U.S. Customs and Border Protection can search travelers’ laptops and other electronic devices without a show of reasonable suspicion, according to a federal judge’s dismissal of a 2010 lawsuit.
In its suit, the American Civil Liberties Union had argued that having border officials search the contents of a laptop violated the U.S Constitution unless the officials had a reasonable suspicion that the contents related to a crime. Judge Edward Korman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn, disagreed and threw out the suit, said PC World.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the suit on behalf of Pascal Abidor, a student with dual French and U.S. citizenship, and of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Press Photographers Association. In 2010, customs officials confiscated Abidor’s laptop as he entered the country from Canada on a train trip from Montreal to New York. They searched the computer while detaining Abidor for several hours, then released him without charges.
Abidor, who said he was studying the modern history of Shiites in Lebanon, had downloaded photos of the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah on his computer, said PC World. He let CBP conduct the search and provided his computer password. The government searched private material, including messages between Abidor and his girlfriend, and kept his data for further searches after giving back his laptop, the suit alleged.
In dismissing the suit, Judge Korman said CBP already has special procedures for those types of privileged content that require a show of suspicion. Border searches of electronic devices are rare, and many of them already are done with a show of reasonable suspicion, said PC World..
Korman also said border crossings are a special case for search protections because travelers can decide when and where they cross borders and what they are carrying when they do, said PC World.