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"The Fat Lady Has Sung for the Fourth Amendment"

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September 9, 2009

Sacramento’s KXTV reported on our lawsuit to enforce our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records about Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) policy of searching travelers’ laptops without suspicion of wrongdoing. We want to see the criteria used for selecting passengers for suspicionless searches, the number of people who have been subject to the searches, the number of devices and documents retained and the reasons for their retention. Pretty basic stuff, we think.

KXTV’s article states:

“I don’t carry my laptop overseas anymore,” said Sacramento attorney Mark Reichel. “The fat lady has sung for the fourth amendment.”

Reichel said one client who carries sensitive business information on his laptop on international trips sends the hard drive home separately by express mail.

You could also encrypt your hard drive, as the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Project public education director, Jay Stanley, suggested last month. But whether you’re using software or express mail to get around the CBP’s invasive policy, those solutions don’t address the fact that the government is violating your Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

KXTV’s news segment features ACLU National Security Project attorney Larry Schwartztol explaining why laptop searches at the border are different from traditional searches of luggage. As Larry explains, your luggage probably doesn’t contain personal documents and files, pictures of your family and friends, all of your email correspondence or sensitive business information.

Has your laptop been searched at the border? We want to hear your story. Contact us at “nspintake [at]”

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