US sued over border phone searches

US sued over border phone searches

Suhaib Allababidi, a USA citizen who lives in Texas and a plaintiff in the case, said in an interview that he was stopped by Customs and Border Patrol on January 21 at the Dallas airport after returning from a business trip to Dubai.

Wednesday's suit, filed against the Department of Homeland Security by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, demands stricter legal standard for device searches in border areas.

Yet because searches of cellphones and laptops raise more significant privacy concerns than searches of a traveler's luggage, regardless of whether they occur near the border, and given Riley, there is a strong argument that the searches are unconstitutional absent a showing of probable cause.

"The government can not use the border as a dragnet to search through our private data", ACLU attorney Esha Bhandari said. They contain massive amounts of sensitive and personal information, including much of our written communications, contact lists, location data, and photos and videos portraying the most intimate aspects of our relationships.

The ACLU and EFF's lawsuit, in MA district court, alleges violations of the First and Fourth Amendments on behalf of 11 plaintiffs whose electronic devices were searched as they reentered the U.S. None were subsequently accused of any wrongdoing. The warantless searches have not only taken the form of actual confiscation, but also of agents demanding the passwords for laptops and smartphones to search them on the spot.

In several cases the devices were kept for several months before being returned, according to the suit. They are republished from a number of sources, and are not produced by MintPress News. CBP officials almost doubled their number of device searches from October 2016 through March 2017, compared with that same time period during the previous year, from around 8,000 to almost 15,000.

"The effect of searches of mobile electronic devices on individual privacy and expression can hardly be overstated", the ACLU and EFF wrote in a complaint [PDF], filed in the U.S. District Court in MA.

The office of the US Customs and Border Protection did not respond to a request for comment. They're standing up for all of us, and we're standing with them.


U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents search a vehicle at the Nogales Border Station in Nogales, Ariz.

Another plaintiff, Sidd Bikkannavar, is an engineer for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

Of course, once an agent has your phone and its password, there's not a whole lot stopping him or her from tapping the Facebook icon. The phone belonged to NASA, as indicated by the JPL barcode and asset tag on the back. Consequences of failure to provide information: Collection of this information is mandatory.

Another plaintiff is Akram Shibly, an independent filmmaker who lives in upstate NY, who was crossing the US-Canada border in January when a CBP officer ordered him to hand over his phone. "When I refused, three agents used force against me", he said. One officer grabbed Akram's neck and began to choke him, while another held his arms and legs. He alleges that he suffered "great pain and fear of death".

And the story of the sick child: about two months ago, Ghassan and Nadia Alasaad were waiting to cross the United States border from Quebec while returning from a five-day family vacation. Their 11-year-old daughter had fallen ill and was running a high fever, they said. This is something that the acting head of the border agency, Kevin McAleenan, has specifically assured Congress does fit into border agents' jurisdiction. After six hours in detention, the Alasaads gave up and abandoned their phones.

Another plaintiff, Diane Maye, 38, of Orange City, Fla., was stopped on June 25 when she returned at the Miami airport from her vacation in Norway.

According to the institute, Homeland Security has started handing over some documents, but they remain heavily redacted and it is considering challenging the extent of those redactions. "As I sat in the interrogation room, I felt humiliated and violated". "I have banking information, text messages, photographs", said Maye, who was released with her computer and cellphone in hand. "This is my life and a border agent held it in the palm of his hand".

"I joined this lawsuit so other people don't have to have to go through what happened to me", Shibly said in a statement through his attorneys.

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