Senators Oppose Laptop Border Searches

Call for policy change

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The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) have the power to search, copy contents or seize laptops or mobile devices when travelers re-enter the U.S.

U.S. Senators Russell Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, and Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, are calling on the CBP to amend its policy that allows frequent searches of laptops, digital cameras and mobile devices at the borders.

"If you asked most Americans whether the government has the right to look through their luggage for contraband when they are returning from an overseas trip, they would tell you yes, the government has that right," said Feingold, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights.

"But if you asked them whether the government has a right to open their laptops, read their documents and e-mails, look at their photographs, and examine the websites they have visited, all without any suspicion of wrongdoing, I think those same Americans would say that the government absolutely has no right to do that."

Courts have been consistent in their rulings that there’s no need for warrants when a person is entering the country and that agents can search possessions including laptops for any reason.

The U.S. 9th Circuit court of Appeals ruled in April that agents had acted properly in turning over information used to charge a traveler with possession of child pornography. His laptop had been searched in 2005 at the Los Angeles International Airport.

The CBP said in a statement,"Laptop computers and other personal electronic devices may be detained for violations of law including child pornography, intellectual property offenses, ties to terrorism, or other violations of law. CBP officers are dedicated to protecting the civil rights of all travelers. It is not CBP’s intent to subject legitimate business travelers to undue scrutiny, but to ensure the safety of the American public."


Senators Oppose Laptop Border Searches
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  • Guest

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  • Guest

    U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents have far too much power and unquestioned authority. It is one thing to search luggage for dangerous items but way beyond the scope of protecting the country when they start searching laptop computers. They should spend more time looking for real terrorists rather than conducting their own reign of terror over people who are returning to or visiting the U.S. for the first time. We are rapidly turning into a dictator state and losing what little positive image we have left abroad through our poor treatment of visitors and returning citizens to the United States who have to first deal with the gestapos of the CBP before entering our country. Kudos to these Senators for doing something about it.

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