Federal Judge: No, you can’t search people’s laptops at the border for no reason.

At least as far as a forensic search (more than just turning it on and having a quick look) goes. In 2012, Homeland Security was conducting an investigation based on a jailhouse informant who said that Jae Shik Kim was involved in a 2008 crime. So, they did some investigating, found incriminating details, and applied for a search warrant. No, of course not, that would be too much work. Instead, they waited until Mr. Kim was crossing the border on an international flight and seized his laptop with no warrant an no more evidence than the tip, under the Obama administration’s “I do what I want!” policy regarding searching electronic devices at the border (scroll down to item 5.1.2 for what CBP thinks is lawful).

U.S. District Judge Amy B. Jackson has finally issued the government a long overdue smack-down in this regard. While her ruling is based on the particularly egregious circumstances of this case (waiting for someone to leave in order to get around a warrant, seizing the laptop without searching it and transporting it to be imaged and forensically analyzed, the flimsy tip, and the lack of any allegation of a current crime), she resoundingly rejects CBP’s assertion that it needs no suspicion to do whatever it wants at the border regarding digital devices.

Good on you, Ms. Jackson.

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  1. TSA Chief Refuses to Discuss Airport Security Flaws With Congress:

    Melvin Carraway, the acting administrator of the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), refused a request to appear before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday to discuss persistent flaws in airport security, including passenger and baggage screening.

    Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) indicated that ego had something to do with it: The Homeland Security Department, which oversees TSA, objected to having Carraway sit on a panel that included Rafi Ron, an ordinary citizen who runs a private security company.

    Chaffetz called the excuse “absurd” and “offensive.”

    “At first we heard a variety of excuses — ‘We needed more than two weeks.’ Then we had a big dust-up because, for weeks we had planned to do this; in fact, more than a month we had planned to do this — (we) felt that (Carraway), as the acting administrator, would be pivotal to this discussion. But Homeland Security objected to Mr. Ron’s presence on the panel. They felt that it was demeaning — demeaning! — to actually have the acting administrator sit on the same panel as a non-government witness.

    “That’s absurd. That’s offensive,” Chaffetz said. “It’s a waste of the committee’s time, it’s a waste of Congress’s time. We don’t need two panels to have this discussion. We want to have one panel.


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