DHS: Needing “Reasonable Suspicion” Operationally Harmful to Search and Seizure of Electronics

Since 2009 the Department of Homeland Security has allowed your electronic devices to be seized and/or searched if you are traveling near or across our borders – a “suspicionless search-and-seizure policy.” Taxpayers paid for a “Civil Liberties Impact” study, which found that requiring authorities to have “reasonable suspicion” of your device was unreasonable. In otherwords, nothing has changed, even after considering the Fourth and First Amendments.

DHS Electronic Device Seizure

DHS Electronic Device Seizure

“We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits,” the executive summarysaid.

The memo highlights the friction between today’s reality that electronic devices have become virtual extensions of ourselves housing everything from e-mail to instant-message chats to photos and our papers and effects — juxtaposed against the government’s stated quest for national security.

The President George W. Bush administration first announced the suspicionless, electronics search rules in 2008. The President Barack Obama administration followed up with virtually the same rules a year later. Between 2008 and 2010, 6,500 persons had their electronic devices searched along the U.S. border, according to DHS data.

According to legal precedent, the Fourth Amendment — the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures — does not apply along the border. By the way, the government contends the Fourth-Amendment-Free Zone stretches 100 miles inland from the nation’s actual border. Source: Wired

The Fourth Amendment:

The Fourth Amendment – Search and Seizure:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The DHS Executive Summary addresses The Fourth Amendment:

We conclude that CBP’s and ICE’s current border search policies comply with the Fourth Amendment. We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device woud be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits.

The DHS Executive Summary addresses The First Amendment:

Some critics argue that a heightened level of suspicion should be required before officers search laptop computers in order to avoid chilling First Amendment rights. However, we conclude that the laptop border searches allowed under the ICE and CBP Directives do not violate travelers’ First Amendment rights.

The DHS addresses racism in the Summary, which means your electronic devices will be “seized,” but “theirs” …probably not.

So there you are…they “conclude” and our Constitutional rights are unprotected and unreasonable. No information on what period of time your electronic device may remain “seized.” Graphic Courtesy of Liberty Beacon

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  • http://www.ldjackson.net/ LD Jackson

    Don’t you just love it? They did a study to reach the conclusion to conclude that our rights are unreasonable. And we paid the bill for the study.

    • http://maggiesnotebook.com Maggie

      LD Jackson, yeah. It’s like “deeming” only the Rule of Law is dumped by “concluding.” We are nuts to let them get away with this, but when the ballot box no longer matters…