DHS: Laptop Border Searches Are Bad... Except When We Do It

from the that-may-change-soon dept

The Department of Homeland Security has been actively (though with really weak arguments) defending its policy of searching laptops at the border, even without probable cause. Yet, at the very same time that it was staunchly defending the policy and refusing to testify in front of Congress over it, it was also issuing a report warning international travelers not to take laptops, since foreign governments often search them. You see, when foreign governments do it, it's evil espionage. But when we do it, it's for our own security:
"Foreign governments routinely target the computers and other electronic devices and media carried by U.S. corporate and government personnel traveling abroad to gather economic, military, and political information."
Either way, it looks like DHS's own freedom to search laptops without probable cause may soon get curtailed. The Senate has been making noise for a while about introducing a bill to reign in the laptop searches, and Rep. Loretta Sanchez introduced some legislation in the House last week that would establish clear rules, compared to the anything goes policy currently in existence. Kind of sad that we need special legislation to make it clear that the 4th Amendment should apply at the border, but such is life these days.

Filed Under: 4th amendment, border, laptop searches, privacy, probable cause

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Jake, 17 Sep 2008 @ 6:04pm

    Re: Border Search Exception essential

    Can you be more specific about what constitutes a random search in this context? Are you expected to pull aside a certain minimum and maximum percentage of travellers a day, or do individual officers have complete discretion to pick as many or as few as they deem necessary?
    And I don't think it's entirely fair to compare searches for narcotics or firearms with searches for "material condoning terrorist acts" or some equally sinister-sounding new criminal offence. By all means should CBP be allowed and encouraged to require travellers carrying laptops to demonstrate that they're fully functional -pull the inner workings out of even a modern slimline model and you've got space for enough explosives to blow an airliner in half- but I would argue that arresting people for merely holding certain beliefs is a bad use for your organisation's finite and almost certainly inadequate manpower and budget. Among other things...

    Full Disclosure: I am not a citizen or resident of the United States, though the situation in my home country of Great Britain is broadly similar.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.