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Trump Administration Sued Over Phone Searches at US Borders (reuters.com) 138

The Trump administration has engaged in an unconstitutional practice of searching without a warrant the phones and laptops of Americans who are stopped at the border, a lawsuit filed on Wednesday alleged. From a report: Ten U.S. citizens and one lawful permanent resident sued the Department of Homeland Security in federal court, saying the searches and prolonged confiscation of their electronic devices violate privacy and free speech protections of the U.S. Constitution. DHS could not be immediately reached for comment. The lawsuit comes as the number of searches of electronic devices has surged in recent years, alarming civil rights advocates.

Trump Administration Sued Over Phone Searches at US Borders

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    "An NBC News investigation published in March turned up 25 instances in which American citizens said border agents demanded their phones and passwords at airports and border crossings. Cellphone seizures by border officers are said to have spiked significantly in recent years, at the end of the Obama administration and beginning of the Trump administration. "

    http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/350449-dhs-sued-over-warrantless-electronic-device-searches-at-border

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Border Officers Nearly Double Searches of Electronic Devices, U.S. Says [nytimes.com]

      The policy of searching cellphones and other electronic devices at the border started in the George W. Bush administration with a focus on specific individuals, but the searches have recently [as of 11 April 2017] expanded to include broad ranges of people who do not pose a threat.

      • by green1 ( 322787 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @02:50PM (#55189955)

        This has nothing to do with any specific president.

        As soon as people started carrying electronic devices across the border, they started having them searched.

        The problem isn't that electronic devices are being searched at the border. The problem is this ridiculous notion that the laws that apply everywhere else in the country shouldn't also apply at the borders of the country, And that's something that happened so long ago that I don't know if anyone even remembers who the idiot was who thought that was either a good idea, or consistent with the constitution.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The way that the U.S. defines borders, almost the entire country is constitution-free. Start with 100 miles from any border [aclu.org] and add a functional equivalent border around international airports. That covers roughly 2/3rds of the population of the U.S. including most major cities, all of Michigan, Florida, and several north-eastern states.

          Not that the constitution is followed in the U.S. anyway. Practically every single amendment is violated by the government.

        • by PCM2 ( 4486 )

          As soon as people started carrying electronic devices across the border, they started having them searched.

          Nobody has ever demanded the password to any computer, mobile phone, PDA, or other device that I have carried across the U.S. border, in either direction, ever. So your statement is patently false.

          • Your anecdotal experience as one individual who has not been selected for search proves nothing. Not when there is a large and ever growing list of citizens who are being subjected to searches of their electronic devices.
            • by PCM2 ( 4486 )

              I don't doubt that people are having their electronic devices searched. The assertion was that warrantless searches of electronic devices at the U.S. border has been a given ever since electronic devices were invented, and that's ridiculous. The precedent for this kind of government overreach is quite new. Plenty of people have been detained at the U.S. border for one reason or another without turning over all their passwords. This is a new thing, and to claim it isn't is basically to be complicit with tota

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Actually, in the first 6 months of this year there was far greater use is the Bush administration created policy to search people's devices without warrant at the border. The Trump administration is by far the biggest spike, so much so it's gotten a LOT of attention lately. Trump has no sense of balance of discretion so many things set up by previous presidents unnoticed are probably getting noticed (and will be) this year.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @03:11PM (#55190195)

        As they should be. If it's the law or standard practice, it should be enforced so that it shines light on it and if negative, is changed through legislation, eventually stopping this discretionary enforcement that's been going on as the executive branch changes parties.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          As they should be. If it's the law or standard practice, it should be enforced so that it shines light on it and if negative, is changed through legislation, eventually stopping this discretionary enforcement that's been going on as the executive branch changes parties.

          We already have the necessary legislation, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized", it just isn't being enforced within 100 miles of the border.

      • That's because the number of electronic devices carried across the border continues to increase since the bush administration.

      • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @03:44PM (#55190493)

        The Trump administration is by far the biggest spike,

        The biggest spike? Let's see, a quick Google shows it spiked from 2560 in October 2016 to...2595 in March 2017.

        Note that both of those numbers are about triple the number for October 2015.

        A few more quick Googles, and I find that, while the problem has gotten a lot more media attention since Trump became President, the problem started back after 9/11, and has continued a steady rise during both the last two Administrations, with essentially no change since Trump got the job (no change, in this case, means the trends have pretty much continued, almost like it was being done by the bureaucracy, rather than the policymakers)....

      • by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @04:32PM (#55190877)

        "sense of discretion"?

        Does that mean the searches are ok and don't deserve notice as long as the President, who has no possible way to oversee the choices of who gets searched, uses discretion?

        I personally believe that DHS should search through every single phone that comes through the border, with agents mocking all the selfies an vacation pics, while rubbing themselves when there are pics of hot chics. Maybe then, Americans would finally wake up to how unprofessional, un-Constitutional, and utterly disgusting warrantless searches are.

      • You didn't bother reading the article did you? There was a higher spike in 2016 which was under Obama. These facts are not difficult to get right.
    • be careful with trump, hes a businessman. obama was a play toy.
  • In other words... (Score:2, Informative)

    by CajunArson ( 465943 )

    The Trump administration is basically continuing practices that were commonly done when God-Emperor Obama reigned over us in all His Holy Gloriousness.

    Yet again proving that Trump is worse that Hitler and that the Russians did it.

    • by olsmeister ( 1488789 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @02:22PM (#55189667)
      There really was no reason to even mention Trump in this story, perhaps other than to say that he hasn't stopped the practice. By doing so, the writers have derailed the conversation from the start. It's destined to turn into a political shit-flinging contest now.
      • by syn3rg ( 530741 )
        "Forget it Jake, it's [Slashdot]."
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I call bullshit. For the past 8 years, every story related to the government was about "...the Obama administration...". So now that it's Trump, nobody's allowed to say Trump?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          So now that it's Trump, nobody's allowed to say Trump?

          He's not saying it's not allowed, he's saying it's counterproductive to gratuitously invoke it (just as it was with Obama). Besides, with all the stupid shit Trump actually does, why dilute it with this inappropriate use?

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          I call bullshit. For the past 8 years, every story related to the government was about "...the Obama administration...". So now that it's Trump, nobody's allowed to say Trump?

          No, back then they blamed it on "homeland security", or other departments, not "The Obama Administration".

          https://www.dailydot.com/layer... [dailydot.com]

          http://www.allgov.com/news/top... [allgov.com]

          Can you honestly say that you think this story today would not have been blamed directly on Trump?

          http://www.salon.com/2012/04/0... [salon.com]

          • Re:In other words... (Score:5, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @03:03PM (#55190085)
            Slashdot did this during the Bush Administration too.

            If the federal government was doing it and it was bad - it was "The Bush Administration" - if it was doing something good - it was the executive organization that did it (justice department, FBI, EPA, etc)

            As soon as the Obama Administration came in the script was flipped - if it was bad it was the exective organization and if it was good then it was Obama himself doing it.
          • Can you honestly say that you think this story today would not have been blamed directly on Trump?

            To be fair the government is full of brain dead power hungry idiots. Normally they are in some over funded department, right now they just happen to be in the oval office.

        • by dddux ( 3656447 )
          It is important to recognise that your [US] society have been extremely downward spiralling since the 9/11. For some reason, or the other. It doesn't look good.
      • by TimMD909 ( 260285 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @02:44PM (#55189903) Homepage
        Dammit, Jim. I'm a troll not a rational commenter.
      • Re:In other words... (Score:4, Informative)

        by evolutionary ( 933064 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @02:46PM (#55189919)
        You are partially right. This little exception clause in the law saw done by the Bush (senior I believe) administration and continued by every president since him, so no one is innocent. What IS noteworthy is that it was actually more in the first 6 months of this year than in the combined years of the other previous presidents, so the Trump administration is responsible for using this privilege to an excessive extent.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          What IS noteworthy is that it was actually more in the first 6 months of this year than in the combined years of the other previous presidents, so the Trump administration is responsible for using this privilege to an excessive extent.

          Is that liberal math you are using? FTA;

          U.S. Customs and Border Patrol reported in April that searches increased from 8,500 in fiscal year 2015 to about 19,000 in fiscal year 2016. The agency has conducted nearly 15,000 in the first half of fiscal year 2017.

        • Meaningless, as the number of electronic devices carried across the border is continually increasing. I'd like to know what the ratio of searches to devices is.

      • It's destined to turn into a political shit-flinging contest now.

        Precisely its intent, no? Nothing has been "derailed". Trump is the conversation in almost every "news" story now.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'd place blame on Bush more for helping pass the Patriot Act, then Obama for extending it, then signing the "Light" version of it before leaving office.

      • Re:In other words... (Score:5, Informative)

        by mpercy ( 1085347 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @03:13PM (#55190227)

        Bush didn't need any help. It was overwhelming passed by Congress, all he had to do was ask for it and sign it.

        These are the 98 U.S. senators for voted in favor of the US Patriot Act of 2001 (Senator Landrieu (D-LA) did not vote) Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin was the only senator who voted against the Patriot Act on October 24, of 2001.

        http://educate-yourself.org/cn... [educate-yourself.org]

        Very few of the Democrats in the Senate learned their lesson, and so voted to reauthorize it by close to the same numbers in 2006, and Obama signed off on at least one more renewal (I've lost track).

        The list of two-time Yeas includes Hillary Cllnton, Chris Dodd, Ted Kennedy, Barbara Boxer, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Rockefeller, Sarbane, both Nelsons, Diane Feinstein, Max Baucus, Joe Lieberman, ...

        The House was a tad better as far as Dems voting Nay, it passed the House 357-66 in 2001 and 280-138 in 2006.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      God-Emperor Obama?

      You really are a toothless idiot

    • by murdocj ( 543661 )

      holy cow, someone rated the parent troll as "informative"???

      • You mean you weren't aware of Barack's taking of the sand trout skin and his journey down The Golden Path?
  • .... was immune to civil lawsuits.

    (Effectively, that is... you can sue them if you get their permission first, but all that actually seems to mean is that they are willing to reach a settlement)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Then there will be no need for searches, we'll all be free as a jaybird!

  • Nope (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 )

    I'd love for this to succeed, but they'll need to go to the Supreme Court and challenge the disastrous "The Constitution doesn't apply at the border, near airports, within 100 miles of a Starbucks, etc." ruling. No chance in hell.

    • Re:Nope (Score:5, Informative)

      by SlaveToTheGrind ( 546262 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @02:37PM (#55189825)

      That's probably why they filed in Massachusetts, which is part of the First Circuit Court of Appeals. If they win in the trial and appellate courts, there will then be a split of authority between the First Circuit and the Fourth and Ninth Circuits, which have held the search of electronic devices at the border to be constitutional (subject to minor constraints). The odds then go up considerably that the Supreme Court will grant certiorari to resolve the circuit split.

      • Except that the Circuit often read each other's opinions and have some chance to be persuaded by them. That is, just because they aren't binding precedent doesn't mean they can be persuasive precedent. So all told it's somewhat more likely that the 1CA will follow her sister circuits than if they were the first to review it.

    • The current status established by the Supreme Court (in rulings dating back to the 1800s - this isn't some recent legal construct) is that the Constitution only applies to U.S. territory. This is why Bush imprisoned alleged terrorists in Guantanamo Bay - it wasn't U.S. soil, it was Cuban soil, and thus the prisoners there wouldn't have U.S. Constitutional rights. I agree the 100 mile claim by DHS is ridiculous, but as people at border checkpoints who haven't been admitted into the U.S. are technically sti
      • As soon as someone steps onto us soil, they become a US Person, and most Constitutional protections apply.

      • If you claim the Constitution applies to U.S. citizens regardless of location, then suddenly non-citizens (both legal and illegal) and even people brought into the country against their will (e.g. alleged terrorists captured in Iraq and Afghanistan) have no basis for claiming Constitutional rights.

        How does that follow?

        If you claim the Constitution applies outside U.S. territory, then you're basically advocating that the U.S. should be allowed to apply its laws to other countries.

        Umm, no, it's not advocating that at all. What it's advocating is that the US government should be subject to the restrictions imposed by the Constitution no matter where it's operating. It's about US government actions, not about applying US law to other countries.

        • The Constitution of the USA defines the legal authority of the Government of the USA, it's not a list of recognized rights of Americans. So yes, it should apply world wide, to everyone, including inside American political prisons like Guantanamo bay (the use of torture and holding people for decades without trial are defining characteristics of a political prison).
      • by Anonymous Coward

        The Constitution is the controlling authority of the relationship between the citizens and the federal government.. This means that non-citizens only have rights that we voluntarily give them when they get here (which is more descriptive of what actually happens anyway), and American citizens should enjoy the full protections of their citizenship ANYWHERE in the world (unlike now).
        AS far as enforcing their laws elsewhere, they already do.

        Full disclosure:
        Captcha = confused

      • by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @04:07PM (#55190679)

        Border checkpoints within the actual border or international airports within the borders aren't "technically still outside the country". They're absolutely within the country. Could you imagine a group of scary-looking Muslims holding meetings in the "not in the US, yet" zone of LAX and the US letting it happen?

        They're only "technically still outside the country" because they want to illegally fuck your rights.

        You listed two choices, then mentioned three choices. Did you change your mind and remove the obvious and correct choice of the Constitution delineating the powers of the federal government (regardless of where it is acting or upon whom it is acting) while guaranteeing all other rights to the states and the people?

        The Constitution applies within US borders, always. The Constitution applies to US citizens, always. If it is at odds with the law where a US citizen is, then treaties come into play as they are the only laws that are ranked as highly as the Constitution. The Constitution applies to what the federal government does, always and everywhere.

    • Where exactly do you think the border exception rule came from?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What does this have to do with Trump Administration, is the Donald searching these phones personally? Is DHS doing something they have never done before solely on orders from Trump? I guess you gotta put 'Trump' in the headline for them clicks

    • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @02:28PM (#55189709)

      What does this have to do with Trump Administration, is the Donald searching these phones personally? Is DHS doing something they have never done before solely on orders from Trump? I guess you gotta put 'Trump' in the headline for them clicks

      Gonna go with ICE and DHS being under the Executive branch of the government, of which Trump is the titular head?

      • >"Gonna go with ICE and DHS being under the Executive branch of the government, of which Trump is the titular head?"

        And was it during the Trump administration that these searches started? No. It has nothing to do with the "Trump Administration" other than Trump hasn't stopped it yet. Let's hope he does, but I kinda doubt it.... Obama didn't start the searches either, and in the 8 years it was being done under HIS administration, were there any stories that were worded such as way? Of course not.

    • were you more, or less likely to click on the article after reading trump's name?

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Nailed it.

        In my case the effect was neutral. I never read the articles. It is WAY more fun to infer their content from the long tail of angry slashdot posts.

        • by laxguy ( 1179231 )
          This guy NAILED IT. The summaries are always wrong or poorly written and the actual article is click-bait most of the time. Might as well skip the shitty part and jump head first into the fun.
      • Less

    • SlashDot, another name for knee-jerk reflex.
    • What does this have to do with Trump Administration, is the Donald searching these phones personally? Is DHS doing something they have never done before solely on orders from Trump? I guess you gotta put 'Trump' in the headline for them clicks

      DHS is in the executive branch, which Trump heads and he could therefore put an end to this. He hasn't, therefore it's on him now, regardless of what his predecessors did or didn't do.

    • IANAL, but I think it's too late to sue the Obama administration.

      • But it's not too late to sue the Department of Homeland Security, which is who they actually sued dumbass. Regardless of whose administration.
        • But it's not too late to sue the Department of Homeland Security

          ,... which is part of the executive branch of government, last time I looked, dumbass.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights-governments-100-mile-border-zone-map
    https://www.aclu.org/other/constitution-100-mile-border-zone?redirect=constitution-100-mile-border-zone

    • I think the ACLU's map is missing things. Surely DHS interpret "land border" in such as way that every designated international airport also has a 100 mile zone around it. How many places in the US interior have direct flights from Europe, Canada etc.? Denver, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City.... There's even a direct Sydney-Dallas service. I venture that there is probably no substantial US city outside the zone in the eyes of DHS.

  • Fun thought (Score:5, Interesting)

    by John Jorsett ( 171560 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @02:59PM (#55190033)
    Lock your phone with software that has two unlock codes, one of which unlocks it and the other of which wipes it down to the bare metal. When they demand the unlock code, give them the latter one. Keep the phone backed up, obviously, so it can be restored.
    • Even better, and easier, is to not carry any electronics that have any personal information at all on them.

      Ship them ahead to your destination through a parcel service, and carry a burner phone for your communication needs en route.

    • This has yet to be implemented in AOSP and most Open Source AOSP forks like LineageOS. I've been thinking about this idea recently but I don't really travel so it doesn't concern me much.
  • by phalse phace ( 454635 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @03:10PM (#55190185)

    Apple made access to and searches of iPhone X easier with FaceID.

    Law enforcement can just hold your iPhone X in front of your face and it's unlocked.

    • Law enforcement can just hold your iPhone X in front of your face and it's unlocked.

      Look at the bright side: At least they have to wait with smashing your face until after they have unlocked your phone.

      • This is untrue, as the face-detection software is claimed to be able to recognize your face even with glasses and other accessories, and even after significant facial changes such as gaining wait or scarring.

        In other words, a few bruises and a black eye isn't going to significantly impact the ability of the device to recognize your face. Maybe if they pulped your skull, but then you've got bigger things to worry about than whatever they wanted from your fucking phone.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    SCOTUS already ruled that warrants are not required to search upon entry to the country and for 100 miles inland.

  • by dcw3 ( 649211 ) on Thursday September 14, 2017 @12:04PM (#55195849) Journal

    The policy of boarder search exemptions to the 4th amendment goes back to 1953 when the Justice Department implemented it. The Supreme Court has repeatedly allowed for this. And since SCOTUS gets to decide what is and isn't "Constitutional", this lawsuit isn't going anywhere.

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