Federal Judge Tosses Suit Challenging Electronic Device Border Searches


A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that challenged whether officials can search electronic devices at the border, upholding the right of authorities to conduct such searches of personal devices without a warrant or reasonable suspicion, Politico reports. The ruling is a defeat for civil liberties activists who had argued that electronics, because they contain vast amounts of personal information, shouldn’t be held to the same standards as other personal possessions at the border. The lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a French-American graduate student who had his laptop searched and confiscated entering the country from Canada. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Press Photographers Association backed the case.

On Tuesday, Eastern District of New York Judge Edward Korman said the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the border policy as a whole and that the student failed to argue the search of his devices was unreasonable. Korman wrote that a minute fraction of travelers at the U.S. border have electronic devices searched, and protections exist for the press and attorneys. He also noted that people going overseas could be subject to searches with much fewer protections in other countries, pointing to the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, David Miranda, who was detained at London’s Heathrow Airport for nine hours and had his devices confiscated. He criticized the plaintiffs for suggesting requiring a resonable suspicion for a device search at the border would protect their clients, saying they “must be drinking the Kool-Aid if they think that a reasonable suspicion threshold of this kind will enable them to ‘guarantee’ confidentiality to their sources.”

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