skip to main content

Listen

Read

Watch

Schedules

Programs

Events

Give

Account

Donation Heart Ribbon

How Crossing the Border Can Get Your Laptop Confiscated

A report by The New York Times sheds light on how the United States government has routinely confiscated and searched the computers and electronic devices of people entering the U.S., even without a search warrant.

CBP

Commercial vehicles wait in line to enter the United States at Otay Mesa near San Diego, Calif.

Specifically, the government relies on a so-called “border exception” to the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure.

The border exception, which has been upheld by courts, allows U.S. customs officers to conduct electronic-device searches that might otherwise require a warrant, as long as they have reasonable suspicion that a person entering the U.S. at a border crossing or other port of entry has committed a crime.

From the Times story, which cited newly released government documents:

To critics, the documents show how the government can avert Americans’ constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure, but the confiscations have largely been allowed by courts as a tool to battle illegal activities like drug smuggling, child pornography and terrorism.

In March, the Fronteras Desk reported on a case in which a federal court affirmed the border exception's constitutionality, but also said the government's leeway to confiscate and search people's electronic devices at ports of entry went only so far.

As we wrote at the time, in tempering the government's authority:

Judge M. Margaret McKeown, writing for the majority, said that in the digital age, computers contain the most intimate details of people's lives, including financial and medical records and private emails.

"A person's digital life ought not be hijacked simply by crossing a border," she wrote.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | September 10, 2013 at 9:46 p.m. ― 1 year ago

".......as long as they have reasonable suspicion that a person entering the U.S. at a border crossing or other port of entry has committed a crime."

Aw, "reasonable suspicion".

Like what?

They don't like the way you look?

This is just one more example of the un-free United States of prisons, warrantless spying, and hysteria-based overreach.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | September 11, 2013 at 8:08 a.m. ― 1 year ago

and in the process if they ruin your computer, too bad for you.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | September 11, 2013 at 9:05 a.m. ― 1 year ago

This is an old story. 2012 I think. I forwarded it to my then congressman.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'thompsonrichard'

thompsonrichard | September 11, 2013 at 10:19 a.m. ― 1 year ago

The entire San Diego Congressional delegation voted to increase the NSA budget.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | September 11, 2013 at 11:17 p.m. ― 1 year ago

When was this?

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | September 16, 2013 at 9:24 p.m. ― 1 year ago

Does not sound like a big deal. Have any of you had a laptop or computer confiscated or searched? I cross the border several times a year and never had a single issue. But then again i could care leas if they want to see whats in my computer. Pictures of my family, surf reports, and work docs. Thick skin is in short supply these days.

( | suggest removal )