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Obama To Keep Bush Airport Laptop Search Policy

Obama To Keep Bush Airport Laptop Search Policy

Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post
August 28, 2009

The Obama administration will largely preserve Bush-era procedures allowing the government to search — without suspicion of wrongdoing — the contents of a traveler’s laptop computer, cellphone or other electronic device, although officials said new policies would expand oversight of such inspections.

The policy, disclosed Thursday in a pair of Department of Homeland Security directives, describes more fully than did the Bush administration the procedures by which travelers’ laptops, iPods, cameras and other digital devices can be searched and seized when they cross a U.S. border. And it sets time limits for completing searches.

But representatives of civil liberties and travelers groups say they see little substantive difference between the Bush-era policy, which prompted controversy, and this one.

“It’s a disappointing ratification of the suspicionless search policy put in place by the Bush administration,” said Catherine Crump, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. “It provides a lot of procedural safeguards, but it doesn’t deal with the fundamental problem, which is that under the policy, government officials are free to search people’s laptops and cellphones for any reason whatsoever.”

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ACLU Sues Homeland Security over Laptop Searches

 



ACLU Sues Homeland Security over Laptop Searches

ACLU Sues Homeland Security over Laptop Searches

Chloe Albanesius
PC Mag.com
August 27, 2009

The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday sued the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to uncover documents related to laptop searches at the border.

“The ACLU believes that suspicionless searches of laptops violate the First and Fourth Amendments,” the group wrote in the suit, filed in a New York District Court.

In July 2008, the Customs and Border Protection agency within DHS published formal guidelines for laptop border searches that gave CBP officials permission to search laptops and electronic devices at the border. Court cases on the topic have generally found that citizens should have diminished expectations of privacy when re-entering the country because the U.S. has a right to protect itself and control what crosses its borders.

Critics of the policy claim that laptop searches are an invasion of privacy – a personal computer holds a lot more information than a suitcase full of clothes or briefcase full of paperwork. What’s to stop CBP from copying the contents of your computer and keeping it on file indefinitely, they have argued.

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