ACLU Suing Homeland Security Over Laptop Searches… Even Though Other Cases Have All Failed
from the first-amendment-vs.-fourth-amendment dept
Well, here we go. As was widely suspected, the ACLU is now suing homeland security over its laptop search policies at the border. If you haven’t been paying attention to this topic, Homeland Security’s policy has been that it can search anything you’re bringing over the border into the US, including electronic devices. Their argument is that this is just like searching your luggage. This argument doesn’t make much sense, frankly, because things that you bring in your luggage, you put there by choice, with the express purpose of bringing it over the border. You make a positive decision to include it. Things on your laptop, however, are there because they’re just there on your laptop. And it can include all sorts of stuff. The argument that border patrol is actually protecting the border here makes little sense, because you could just as easily send any data on your computer over the internet and no border control is going to stop it.
This issue has been challenged in court a few times, with courts repeatedly saying that the 4th amendment rights against unreasonable searches does not apply at the border, since you’re not yet in the country. This challenge is a bit different, however. Rather than a 4th Amendment challenge, the ACLU is going with a 1st Amendment challenge, saying that these searches violate an individuals rights to free speech and privacy, and specifically highlighting reporters who need to keep information confidential. While it’s a different legal argument, I still don’t see it passing legal muster. You still have the same problem of not “really” being in the country yet, and thus, not really being protected by the Constitution.
What’s really silly, of course, is that Homeland Security knows that border laptop searches are a bad thing. It’s why they’ve issued a warning to travelers about other countries doing laptop searches at the border. Apparently, they don’t feel the same way when it comes to them getting to go through your laptop, however.