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Friday, July 8, 2011

Judge will hear challenge to laptop border searches

From CNET News:
A federal judge will hear arguments today in a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's claim that it can search travelers' laptops, cell phones and other electronic devices at the border and seize them indefinitely.

Civil liberties groups filed the suit last September, which challenges the Department of Homeland Security's policies on constitutional grounds and asks a federal district court in New York City to bar the agency from continuing its current practices.

In August 2009, Homeland Security announced that it would continue a Bush administration policy that allows laptops and electronic gear to be seized and held indefinitely even if there is no evidence of illegal activities. The complete contents of a hard drive or memory card can be shared with other government agencies and perused at length for evidence of lawbreaking.

Courts have generally upheld the ability of border agents to conduct searches, even relatively invasive ones. This legal challenge effectively says that the changes in technology -- mobile phones and PDAs are growing smaller and more capable and can carry the equivalent of entire libraries and filing cabinets of data -- require judges to craft a new rule limiting the scope of border searches that have become more invasive.

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