A computer expert and vocal supporter of Pfc. Bradley Manning has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government over the seizure of his laptop and other electronic equipment by federal agents.
David House, 23, was returning to the U.S. on Nov. 23, 2010, after a vacation to Mexico, when all of his electronics were seized by agents acting without a warrant.
He claimed they questioned him for hours about Manning and WikiLeaks, then refused to return his equipment. He also claimed to have a large software coding project saved to the computer’s hard drive which agents never returned to him.
The lawsuit was filed Friday with a federal court in Boston on behalf of David House, an MIT researcher who co-founded The Bradley Manning Support Network. He’s being represented by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
“I feel like the American government has made me the target of intrusive and intimidating tactics simply because I joined a lawful group in order to stand up for what I believe is right,” House said in an advisory issued by the ACLU. “The search and seizure of my laptop has had a chilling effect on the activities of the Bradley Manning Support Network, by silencing once-outspoken supporters and causing donors to retreat.”
The lawsuit alleges that House was targeted for seizure and harassment based solely upon his affiliation with Manning. It names Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, U.S. Customs and Border Commissioner Alan Bersin and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John T. Morton as its principle targets.
Attorneys with the ACLU see the case as a major challenge to the government’s practice of seizing electronic information without warrants at the nation’s border crossings.
“In this increasingly globalized age, the cost of traveling internationally should not include submitting to boundless searches of the personal, private information we all keep on our laptops and cell phones,” ACLU attorney Catherine Crump said in the group’s release.
“Allowing government officials to look through Americans’ most personal materials without reasonable suspicion is unconstitutional, inconsistent with American values and a waste of limited resources.”