In a development that the Electronic Frontier Foundation declared “an enormous victory for privacy,” a federal judge in Boston ruled Tuesday that suspicionless searches of travelers’ phones, laptops, and other electronic devices by government agents at U.S. ports of entry are unconstitutional.
“This is a great day for travelers who now can cross the international border without fear that the government will, in the absence of any suspicion, ransack the extraordinarily sensitive information we all carry in our electronic devices,” EFF senior staff attorney Sophia Cope said in a statement.
The lawsuit, Alasaad v. McAleenan, was filed by EFF, the national ACLU, and ACLU of Massachusetts on behalf of 10 U.S. citizens and one lawful permanent resident who had their devices searched without warrants. The suit named as defendants the Department of Homeland Security and two agencies it oversees—Customs and Border Protection as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Plaintiffs in the case include Sidd Bikkannavar, an optical engineer for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory living in California; Jeremy Dupin, a journalist living in Massachusetts; and Diane Maye, a college professor and former U.S. Air Force captain living in Florida.
When the suit was filed in September 2017, Maye said that she “felt humiliated and violated” after she was detained for two hours at Miami International Airport upon her return to the United States from a vacation in Europe.
“I worried that border officers would read my email messages and texts, and look at my photos,” Maye explained. “This was my life, and a border officer held it in the palm of his hand. I joined this lawsuit because I strongly believe the government shouldn’t have the unfettered power to invade your privacy.”
Esha Bhandari, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said Tuesday that “this ruling significantly advances Fourth Amendment protections for millions of international travelers who enter the United States every year.”
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Bhandari added that “by putting an end to the government’s ability to conduct suspicionless fishing expeditions, the court reaffirms that the border is not a lawless place and that we don’t lose our privacy rights when we travel.”
Based on government data, CBP conducted more than 30,000 searches in fiscal year 2017. The privacy advocacy groups pointed out in their joint statement Tuesday that “the number of electronic device searches at U.S. ports of entry has increased significantly” in the past few years.
WATCH: Republicans throw tantrum and call Chairman Nadler a ‘dictator’ for announcing Friday vote on impeachment
Republicans freaked out on Thursday after Chairman Jerry Nadler announced that the House Judiciary Committee will be holding a Friday vote on the two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.
After 11 p.m. on Thursday, Nadler announced that the committee would resume its work and vote on impeachment on Friday.
The Chairman announced he would divide the issue and allow separate votes on each article of impeachment at 10 a.m. on Friday.
Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) freaked out over the vote being called, even though Democrats had repeatedly said through the two-day hearing that there would be a vote before members left for the weekend.
Mitch McConnell says he’s in ‘total coordination with the White House’ on Trump’s impeachment
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said clearly on Thursday what many have assumed: When articles of impeachment come over from the House of Representatives, as is expected, to his chamber, he will be acting virtually as President Donald Trump’s defense attorney.
“Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with White House counsel,” he said on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. “There will be no difference between the President’s position and our position as to how to handle this.”
He noted that, unlike the many other issues that come to his chamber, he’s unable to block impeachment. If it comes, he has to hold a trial, he admitted somewhat ruefully.
UK’s Boris Johnson looks set for big win in ‘Brexit election’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's ruling party appeared on course for a sweeping victory in Thursday's snap election, an exit poll showed, paving the way for Britain to leave the EU next month after years of political deadlock.
The Conservatives were forecast to win a thumping 368 out of 650 seats in parliament -- which if confirmed would be the party's biggest majority in three decades -- according to the survey published as polls closed.
The pound jumped by about two percent against the dollar on the projected results of what all sides had painted as the most momentous election in Britain in a generation.