ACLU, EFF File Lawsuit Over Warrantless Phone Searches

Posted by at 12:47 pm on September 13, 2017

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have sued the Department of Homeland Security for searching American citizens’ smartphones at the border without a warrant.

Specifically, the groups say the Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencies have delayed citizens’ entry into the country lest they give up smartphone passwords. In some cases, Customs held onto the devices for weeks and months at a time.

The ACLU and EFF, which have filed lawsuits on behalf of a dozen impacted Americans, say the searches violate the Fourth Amendment.

“People now store their whole lives, including extremely sensitive personal and business matters, on their phones, tablets and laptops and it’s reasonable for them to carry these with them when they travel,” said foundation attorney Sophia Cope. “It’s high time that the courts require the government to stop treating the border as a place where they can end-run the Constitution.”

The Department of Homeland Security contends it has a right to inspect all goods entering the country. Many U.S. courts have sided with the Fourth Amendment on this issue, requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before searching the contents of mobile devices.

The ACLU and EFF filed their case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

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