U.S. border agents should have the authority to search laptop computers carried by news photographers and other travelers at international border crossings without reasonable suspicion, a federal judge in Brooklyn [has ruled].
In a written decision, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman granted a government motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by civil rights attorneys that claimed the practice was unconstitutional and sought to have it halted.
Korman found that the plaintiffs hadn't shown they suffered injury that gave them standing to bring the suit. He also cited previous rulings finding that the Fourth Amendment constitutional right against unreasonable searches doesn't apply to the government's efforts to secure international borders from outside threats.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers had filed the suit on behalf of
the National Press Photographers Association, criminal defense lawyers and a
college student: Pascal Abidor, a French-American citizen whose laptop computer
was confiscated at the Canadian border.
In a statement, an ACLU attorney said the organization was considering an
"Unfortunately, these searches are part of a broader pattern of aggressive
government surveillance that collects information on too many innocent people,
under lax standards, and without adequate oversight," said the lawyer, Catherine
The decision on Tuesday took sharp aim at claims by the photographers and the
others that the searches by the U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement and
Customs and Border Protection could unmask confidential news sources or reveal
sensitive professional or personal information. Abidor alleged that an
inspection of a computer containing research he'd done abroad on the modern
history of Shiites "had an extreme chilling effect on my work, studies and
Abidor "cannot be so naive to expect that when he crosses into Syrian or
Lebanese border that the contents of his computer will be immune from searches
and seizures at the whim of those who work for Bashar al-Assad or Hassan
Nasrallah," the judge said, referring to the president of Syria and leader of
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