by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
border search, homeland security, laptops


ACLU Looking To Challenge Homeland Security On Border Laptop Searches

from the gotta-find-someone-first... dept

Slashdot points us to the news that the ACLU is looking to challenge Homeland Security's policies that it has pretty free reign in searching your laptop at the border. Now, to date, the courts have said that this is perfectly legal, so it's not clear what is "new" that the ACLU hopes to prove. However, last year, after revealing that the new administration still stood by these border computer searches, it also revealed some data on laptop searches, suggesting they are quite rare -- but do still happen. However, the ACLU is seeking people whose laptops were searched, but that looks like a pretty small number of people. While I agree that these searches seem quite questionable for a variety of reasons, I just don't see this lawsuit being effective.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Overcast (profile), Jan 15th, 2010 @ 1:10am

    As anyone who's really up to something - would clearly know this takes place... what's it going to stop?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Chris in Utah (profile), Jan 15th, 2010 @ 1:49am

    Wrong group

    ACLU is not the one who should be questioning the legality. It needs to be the American Tax Payer. Like Overcast said what exactly is the point. Wasted time = wasted tax payer dollars.

    Dump it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2010 @ 5:20am

    Re: Wrong group

    Yup. Leaving aside the liberty/privacy concerns, there's no way around the fact that it's just not going to produce any useful information that can't be obtained in other, better ways.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Zac Morris (profile), Jan 15th, 2010 @ 5:45am

    Question regarding encryption

    Does anyone know the legal points of how encryption effects this policy?

    Are you required to actually login to your OS [for OS level encryption], or into any addon-encrypted repositories stored on the device?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Sajjon, Jan 15th, 2010 @ 6:09am

    Re: Encryption

    If it doesn't exist (hidden encrypted files), then its not subject to being searched. Plenty of free utilities to hide your naughty bits. Problem solved, next.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    jsf (profile), Jan 15th, 2010 @ 6:59am

    IIRC they are looking for lawyers that had their laptops searched. Reason being the potential breach of lawyer client privilege I believe.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    gsn, Jan 15th, 2010 @ 9:42am

    "I just don't see this lawsuit as effective"

    Yes, much better to bend over and accept the erosion of your civil rights and the slow construction of a police state around you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2010 @ 11:37am

    The article specifically stated the ACLU was in search of lawyers whose laptops were searched, in potential violation of the attorney/client privilege. Yes they should sue. The article also said the lawsuit isn't seeking monetary damages, just a policy change.

    I'm no fan of the ACLU, but sometimes, they do the right thing. Let's just say we get another Richard Nixon in the White House, and certain journalists, legal experts, satirists and educators from inside and outside the US are analyzing, criticizing and investigating the American political situation. Someone needs to stand up to the government now, before they are granted blanket powers of search and seizure in the name of national and border security.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    flamsmark (profile), Jan 15th, 2010 @ 1:05pm

    Unclear Legal Battle

    I don't like laptop searches at the border. I use encrypted disks, so I'm not particularly worried about access to my personal information.

    Those who have privileged and confidential info on their laptops -- like the lawyers this suit seeks to represent -- should be using strong encryption as a matter of course. This is especially true when they do things which might result in someone searching their laptop: like crossing a border which has an explicit policy of doing so.

    Given the precedents, and the legal basis of that jurisprudence, it seems quite an odd case to pursue. It's not clear to me what legal argument might have even a moderate chance of success in this case. Perhaps the ACLU has an ace up their sleeve? Perhaps they know that they'll lose, but want to draw attention to the issue as a matter of public policy?

    This case looks interesting, not because it seems like an effective challenge against a draconian policy, but because I want to know just what the ACLU is planning.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Carl Hungus (profile), Jun 17th, 2010 @ 2:35am

    Re: Unclear Legal Battle

    Encryption may not protect you. See United States v. Boucher.

    Granted, Boucher was a moron, but it's not a far stretch to imagine the court granting a motion to compel you to enter your passphrase if the border guards have even a vague guess that your encrypted drive contains anything illegal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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