The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Federal government over a border stop last May at the Champlain border crossing north of Plattsburgh.
According to Pascal Abidor, a 26-year-old American citizen who studies at McGill University, he was traveling on Amtrak from Montreal to New York City, when Homeland Security agents demanded that he let them review contents of his laptop computer.
They did so without a warrant. Here’s the ACLU’s video about the encounter:
According to the Civil Liberties Union, this kind of warrantless search is common:
Documents obtained by the ACLU in response to a separate Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for records related to the DHS policy reveal that more than 6,600 travelers, nearly half of whom are American citizens, were subjected to electronic device searches at the border between October 1, 2008 and June 2, 2010.
One wrinkle in this case — as discussed over the weekend during NPR’s “On the Media” program — is the fact that Homeland Security considers a 100-mile area south of the US-Canada border to be part of its border zone.
This means that, in theory, Homeland Security agents conducting traffic stops on North Country roads could demand to review the contents of private electronic devices without a warrant.
This latest case comes at a time when questions are already being raised in the North Country about DHS’s ability to manage free and appropriate travel across the US-Canada border without undue interference with privacy and commerce.
So what do you think? Should laptops, cell-phones and PDAs be fair game for warrantless searches at the border — and potentially across the North Country?
Comments welcome below.
Tags: st. lawrence valley