This week, Federal Judge Edward Korman upheld the Federal government’s contention that law enforcement can conduct warrantless searches of individuals’ electronic equipment within 100 miles of any U.S. border, regardless of whether they have suspicion that the target is involved in any illegal activity whatsoever.
The ruling upends the efforts of the American Civil Liberties Union and other advocates to reverse U.S. Customs’ practice of stopping and searching travelers and their belongings as they move in areas at – or even near – the border. The Obama Administration has sided with Customs in defending the practice.
From Fox News:
The ACLU originally challenged the administration’s policy, which can be applied anywhere within 100 miles of the border, after U.S. Customs agents stopped student Pascal Abidor on a train traveling from Canada to New York. After noticing Abidor had two passports – not uncommon for journalists and those with dual citizenship – agents asked to see his laptop. Since Abidor was a student of Middle Eastern affairs, his computer contained photos of political rallies held by Hamas and Hezbollah, known terrorist groups.
“I explained to the immigration officer that the reason I had these photos was this was my research,” said Abidor, a U.S. citizen. “I determined they looked at my personal photos and personal chats with my girlfriend. I knew I needed help.”
Abidor’s case was considered a strong challenge to the Obama Administration because of Abdior’s citizenship: if it can happen to one U.S. citizen, it can happen to any U.S. citizen.
But Judge Korman ruled that the searches are sufficiently infrequent and judicious in their targeting of subjects to pose no threat to the Constitutional rights of Americans.
The ACLU, which coined the “Constitution-Free Zone” appellation to illustrate what’s at stake in the government’s selective application of Americans’ rights, is weighing whether to take the case to a higher court.