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Laptop searches raise civil liberties questions

December 8, 2008 by  

an invasion of privacy?Federal law enforcement officials claim that the power to search travelers’ laptops without reasonable cause allows them to potentially nab terrorists, those who possess child pornography and other threats to the U.S.

However, for those whose laptops are investigated, the measure can feel like an invasion of privacy and a violation of their liberties, according to an Associated Press report.

Some travelers say that border agents have investigated photos on their cameras, audio files on MP3 players and their most recent Google keyword searches.

Critics of these powers suggest that the government may currently be violating the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure.

They have also raised concerns about racial profiling and the ability for border agents to access confidential business data, trade secrets, medical records and more.

Representative Eliot Engel told the news provider that there is a difference between protecting the country and trespassing on personal liberties.

"It’s outrageous that on a whim, a border agent can just ask you for your laptop. We can’t just throw our constitutional rights out the window," he explained.

The Department of Homeland Security is currently the focus of a lawsuit that is requesting the agency make public its records regarding border searches.
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