Wednesday, February 13, 2013



Note: Of interest mostly to the locals and "gunnies". Brings back
the question of what in the way of firearms and/or ammunition is
"permitted" at or near the border.

DHS Watchdog OKs 'Suspicionless' Seizure of Electronic Devices Along

Photo: DeclanTM/Flickr
The Department of Homeland Security's civil rights watchdog has
concluded that travelers along the nation's borders may have their
electronics seized and the contents of those devices examined for any
reason whatsoever — all in the name of national security.

The DHS, which secures the nation's border, in 2009 announced that it
would conduct a "Civil Liberties Impact Assessment" of its
suspicionless search-and-seizure policy pertaining to electronic
devices "within 120 days." More than three years later, the DHS
office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties published a two-page
executive summary of its findings.

"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 executive summary said.

The memo highlights the friction between today's reality that
electronic devices have become virtual extensions of ourselves
housing everything from e-mail to instant-message chats to photos and
our papers and effects — juxtaposed against the government's stated
quest for national security.

The President George W. Bush administration first announced the
suspicionless, electronics search rules in 2008. The President Barack
Obama administration followed up with virtually the same rules a year
later. Between 2008 and 2010, 6,500 persons had their electronic
devices searched along the U.S. border, according to DHS data.

According to legal precedent, the Fourth Amendment — the right to be
free from unreasonable searches and seizures — does not apply along
the border. By the way, the government contends the Fourth-Amendment-
Free Zone stretches 100 miles inland from the nation's actual border.

Civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union suggest
that "reasonable suspicion" should be the rule, at a minimum, despite
that being a lower standard than required by the Fourth Amendment.

"There should be a reasonable, articulate reason why the search of
our electronic devices could lead to evidence of a crime," Catherine
Crump, an ACLU staff attorney, said in a telephone interview. "That's
a low threshold."

The DHS watchdog's conclusion isn't surprising, as the DHS is taking
that position in litigation in which the ACLU is challenging the
suspicionless, electronic-device searches and seizures along the
nation's borders. But that conclusion nevertheless is alarming
considering it came from the DHS civil rights watchdog, which
maintains its mission is "promoting respect for civil rights and
civil liberties."

"This is a civil liberties watchdog office. If it is doing its job
property, it is supposed to objectively evaluate. It has the power to
recommend safeguards to safeguard Americans' rights," Crump said.
"The office has not done that and the public has the right to know why."

Toward that goal, the ACLU on Friday filed a Freedom of Information
Act request demanding to see the full report that the executive
summary discusses.

Meantime, a lawsuit the ACLU brought on the issue concerns a New York
man whose laptop was seized along the Canadian border in 2010 and
returned 11 days later after his attorney complained.

At an Amtrak inspection point, Pascal Abidor showed his U.S. passport
to a federal agent. He was ordered to move to the cafe car, where
they removed his laptop from his luggage and "ordered Mr. Abidor to
enter his password," according to the lawsuit.

Agents asked him about pictures they found on his laptop, which
included Hamas and Hezbollah rallies. He explained that he was
earning a doctoral degree at a Canadian university on the topic of
the modern history of Shiites in Lebanon.

He was handcuffed and then jailed for three hours while the
authorities looked through his computer while numerous agents
questioned him, according to the suit, which is pending in New York
federal court.

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