ACLU Seeks Records About Laptop Searches At The Border
United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) policy permits officials to search the laptops and other electronic devices of travelers without suspicion of wrongdoing, according to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed today by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU filed the FOIA request with CBP, a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to learn how CBP's suspicionless search policy, first made public in July 2008, is impacting the constitutional rights of international travelers.
"Based on current CBP policy, we have reason to believe innumerable international travelers – including U.S. citizens – have their most personal information searched by government officials and retained by the government indefinitely," said Larry Schwartztol, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "The disclosure of these records is necessary to better understand the extent to which U.S. border and customs officials may be violating the Constitution."
In July 2008, CBP issued its "Policy Regarding Border Search of Information," which permits CBP to subject travelers to suspicionless searches of information contained in documents and electronic devices, including laptop computers.
According to the ACLU's request, giving the government unchecked authority to search travelers' personal documents and electronic devices is a violation of Fourth Amendment privacy rights and the First Amendment freedoms of speech, inquiry and association.