Fed Judge: OK to Search Electronics at Border

U.S. border agents should have the authority to search laptop computers carried by news photographers and other travelers at international border crossings without reasonable suspicion, a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled Friday.

In a written decision, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman granted a government motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by civil rights attorneys that claimed the practice was unconstitutional and sought to have it halted.

Korman found that the plaintiffs hadn’t shown they suffered injury that gave them standing to bring the suit. He also cited previous rulings finding that the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches doesn’t apply to the government’s efforts to secure international borders from outside threats.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers had filed the suit on behalf of the National Press Photographers Association, criminal defense lawyers and a college student: Pascal Abidor, a French-American citizen whose laptop computer was confiscated at the Canadian border.

In a statement, an ACLU attorney said the organization was considering an appeal.

“Unfortunately, these searches are part of a broader pattern of aggressive government surveillance that collects information on too many innocent people, under lax standards, and without adequate oversight,” said the lawyer, Catherine Crump.

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