Wednesday, February 20, 2013

US Border Control Agents May Seize Laptops & Other E-devices

The US Department of Homeland Security's (DHS's) Office for Civil Rights and Liberties says that US border agents may seize electronic devices without a warrant or even suspicion of illegal activity. The agents may hold the device for more than 40 days after seizing it! 

You can imagine the havoc this wreaks on business travelers and academics alike!

The DHS office released an executive summary of its findings in which it concluded that, "imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits," but adds that "recording more information about why searches are performed would help managers and leadership supervise the use of border search authority." The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the office's full report, which was completed sometime during the 2012 fiscal year. 

An article in the New York Times about ACLU challenges to these seizures is interesting. It reports  DHS statistics showing the digital device seizures happen about a dozen times a day,out of 36,000 daily 'secondary screenings.' The cases are not entirely complete yet, but the DHS seems to be getting some push-back on at least some aspects of this from the courts. For instance, the District Court in Massachusetts says, "What is up with holding those devices for 49 days, guys?!"

Tip of the OOTJ hat to my daughter who passed along this heads up to all who travel!

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