DHS continues to target traveling journalists for illegal searches
A new report by Seth Harp in The Intercept confirms that, despite by ongoing litigation challenging warrantless, suspicionless searches of travelers’ electronic devices, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) division of the DHS is continuing to target journalists for these illegal searches and for interrogation about their journalistic travel and other activities.
Mr. Harp’s experience shows yet again why the lawsuit brought in Federal District Court in Boston by the ACLU, ACLU of Massachusetts, and EFF is so important. CBP officials have admitted in deposition testimony and documents produced in response to the lawsuit that they use — and claim the authority to use — warrantless searches at borders and international airports to search travelers’ electronic devices (smartphone, laptops, memory sticks, etc.) for “general law enforcement purposes” unrelated to customs or immigration laws, for pre-crime predictions (“risk assessments”), and on behalf of other government agencies including state and local police, the IRS, etc.
Several of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are journalists who have been subjected to warrantless searches of their electronic devices when they traveled internationally.
As of now, the court is considering the plaintiffs’ motion for a finding that searches of electronic devices at international borders or airports require a warrant approved by a judge and based on probable cause for suspicion of a crime. But CBP has made clear that will continue its suspicionless searches unless and until it is ordered to stop.