Lawsuits Seek to Restrict Federal Electronic Device Searches at Border


The federal government’s broad power to search travelers and their property at the border is being challenged as more people travel with extensive personal and business information on devices that would typically require a warrant to examine. reports the New York Times. Several court cases seek to limit the ability of border agents to search, copy, and even seize travelers' laptops, cameras, and phones without suspicion of illegal activity.

“What we are asking is for a court to rule that the government must have a good reason to believe that someone has engaged in wrongdoing before it is allowed to go through their electronic devices,” said Catherine Crump of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is representing plaintiffs in two lawsuits challenging digital border searches. A decision in one of those suits is expected soon. Pascal Abidor, who is studying for his doctorate in Islamic studies, sued the government after he was handcuffed and detained at the border during an Amtrak trip from Montreal to New York. He was questioned and placed in a cell for several hours. His laptop was searched and kept for 11 days.

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