Goodbye, Fourth Amendment!
It came out a couple of weeks ago: the executive summary of a report issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) called, "Civil Rights/Civil Liberties Impact Assessment: Border Searches of Electronic Devices."
Basically, the DHS was charged with the responsibility of determining whether or not its policy of seizing laptops and cell phones from travelers is a violation of both civil and constitutional rights.
Any moderately-educated American could answer that question quite simply — but no, we had to spend a few more tax dollars for the government to figure that one out. And you'll never guess what the DHS concluded...
According to the new gatekeepers of our liberty, the Department of Homeland Security's search policy does not violate both the First and Fourth Amendments.
That's right. These guys believe that allowing government agents to search the contents of your laptop, cell phone, and other electronic devices — without reasonable suspicion of any wrongdoing — is both completely acceptable and legal.
Not So Fast...
According to attorney Katie Haas, for more than four years now it has been the official policy of the DHS that Immigration & Customs Enforcement and Customs & Border Protection (the two agencies that monitor the border), can look at information on citizens' laptops, cell phones, hard drives, and other devices, and sometimes keep the information or share it with others — even when there is no suspicion that the device contains evidence of wrongdoing.
Haas writes that the DHS has essentially adopted a policy of peering into anyone's data, at any time, for any reason.
And through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed back in 2010, it has been discovered that between October 2008 and June 2010, about 3,000 U.S. citizens traveling to and from the United States have had their electronic devices searched at the border.
That particular FOIA request also found that between July 2008 and June 2009, border agents transferred data found on travelers' electronic devices to other federal agencies over 280 times.