According to the Government, People Under Arrest Have More Rights Than Travelers at the Border

When Americans are standing on U.S. soil, we have constitutional rights. The government can’t go into your house and see what’s in your drawers or poke around in the attic. Police officers can’t take your phone and thumb through your photos without a good reason.

If you’re at the border or certain airport areas, the administration believes those protections evaporate. Without cause, government officials argue they have full authority to require Americans to unlock their phones, laptops, and other digital devices; search through our apps and files; and even copy everything on them.

Not only do they believe they have this authority in theory — these searches are happening now, and they’re becoming more common every day. The U.S. government has nearly doubled the number of searches at the border in the past year, according to new numbers released this week by Customs and Border Patrol. There are even stories of Americans being tackled when they refuse to unlock their phones at the border.

These searches are based on outdated legal interpretations created before most Americans were carrying around phones that hold nearly every detail of our lives. Looking through a person’s suitcase reveals a fraction of the information as going through his or her phone. It’s long-past time for Congress to make the law clear.

That’s why a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Senate and House introduced the Protecting Data at the Border Act last week. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) and I stood together to put commonsense limits on border searches of digital devices.

Our bill is simple. It says if agents want to search your digital devices at the border they need to get a warrant, just like law enforcement would need anywhere else in America. The bill includes an emergency exception to bypass the warrant requirement if time is a factor.

As things stand now, the government has taken the position that people who are under arrest on suspicion of committing a crime have far more rights than innocent Americans do at the border.

Second, it requires informed, written consent before the government may request and obtain assistance from a U.S. person to access data on a locked device or account, such as by disclosing their password or providing access. The bill also prohibits the government from delaying or denying entry to a U.S. person if he or she refuses to provide such assistance.

To put more sunshine on these practices, our bill also requires that the government create and publish statistics on the electronic border searches they conduct.

Our bill would bring the law at the border in line with the rules for searching Americans’ devices everywhere else. As things stand now, the government has taken the position that people who are under arrest on suspicion of committing a crime have far more rights than innocent Americans do at the border. A unanimous 2014 Supreme Court decision says police need a warrant to search the device of people who are under arrest, but despite that, border patrol continues to search innocent Americans without any suspicion.

So what’s standing in the way?

The government will say it needs this power to find criminals. But searching tens of thousands of people’s devices every year without cause is a tremendous waste of resources. The government should be focusing in on the real threats, not creating a digital dragnet for Americans returning to or leaving the United States.

The government says it doesn’t search that many Americans, although so far it has refused to provide data with exact numbers, which I asked for nearly two months ago. But we already know that this administration is considering extremely invasive social media searches for people entering the country. And Trump floated even more extreme ideas during the campaign.

So please, help us spread the word that Americans don’t have to give up our constitutional rights just because we’re at the border. Let’s make our voices heard!

The ACLU supports the Protecting Data at the Border Act.

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Anonymous

Im a senior lady- just got my first Smart Phone! Im new to FBook-Im getting messages on fb and.my email inbox from every kind or group imaginable! I dont really know how to control the influx of these messages..One message said " send us your address- will send you a fvd on how to build an assault rifle! " other horrible anti- Trump messages have ended up in my inbox! If I ever went thru customs- Id risk being shipped to a " Senior Guatanimo,!" Facebook, twitter, all social media is unpredictable and erratic: certainly not a reliable way to " vet". anyone!

Anonymous

Anthony Romero is a homo- homo. He is also a gay- gay man!!!

Anonymous

Im a gay-gay, fag-fag. Come find me. I already found you. Thanks Internet Protocols.

Gay-Gay

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Anonymous

The letter and spirit of the Fourth Amendment is very clear - it forbids fishing expeditions.

In real practice, it means if a police officer or federal agent obtained a judicial warrant searching for a rifle, they can't search the medicine cabinet or your cell phone - only areas relevant to the judicial warrant.

The Fourth Amendment has never been amended to be used as a 18th Century style "General Warrant".

Anonymous

1 Back your phone up in the cloud
2 restore your phone to factory settings
3 enter customs and allow searching
4 restore your phone afterwards

Anonymous

4 is rather "been refused to enter because agents found out you tried to prevent them to look at you private information and will find it suspicious".

Cloud Hacker

NEVER EVER, EVER, Upload anything to the "Cloud" you want to keep private. It is not secure and hacked by every government agency and professional private hack on the planet.

The Cloud, such as Apple "cloud" and what used to be Microsoft "Skydrive", are nothing more than remote ervers run by those companies, and often subcontracted. Understand when you use the cloud to store and back-up information you forfeit any privacy to that information. Your device connects via a wifi or cellular connection to the Apple or Microsoft server and all of your device data is downloaded to these remote servers and stored FOREVER!

Don't be fooled by corporates that "promise" to delete the information either, they absolutely archive this information for "legal" purposes.

Never use the cloud unless you are absolutely fine with the data being "public". Do back up your files to a local machine not connected to the internet.

Back up your device to a local private machine you own and encrypt it. Then reset your device for travel. Later restore the encrypted data. Still not the safest because they can capture the encrypted data at the border, but better than the cloud which is already publicly hacked.

BTW, super cuddos to the CIA operative that proved today no system is safe.

Anonymous

And that is exactly why searching phones is so pointless. Only really stupid terrorist groups would fail to do this...

Anonymous

1 Back your phone up in the cloud
2 restore your phone to factory settings
3 enter customs and allow searching
4 restore your phone afterwards

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