Top Leaderboard, Site wide
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
December 11, 2016 Disclaimer: Please read.

Statements and opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors, not Truthdig. Truthdig takes no responsibility for such statements or opinions.

Ooh, ‘La La Land’
‘The Field of Fight’

Truthdig Bazaar


By Mahmoud Darwish

more items

Ear to the Ground
Email this item Print this item

No Need to Cyberspy; Government Officials Can Simply Confiscate Your Laptop

Posted on Jan 2, 2014
utnapistim (CC BY-NC 2.0)

With all the leaks revealed thanks to whistle-blower Edward Snowden, we’re finally all pretty aware that most of our digital data is impossible to keep private. For this eye-opening information that’s opened up an important conversation about Internet privacy, the whole world is without a doubt indebted to Snowden.

But did you know, even without fancy software, border officials can seize your computer whenever they feel like it?

And thanks to Judge Edward R. Korman, who recently threw out a case pertaining to this exact issue, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers will continue to be able to search through your private data to their hearts’ content. The Daily Dot reports:

On Tuesday, a federal judge dismissed a 2010 case challenging the U.S. government’s broad authority to search and seize electronic devices at international borders without a warrant. It’s a decision that has stymied the cause of the American Civil Liberties Union and other privacy advocates who have resisted the erosion of Fourth Amendment rights at airports and border crossings.

The case was brought by Pascal Abidor, a dual U.S.-French citizen who was detained in May 2010 while returning aboard an Amtrak train to the United States from school in Canada.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers searched Abidor’s laptop computer after discovering that he was an Islamic Studies student who had recently lived in Jordan and traveled to Lebanon. Upon discovering images of Hamas and Hezbollah on Abidor’s laptop (part of a research project), CBP officers further searched his computer, cellphone, and person. They ultimately wound up putting Abdor in a holding cell for three hours.

Abidor was joined by the ACLU, along with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Press Photographers Association who filed as co-plaintiffs, challenging the extraordinary search authority granted to CBP officials.

In throwing out the case, Judge Edward R. Korman argued that CBP officers have a lower threshold to meet when examining and confiscating electronic devices at border zones because of a long-standing exception to certain Fourth Amendment protections for persons entering the United States. In his ruling, Korman cited the “border search doctrine” (also known as the border search exception), which relaxes the definition of “unreasonable” when it comes to unwarranted searches and seizures.

Whether a search or seizure is unreasonable ‘depends upon all of the circumstances surrounding the search and seizure and the nature of the search or seizure itself. The permissibility of a particular law enforcement practice is judged by balancing its intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests against its promotion of legitimate government interests.’

Korman goes on to say that the government’s interest in keeping “unwanted persons and effects” from entering the country is at its acme at international borders, and thus searches taking place in these zones are “not subject to any requirement of reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or warrant[.]”

The federal judge added that it would be “naive” to think that the same violations would not occur at other countries’ borders. It seems we’ve all been guilty of naiveté for expecting our government to keep our best interests at heart rather than continuously infringing upon our rights. Why even bother with a constitution at this point?

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi

More Below the Ad


Square, Site wide

New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Join the conversation

Load Comments
Right 1, Site wide - BlogAds Premium
Right 2, Site wide - Blogads
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right Internal Skyscraper, Site wide
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network

Like Truthdig on Facebook