The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties has announced three years later after what was supposed to be a “Civil Liberties Assessment” within 120 days, that they will uphold ICE and CBP’s authority to conduct “suspicionless and warrantless” searches of electronic merchandise held by travelers at the border and “its functional equivalent.” A two-page executive summary on the department’s findings reads:
The overall authority to conduct border searches without suspicion or warrant is clear and longstanding, and courts have not treated searches of electronic devices any differently than searches of other objects. We conclude that CBP’s and ICE’s current border search policies comply with the Fourth Amendment.
We also conclude 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.
The report also concludes that travelers would not have their First Amendment rights violated by ICE and CBP searches of their laptops or cell phones, and the offices have the authority in searching, reviewing, retaining and sharing information contained in these electronic devices.
Wired Magazine reports that the suspicionless electronics search rules were first announced by the Bush administration in 2008. The virtually same rules were followed up by the Obama administration a year later, and between 2008 and 2010, 6,500 persons had their electronic devices searched along the U.S. border.
The ACLU is currently challenging the electronic border search policy in two federal court lawsuits, and filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act Friday, demanding the full impact assessment report on border searches of electronic devices.
“If it’s true that our rights are safe and that DHS is doing all the things it needs to do to safeguard them, then why won’t it show us the results of its assessment?” Katie Haas writes on the ACLU Blog. “And why would it be legitimate to keep a report about the impact of a policy on the public’s rights hidden from the very public being affected?”
What constitutes travelers along the border? One hundred miles inland from all U.S. land and water borders.
(H/T: Boing Boing)