U.S. Searches of Laptops at Border Questioned

We’ve talked half a dozen times on Slaw about the United States Border Services’ practice of instituting suspicionless searches of travellers’ laptops, recommending basically that lawyers take nothing but a clean machine across the border.

Now the American Civil Liberties Union has made a formal request under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act for records setting out or touching upon policies establishing and governing this practice, as well as data as to the number of searches, the characteristics of persons whose devices were searched, and so forth. The official request adumbrates the ACLU argument that these searches may infringe the constitutional rights of travellers. There is also a press release that explains the ACLU request.

[via beSpacific]


  1. Exactly how extensive and lengthy are these laptop searches? I don’t see how they would be able to find anything they might be interested in within just a couple of minutes. If someone had the floor plans to some top secret military installation on their laptop, how would a security person be able to find it unless the owner were using a jpg of the plans as the desktop background?

    It blows my mind that anyone would try to police the flow of information across a national border by physically examining computers that MIGHT – one time in a million – actually have something they’re looking for.

    What if the bad guys figure out how to use the internets and start using them to send and store their information? When that happens these checkpoint inspections will seem a bit quaint and silly.