Lawsuit Seeks to End Border Searches of Electronic Devices

September 8, 2010 -

When the President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) is forced to log in to her laptop at an airport and a customs official disappears for 30 minutes with the computer, it’s probably a safe bet that some form of litigation will emerge from the encounter.

This is exactly what happened to Lisa Wayne as she was traveling home from Mexico in August of 2008. The incident, according to the National Law Journal, took place at the Houston, Texas airport and eventually resulted in her organization joining a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

The NACDL, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) and Pascal Abidor, a student, and NPAA member whose laptop was seized and searched during a May U.S. and Canadian border stop, are the lawsuit’s plaintiffs. Abidor was jailed briefly and his laptop was returned to him eleven days later. His email and research were among the items accessed on his hard drive by authorities.

The American Civil Liberties Union is representing the plaintiffs in the suit, which seeks to constitutionally challenge (leveraging the Fourth Amendment) the “suspicionless search of the contents of Americans’ laptops, cell phones, cameras and other electronic devices at the international border.”

DHX spokesman Matthew Chandler called the searches a “targeted tool” for customs officials.

In the complaint it’s alleged that Customs officials can undertake a search “with or without individualized suspicion," and that over 6,500 people were subjected to such searches of their electronic devices from October, 2008 through June of this year. Of the 6,500, nearly 3,000 were U.S. citizens.

For her part, Wayne plans to claim attorney/client privilege and refuse to log in to her laptop if asked to do so in the future. She still worries that custom officials will seize her computer and ultimately gain access though.

The full complaint can be accessed on the ACLU website here (in PDF form).

Earlier this year, the ACLU claimed that customs officials were making copies and backups of information seized off the electronic devices of travelers.


Comments

Re: Lawsuit Seeks to End Border Searches of Electronic ...

What happens when you use encrypted file containers? Do they intimidate you into exposing your data or can they penalize you for non-compliance?

Re: Lawsuit Seeks to End Border Searches of Electronic ...

They demand the access codes for it or detain you under the patriot act as a potential terrorist until you comply.

Re: Lawsuit Seeks to End Border Searches of Electronic ...

Isn't this sort of thing that ACTA would want to happen on a daily basis at airports? If so I would so fight this thing before it becomes standard. 

http://www.magicinkgaming.com/

Re: Lawsuit Seeks to End Border Searches of Electronic ...

According to BoingBoing, that section's been removed.

Of course, ACTA is still bad, bad news.

Re: Lawsuit Seeks to End Border Searches of Electronic ...

There are rumblings of that yes, though they are coming with the classic 'we need to be able to search for kiddy porn!' argument rather then ACTA.

Re: Lawsuit Seeks to End Border Searches of Electronic ...

"The NACDL, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) and Pascal Abidor, a student, and NPAA member whose laptop was seized and searched during a May U.S. and Canadian border stop, are the lawsuit’s defendants."

Should that say "plaintiffs"?

Thanks for the article; interesting stuff.

 
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Andrew EisenZip - Bullies on both sides? What both sides? And of course bullies are worse than people who aren't bullies.08/29/2014 - 11:23am
Neeneko(2) yes, male tropes also have problems and gender studies looks at those too. But this highlights a privilage problem, the idea that if male issues are not brought up too female issues should not be discussed.08/29/2014 - 10:42am
Neeneko@ZippyDSMlee - jumping back (1) one can acknowledge systemic problems without requiring every male be a Neanderthal.08/29/2014 - 10:42am
MaskedPixelanteI don't like the new 3DS, mostly because it means there's a good chance future 3DS games won't be compatible with the current models.08/29/2014 - 9:30am
ConsterI don't get why Amazon decided to buy this "Twitch" fellow, really. It took him ages to beat Pokemon.08/29/2014 - 8:31am
ZippyDSMleeIt goes without saying that we need to et rid of the bullies on both sides that are far worse than Sarkeesian or Quin will ever be.08/29/2014 - 8:24am
ZippyDSMleeI'm talking more about the genreal movement and how silly it is, as for Sarkeesian half of what she is says rings hollw while the other half tend to be over exsagerated.08/29/2014 - 8:22am
Avalongod@Papa, agreed. I think people are reluctant to get involved if they're not the target. But I think we need to take responsibility as a community to confront harassing behavior, whether on gender or race.08/29/2014 - 7:23am
E. Zachary KnightSo Nintendo has given gamers what they want and have fractured the 3DS user base at the same time. http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/224476/Nintendo_reveals_the_New_Nintendo_3DS.php08/29/2014 - 7:12am
Papa MidnightI could say the same about race. I certainly enjoyed being on the receiving end of this while playing StarCraft II this past week: http://i.imgur.com/mIZA1QB.png (and this is actually mild compared to what I usually see). Report players? What a joke...08/29/2014 - 12:29am
AvalongodWhether you approve of Sarkeesian's view or not, no woman deserves to be the target of that kind of harassment and it won't stop until men tell each other it's not appropriate under any circumstance.08/28/2014 - 8:44pm
AvalongodI'm guessing the twitter account was a troll, but come on, I'm sorry, it's just disgusting someone is saying those things to Sarkeesian whether serious or a joke.08/28/2014 - 8:43pm
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ZippyDSMleereflects the world we live in while the rest is the worst stuff that should be focused on. Leaving whats reflected in the same boat as everything else that's exaggerated and skewed by media/fiction and happliy consumed by current society. I find the socia08/28/2014 - 5:20pm
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ZippyDSMleeNot saying that there is not a difference in the treatment of males and females in media, but males are begin painted as near perfect superhumans with cliched flaws it dose as much damage to the psyche as how females are treated. Sure you could claim that08/28/2014 - 5:19pm
ZippyDSMleeNeeneko:As I said if you do not 100% belive it then you are a Neanderthal. Theres more gray to everything than black and white.08/28/2014 - 1:27pm
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Neenekocomplete with the standard 'she is a lying and attacking the game industry! threats are wrong but she did it to herself' comments.08/28/2014 - 11:28am
 

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