First Amendment Institute Sues Government Over Records Related To Border Device Searches

from the we'd-just-like-to-know-wtf-is-going-on dept

Columbia University's Knight First Amendment Institute wants to know why device searches at the border have skyrocketed since the beginning of this year. As was reported earlier this month, the number of devices searched in February 2017 equals the total searched in all of 2015. Even last year's jump from 5,000 to 25,000 searches looks miniscule in comparison. Border device searches are on track to more than double last year's numbers. (h/t The Intercept)

The Knight First Amendment Institute filed FOIA requests with the DHS, ICE, and CBP for "statistical, policy, and assessment records" related to the steep increase in device searches. It's also looking for any legal interpretations the agencies might have on hand that explain their take on the Supreme Court's Riley decision, which instituted a warrant requirement for cell phone searches.

It asked for expedited handling given the significant public interest in all things immigration and border-related, which has climbed along with the device searches thanks to several presidential directives, some of which are being challenged in court.

As the lawsuit [PDF] notes, the public definitely should be apprised of the policies and procedures governing border device searches. If there's been an increase in searches, the public should be made aware of why this is happening, as well as their rights and remedies when it comes to entering or leaving the United States. The suit also points out that several recent reports suggest devices have been taken by government agents by force, or "consent" obtained through threats of further detention and/or violence.

Naturally, the FOIA requests have been greeted with non-responses and indifference by these agencies, which has prompted the Institute's FOIA lawsuit. The FOIA requesters seek the court's assistance in pushing the agencies into quicker responses. To date, it's received nothing but acknowledgements. There have been no estimates of time needed to fulfill the requests or any indication the agencies have even begun searching for responsive documents.

Of course, this immediate lawsuit strategy could backfire. The government has been pushing back against FOIA requesters' lawsuits filed shortly after the statutory response period has expired. It claims these immediate lawsuits are nothing more than certain requesters hoping to push their requests to the front of the line, rather than allow theirs to be ignored/mishandled/stonewalled in the order it was received. Of course, the government's arguments would be more sympathetic if multiple federal agencies didn't repeatedly engage in these tactics and do whatever they can to keep requested documents out of requesters' hands.


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  • identicon
    @blamer on twitter, 31 Mar 2017 @ 1:24pm

    "ignored/mishandled/stonewalled in the order it was received" -- hahahaha brilliant!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2017 @ 1:25pm

    FOIA requests

    Just thinking that FOIA should have been called FFIA. Freedom From Information.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2017 @ 1:43pm

    i have passed out...

    from holding my breath!

    This is going nowhere. As long as we keep electing clintons, bushes, obamas, and trumps that is!

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

  • identicon
    My_Name_Here, 31 Mar 2017 @ 1:49pm

    Really?

    "significant public interest"

    I haven't really seen this at all. There are a number of articles written but they all seem to be pretty much level headed and thoughtful, no outrage or huge public demand for change.

    "As was reported earlier this month, the number of devices searched in February 2017 equals the total searched in all of 2015."

    From a USA Today article:

    "The examination of peoples' private smartphone contents without any reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing is growing. Customs data show that 4,700 devices were searched in 2015 compared with 23,800 the next year. There were 2,300 searched in February, the first full month of the Trump administration."

    So 2300 equals 4700? Nice! 23800 searches in a year is just short of 2000 a month average, so the increase to 2300 in February is about 12%. It seems like the huge increase occurred in 2016, and not since Trump was elected.

    Don't let the facts hit you in the ass.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2017 @ 1:51pm

    Our rights are only protected by ourselves

    Each time we allow our rights to be violated, we are only making it worse for our children.

    Inalienable doesn't mean your right cease to exist when crossing borders or while within x number of miles of an airport. Our rights are unchangeable and those violating them honestly need to be killed by the military.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2017 @ 2:16pm

      Re: Our rights are only protected by ourselves

      Our rights are unchangeable

      I agree

      and those violating them honestly need to be killed by the military.

      A little extreme, and I wouldn't use the military. That's how you get a military junta. President Nixon said "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice." I disagree with that. Extremism is extremism and it's almost always a vice. Besides, I'm not confident what Mr. Nixon thought of as liberty means the same thing I think it means.

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

      • icon
        Ben (profile), 31 Mar 2017 @ 2:44pm

        Re: Re: Our rights are only protected by ourselves

        President Nixon said "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice."

        That was spoken by Barry Goldwater in his 1964 Republican nomination acceptance speech. The full quote was:

        I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!

        But I do agree that extremism is extremism, and should be avoided.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2017 @ 2:51pm

          Re: Re: Re: Our rights are only protected by ourselves

          You just contradicted yourself.

          the #1 job of government is to protect liberty. it has switched sides and has become the # assaulter of liberty.

          Why are they not the extremists, but anyone willing to go to liberty's defense the extremist? When government takes your liberty they literally do so at the end of a loaded gun. Citizens are under constant threat of violence or death by government officials saying do what I tell you or else! There is no way to remove some of this threat by nature of having a government, but there is every bit a reason to avoid escalating tensions with citizens to avoid reminding them of this every time you come face to face with them.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2017 @ 8:26pm

          Re: Re: Re: Our rights are only protected by ourselves

          Ben,

          Thank you very much for correcting my erroneous attribution. I was wrong in my recollection.

          I apologize for my error.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2017 @ 2:45pm

        Re: Re: Our rights are only protected by ourselves

        This is what the 2nd is for.

        It describes that citizens should not have their liberty to keep and bear arms so that a Militia can be assembled to fight all enemies foreign or domestic.

        So it should be the Militia, not the Military that makes threats of repercussions if leaders make attempts to remove liberty.

        As per the Declaration of Independence that governments are instituted to protect liberty. Now that the government is the leading/primary force behind the assault on liberty we have a serious problem building up on our hands. If we cannot find a peaceful way to stop it, blood is the results, or rather we are already seeing blood, just a whole lot more of it.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2017 @ 3:30pm

      Re: Our rights are only protected by ourselves

      You must not be familiar with the posse comatitus act.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2017 @ 3:52pm

        Re: Re: Our rights are only protected by ourselves

        Every law and act is null and void now that the government has stopped protecting our rights. Its a two way contract that is now broken. Its our military and is made up of the most patriotic people.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2017 @ 3:56pm

          Re: Re: Re: Our rights are only protected by ourselves

          And they are so patriotic they know their place better then you apparently.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2017 @ 8:40pm

          Re: Re: Re: Our rights are only protected by ourselves

          Every law and act is null and void now that the government has stopped protecting our rights. Its a two way contract that is now broken. Its our military and is made up of the most patriotic people.

          You may wish to regulate yourself in view of 18 U.S.C. ยง 2385. If you are a active member of the US Armed forces, it is also a violation of the UCMJ and is classified as treason against the United States.

          I acknowledge your passion for the issue. The system is broken, but I do not perceive that it is yet so totally broken that addressing our grievances through our representatives, our courts, or discussion is futile. Violence is not an absolute necessity.

          Yet.

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


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