Border Agents Have Right to Seize Any Traveler's Laptop

Homeland Security 'update' outlines sweeping powers
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2008 6:54 AM CDT
Officers may "detain" electronic devices "absent individualized suspicion, Homeland Security policy states.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – US border agents can seize laptop computers or other electronc devices from any traveler entering the country and keep them indefinitely, even without suspicion of wrongdoing, the Washington Post reports. A policy update released by Homeland Security, dated July 16, says agents can keep any information-storing device they please and can share the data with other agencies, "absent individualized suspicion."

Officials say the measures—which apply to all travelers, including US citizens—are necessary to fight terrorism, but civil liberties advocates argue that agents are trampling individual freedoms. "They're saying they can rifle through all the information in a traveler's laptop without having a smidgen of evidence that the traveler is breaking the law," said one. They've been seizing laptops and cellphones in increasing numbers, reports the Post, keeping them, in one case, for months.