The Constitution Project, an organization whose stated goal is to “promote liberty” and “safeguard America’s founding charter”, released a report critical of searches without reasonable suspicion, which has become standard operating procedure by the Department of Homeland Security.
TCP notes the long held exception to the 4th amendment during border searches…
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution establishes the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” and dictates that a warrant must be substantiated by probable cause. There are few exceptions to this constitutional requirement for a warrant. One is for searches at the order or the functional equivalent of the border, where routine searches without probable cause have been permitted. Relying on this longstanding exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement, federal statutes authorize customs and immigration officials to routinely search packages, baggage, merchandise, and even travelers themselves as they cross the border into the United States.
Such border searches can be conducted pursuant to these statutes without a warrant, without probable cause, and without suspicion of wrongdoing. However, these searches increasingly have been expanded beyond the original intent of the border search exception to intercept contraband, and are now used to capture volumes of private and personal information carried across the border in computers and other electronic devices.
Having the need to search your bag for contraband or bombs is one thing but seizing and searching your laptop and other electronic devices is a vast overreach by DHS.
As ars technica recently pointed out…
The advocacy group cites figures indicating that from October 1, 2008 through June 2, 2010, more than 6,500 people had their electronic devices searched when crossing the international border. Nearly half were US citizens. And in 2009, Customs and Border Protection ran 2,204 searches of digital media, including laptops. 105 individuals were detained without authorities citing any grounds for reasonable suspicion. 115 devices were seized.
This kind of reckless disregard for the constitution and our 4th amendment rights should be challenged in the courts. It’s very disturbing that the public is willing to allow this kind of thing. What’s next? Confiscation of your laptop when boarding a plane? The citizenry is silent while TSA agents grope and fondle toddlers and children at the airport. Where does it all end? Full on fascism?
If citizens would simply stand up and say no to these things, they would end tomorrow. Until then, those of us who still care can contact our representatives and ensure they fulfill their oath of office, that is to protect the constitution, not to shred it.