Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Tim Cushing, Techdirt: The Constitution -- which has always been malleable when national security interests are in play -- simply no longer applies at our nation's borders. Despite the Supreme Court's finding that cell phone searches require warrants, the DHS and CBP have interpreted this to mean it doesn't apply to searches of devices entering/leaving the country. For the past 15 years, the government has won 9/10 constitutional-violation edge cases if they occurred within 100 miles of our borders -- a no man's land colloquially referred to as the "Constitution-free zone." But the pace of device searches has increased exponentially over the last couple of years. The "border exception" is no longer viewed as an "exception" -- something to be deployed only when customs officers had strong suspicions about a person or their devices.
In practical terms, boots-on-the-ground travelers are being subjected to intrusive searches just because there's nothing effectual in the law to prevent it. Asserting your rights at the border is a non-starter. You simply don't have any. No one's going to be playing 20 Quasi-Relevant Questions with travelers hoping to luck into consent. Officers and agents are seizing and searching devices by force.
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