s policy as unconstitutional.”

This should be an interesting case to track.

2 Responses to ACLU challenges Suspicionless Laptop Border Searches

  1. Sheesh, somehow I missed this challenge (and I’m a card-carrying member of the ACLU!). Hopefully this case and similar ones will help people realize that “while they have nothing to hide,” there are still good reasons to not give the government the authority to search our laptops, iPhones, iPads, etc. without some kind of suspicion that can be articulated.

    I’m still trying to come up with a good example to help people understand what kind of legal-yet-you-wouldn’t-want-to-tell-anyone kind of stuff can be on a laptop. The best I’ve thought of is “your Donny Osmond music collection,” but that’s kind of unfair to the artist. Maybe pointing out that the border crossing guards could discover that you and your significant other refer to each other as “schmoopie” (a la Seinfeld) would be a better one.

    Thanks for posting this. I’ll look forward to future updates on the case.

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