document

Government Data About Searches of International Travelers' Laptops and Personal Electronic Devices

Document Date: August 25, 2010

In response to the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking documents about the government’s policy of searching travelers’ laptops and cell phones at U.S. border crossings without suspicion of wrongdoing, the government has released thousands of pages of documents about the policy. The records reveal new information about how many devices have been searched, what happens to travelers’ files once they are in the government’s possession, and travelers’ complaints about how they are treated by border officials.

The ACLU’s analysis of the documents reveals:

  • Between October 2008 and June 2010, over 6,500 people traveling to and from the United States had their electronic devices searched at the border. Nearly half of these people were U.S. citizens.
  • The devices the government searched included laptops, cell phones, cameras, hard drives, flash drives, and even DVDs.
  • Between October 2008 and June 2009, cell phones were the most commonly searched electronic devices, followed by laptops and digital cameras.
  • Between July 2008 and June 2009, border agents transferred data found on travelers’ electronic devices to other federal agencies over 280 times. Half of the time, these unnamed agencies asserted an independent basis for retaining or seizing the data.

Below is an index with links to the documents received by the ACLU in response to our Laptop Search FOIA request.

Those interested in analyzing the data themselves may find these spreadsheets useful.

Customs and Border Protection Documents

Bates Stamp Range
Subject/Title
Description

000000
Travelers Subjected to Electronic Media Searches, 10/01/08 to 06/02/10
A series of charts breaking down the number of people subjected to electronic media searches at the border between 10/01/08 and 06/02/10 by gender, race, and nationality.

000001-000010
CBP Directive: Border Search of Devices Containing Information
Aug. 20, 2009 directive detailing CBP procedures for laptop search and seizure at the border

000011-000012
Inspection of Electronic Devices
Fact sheet given to travellers whose electronic devices have been detained

000013-000063
Privacy Impact Assessment for the Border Searches of Electronic Devices
Aug. 25, 2009 analysis of privacy issues arising from border searches

000064-000068
Memo re: Border Search/Examination of Documents, Papers, and Electronic Information
July 5, 2007 memo from Assistant Commissioner of Office of Field Operations to directors of same office containing strategies for “examining, copying, and disseminating” info gathered in searches

000069
Document and Electronic Media Transmittal Record
Form to be filled out in the case of a detention and search

000070-000073
Weekly Musters, 2007-07 & 2007-11
Two memos re: Operational Guidance for Border Search/Examination of Documents, Papers, and Electronic Information

000074-000075
Redacted email
Email dated Feb. 27, 2008, virtually all other info redacted

000076-000085
CBP Detroit: Border Search/Examination of Documents, Papers, and Electronic Information [REDACTED] Standard Operating Procedures
Oct. 24, 2007 document outlining guidelines for border searches

000086-000090
Emails regarding CBP search policies
Two redacted email exchanges, one from Feb. 2008 and the other from July 2007, between CBP employees regarding detention and copying of electronic info

000091-000094
CBP Port of Anchorage Standard Operating Procedure: Data Image Searches
SOP issued May 17, 2007, regarding data image searches

000095-000100
Port of Buffalo: Reference Request #2(a)(b)
Email dated July 11, 2007 and attached document, both redacted, re: Examining and Copying Documents

000101-000107
CBP Miami Service Port Standard Operating Procedures
SOP re: Operational Guidance for Border Search/Examination of Documents, Papers, and Electronic Information

000108-000109
Weekly Muster 2007-11
Memo re: Operational Guidance for Border Search/Examination of Documents, Papers, and Electronic Information (see 000072)

000110
Document and Electronic Media Transmittal Record
Form to be filled out in the case of a detention and search (see 000069)

000111-000112
Weekly Muster 2007-07
Memo re: Operational Guidance for Border Search/Examination of Documents, Papers, and Electronic Information (see 000070)

000113-000116
CBP San Juan Field Office: Inspection of Portable Hard Drives
Jan. 23, 2008 memo with interim guidelines attached

000117-000124
Emails regarding San Francisco lawsuit filed against CBP
Emails between CBP employees dated from Nov. 2007 to March 2008 and attached newspaper article regarding San Francisco lawsuit

000125-000130
Muster 2008-09 Revised: Ensuring Proper Documentation of the Border Search of Information
Revised guidelines for documenting border searches

000131-000132
Memo re: Clarification to Ensure Proper Documentation of Border Search Information (BSI) in TECS Applications
Dec. 11, 2008 memo from Executive Director of Office of Field Operations clarifying BSI data entry procedures

000133-000134
Memo re: New Policy regarding Border Search/Examination of Documents, Papers, and Electronic Information
July 18, 2008 memo from Assistant Commissioner of Office of Field Operations outlining new search policy

000135-000139
CBP Policy Regarding Border Search of Information
Border search policy enacted July 16, 2008

000140-000145
Muster 2008-09: Ensuring Proper Documentation of the Border Search of Information
Original version of 000125; guidelines for documenting border searches

000146-000572
Document and Electronic Device Information Control Records/Document and Electronic Media Transmittal Records
Over 400 filled-out records regarding transfers of information from CBP to third-party agencies; heavily redacted

000573-000679
CBP Electronic Media Reports
Several reports spanning from Oct. 2008 to June 2009, detailing searches of electronic devices; heavily redacted.

000680-000863
Correspondence between CBP and concerned citizens/officials
Several emails and letters between CBP and citizens/public officials concerned with the search policy’s constitutionality and legitimacy

000864-000871
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Directive
Directive, issued 12/11/08, outlining the CBP Self Inspection Program (SIP)

000872-000874
Self Inspection Questions, Citations, and Guidance
Outlines questions that port directors must answer in Self Inspection Worksheets, and provides guidelines for completeing these worksheets.

000875-002470
Self Inspection Worksheets
Hundreds of completed worksheets and supporting documents. Most records seem to include several sheets: Self Inspection Guidance; Self Inspection Citations; Certification Statement; Approval Statement; Self-Inspection Worksheet; Self Inspection Researcher List; and Self Inspection Worksheet Audit Trail.

002471-002477
Self Inspection Reporting Results
Charts summarizing the “approved” Self Inspection Worksheets submitted between July 2008 and June 2009.

002478-003618
Custody Receipts for Seized Property and Evidence
Hundreds of completed records describing seized property. NOTE: Digital version is not in order by Bates number.

003619-003620
Memo re: [Redacted] for Child Pornography
Partially redacted memo from Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations, providing operational guidance on electronic searches

003621-003622
Muster 2009-10, Topic: [Redacted] for Child Pornography
Seems to be same text as memo above

003623-003626
Laptop Search Policies and Procedures, Briefing for the ART
Sparse pamphlet including laptop search stats and bullet points on the search policy

003627-003629
Laptop Searches/Border Search of Information
Flyer that includes laptop search stats, an overview and history of the search policy, and challenges the policy faces

003630-003800
Standard Operating Procedures re: Border Searches of Information
Several SOPs detailing all aspects of the BSI policies (such as documentation, detention, transfer, copies); many of these documents seem to repeat in some capacity

003801-003950
Electronic Media Detention Reports
Summaries of detained electronic media; each report includes a “Current Electronic Media Detentions by Detaining Agency” chart and a “Resolved Media Detentions by Detaining Agency” chart (with agencies redacted).

003951-004140
Media Detention Narratives
More extensive but redacted accounts of media detentions.

004141-004213
Electronic Media Reports (Examinations/Detentions and Seizures)
Same as the Electronic Media Reports from the first production; fill in the date gaps

004214-004231
Memos regarding concerns about search policy
Several emails, many heavily redacted. Those that are readable seem to be from concerned individuals who have some sort of prior connection with the CBP employee they are emailing.

004232-004233
Laptop Inspections Legal, Rare, Essential
A press release from Jayson Ahern, Deputy Commissioner of CBP, clearing up “misinformation” about the search policy.

004446-005651
Border search/detention records
Hundreds of records which seem to contain limited information about media searches and seizures at the border. Much of the information is in code or redacted. Some records include incident summaries.

Department of Homeland Security Documents

Bates Stamp Range
Subject/Title
Description

DHS000001-DHS000005
Policy Regarding Border Search of Information
July 16, 2008 CBP policy guide

DHS000006-DHS000015
Subject: Border Search of Electronic Devices Containing Information
August 20, 2009 CBP directive outlining the electronic device border search policy

DHS000016-DHS000025
Directive Title: Border Searches of Electronic Devices
August 18, 2009 ICE directive outlining electronic device border search policy

DHS000026-DHS000076
Privacy Impact Assessment for the Border Searches of Electronic Devices
August 25, 2009 PIA addressing the privacy concerns raised by the CBP and ICE border search policies.

DHS000077-DHS000085
Hearing Before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security: US Customs and Border Patrol- Questions for the Record
[Partially Redacted] Hearing on Border Security: Challenges and Priorities of the CBP – questions and response, date: 3/6/08

DHS000086-DHS000100
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Public Affairs Guidance: Border Search Policy
Background, talking points, external/internal question and answer – detailed justification for laptop search, last modified: 10/23/08

DHS000101-DHS000105
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Memorandum for: Directors, Field Operations Office of Field Operations
Subject: [Redacted] Border Search/Examination of Documents, Papers, and Electronic Information – outlined Three Phase Strategy, date: 7/5/07

DHS000106
Department of Homeland Security: U.S. Customs and Border Protection – Document and Electronic Media Transmittal Record
Addendum to the Dentention Notice and Chain of Custody Receipt – example document of traveler information detention

DHS000107-DHS000108
Weekly Muster 2007-07, Topic: Operational Guidance for Border Search/Examination of Documents, Papers, and Electronic Information
[Redacted] Guidance relating to initial review, copying, transmitting, and retaining of documents, week of muster: upon receipt

DHS000109
Customs and Border Protection, Field Operations Program Analysis and Measures: Weekly Electronic Media Report
Data table of total media action (electronic media searches, detentions, and seizures), date: 4/29/09-5/5/09

DHS000110-DHS000113
Success Stories from Electronic Media Searches
Examples of successful search predicated upon searches of electronic media at the border (child pornography, financial, national security)

DHS000114-DHS000115
U.S. Department of Homeland Security: Letter from Janet Napolitano to Senator Russell D. Feingold
Letter responds to the Senator with an explanation of the atuthority of the CBP to conduct border searches under Federal Law and addresses his concerns of profiling, date: 10/9/09

DHS000116-DHS000126
U.S. Department of Homeland Security: Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Third Quarterly Report
Outline of CRCL mission, summary of complaint investigations/solutions/ongoing issues, CRCL programs, equal employment opportunity, period covered: 4/1/08-6/30/08

DHS000127-DHS000144
Homeland Security Laptop Search Policy and Procedures: Briefing for the ART
[Redacted] Key points, court cases, statistics, international threats, date: 12/8/08

DHS000145-DHS000152
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Public Affairs Guidance: Border Search Policy
Background, talking points, question and answer, last modified: 9/30/08

DHS000153-DHS000156
Border Searches of Electronic Devices
Detail of cases: child pornography, financial, national security

DHS000157-DHS000158
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Memorandum for: Directors, Field Operations Director, Pre-Clearance Office of Field Operations
Subject: New Policy regarding Border Search/Examination of Documents, Papers, and Electronic Information – legal and policy guidelines, date: 7/18/08

DHS000159-DHS000163
U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Policy Regarding Border Search of Information
Sets forth the legal and policy guidelines within which officers may serach, review, retain, and share information, date: 7/16/08

DHS000164-DHS000169
Weekly Muster 2008-09, Topic: Ensuring Proper Documentation of the Border Search of Information
[Partially Redacted] explanation of new policy procedures (as of 7/16/08) for legally searching, reviewing, retaining and sharing information, week of muster: upon receipt

DHS000170-DHS000179
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE Policy System
Directive Title: Border Searches of Documents and Electronic Media – summary of policy changes, issue date: 7/16/08

DHS000180-DHS000181
Note for Assistant Secretary Myers
Subject: [Partially Redacted] Suspicious Files Located During Media Exploitation in Furtherance of a Border Search – issue report and background, date: 1/30/08

DHS000182-DHS000183
Note for Assistant Secretary Myers
Subject: [Partially Redacted] Suspicious Files Located During Media Exploitation in Furtherance of a Border Search – issue report and background, date: 7/19/08

DHS000239-DHS000388
Emails regarding border search policy
Set of multiple email conversations between DHS employees discussing talking points and statistics as well as the policy itself

DHS000493-DHS000544
Appendices B, C, & D
Appendix B outlines the border search policy, Appendix C is a directive titled “Border Searches of Documents and Electronic Media,” and Appendix D is a list of laws and regulations enforced by CBP. It is unclear to what these documents were originally appended.

DHS000546-DHS000547
Border Search of Documents and Electronic Devices by DHS – Talking Points
DHS talking points regarding the border search policy

DHS000548-DHS000557
GC Confirmation Issue: Border Search of Laptop Computers
Memo discussing the search policy and outlining talking points and FAQs.

DHS000691-DHS000692
Field Guidance on Handling Detained or Seized Electronic Media from Persons of National Security Interest at Ports of Entry
March 15, 2007 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo

DHS000693-DHS000694
Field Guidance Regarding Border Searches of Electronic Media
April 16, 2009 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo

DHS000695-DHS000696
Emails re: Ninth Circuit Decision Upholding Suspicionless Searches of Laptops
May 2008 email exchange and blurb discussing a Ninth Circuit decision

DHS000697-DHS000705
Ahern Testimony
Email with June 25, 2008 testimony of Jayson Ahern, Deputy Commissioner of CBP at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Laptop Searches and Other Violations of Privacy Faced by Americans Returning from Overseas Travel”

DHS000706-DHS000707
Email re: Laptop Searches
Email with attached list of laptop searches talking points

DHS000708-DHS000710
CBP Laptop Searches Op-Ed
Email with attached Op-Ed defending laptop searches

DHS000711-DHS000716
Policy Regarding Border Search of Information
Email with attached border search guidelines issued July 16, 2008

DHS000717-DHS000738
Border Searches of Document and Electronic Media
Two different emails with seemingly-same attached directive, issued July 16, 2008, outlining border search guidelines

DHS000739
Use of Border Search Authority for Documents and Electronic Media
July 18. 2008 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo

DHS000740-DHS000741
Talking Points
Feb. 22, 2008 email with draft of talking points about laptop searches

DHS000742-DHS000745
Procedures for Examining Documents and Papers
Feb. 4, 2000 directive providing guidelines for document searches

DHS000768-DHS000777
CBP signage
A series of what appear to be signs that might be posted at CBP checkpoints, warning travelers about various policies

DHS000789-DHS000790
Border Search/Examination of Documents, Papers and Electronic Information
July 5, 2007 CBP memo

DHS000791-DHS000793
Interim Procedures for Border Search/Examination of Documents, Papers, and Electronic Information
CBP operational guidance (undated)

DHS000794
Document and Media Transmittal Record
CBP form to be filled out when seized media is transferred to another agency (same as first production)

DHS000795-DHS000796
Weekly Muster 2007-07
Topic: Operational Guidance for Border Search/ Examination of Documents, Papers, and Electronic Information

DHS000828-DHS000829
Untitled email
Feb. 22, 2008 email with CBP talking points about laptop searches

DHS000846-DHS000855
CBP signage
A series of what appear to be signs that might be posted at CBP checkpoints, warning travelers about various policies (see DHS000768-777)

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