Homeland Security Approves Seizure of Cell Phones and Laptops within 100 Miles of Border; Report Remains Secret

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Matt Bewig

Americans have no Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures if they happen to be within 100 miles of the border, according to the “Executive Summary” of a still-secret report by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As the ACLU-created map above shows, nearly 2/3 of Americans (197 million people)—including the entire populations of Florida, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, DC, and Michigan—live in this “Constitution free” zone, as do the residents of the nation’s five most populous cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia.

 Homeland Security Approves Seizure of Cell Phones and Laptops within 100 Miles of Border; Report Remains Secret

The secret report is DHS’s response (two years late) to critics of its policy, in place since at least 2008, of allowing border control agents, without a warrant or even a suspicion of wrongdoing, to search any travelers’ electronic devices (laptops, cell phones, tablets, cameras, etc.) and seize data they find. According to a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) filed three years ago by the ACLU, DHS subjected more than 6,500 travelers—nearly half of them U.S. citizens—to searches under this policy between October 2008 and June 2010.

The Executive Summary of the secret report, which DHS is allowing the public to see, sets forth its conclusions without even summarizing the reasoning underlying them. Thus it asserts that “imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits,” but is silent on how DHS defines “civil rights/civil liberties benefits” or how it balances these against its institutional needs.

The ACLU, which has already filed an FOIA request demanding the full report, released a statement arguing that “allowing government agents to search through all of a traveler’s data without reasonable suspicion is completely incompatible with our fundamental rights: our Fourth Amendment right to privacy—and more specifically the right to be free from unreasonable searches—is implicated when the government can rummage through our computers and cell phones for no reason other than that we happen to have traveled abroad. Suspicionless searches also open the door to profiling based on perceived or actual race, ethnicity, or religion. And our First Amendment rights to free speech and free association are inhibited when agents at the border can target us for searches based on our exercise of those rights.”

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  1. Booyah Slim February 25, 2013 at 5:45 am - Reply

    One week from today’s date relative to story of DHS approving seizure of cell phones and lap tops w/in 100 miles of border…for some reason at local homeless shelter in Grand Rapids,Michigan “over night community guests” are they are called at the Mel Trotter Ministries Emergency Homelesss Shelter, are scheduled to be forced to comply or sleep outside in the cold Michigan winter if you don’t want to comply and.to turn-in all clothing,cell phones,lap tops and any other personal property presumably daily without due process of law and to put on and wear smock type clothing uniforms or for lack of a better term, uniforms as if incarcerated in a mental institution or correctional institution or facility supposedly to insure hygiene and for so called security measures. All unfortunate men and women that are homeless,and/or in between jobs beilieve that there is another motive for all of this but no one can put their finger on it. At least if they think they can,no one is really talking about it loudly because electronic and physical surveillance is taking place on everyone for no apparent justifiable reason and it is not being done in a very secretive way and quiet alliances are beginning to form for what everyone believes may be each others personal security and safety and all anyone really wants is to get a job and a place to live. We are all quietly nervous.

  2. Luger February 22, 2013 at 5:19 am - Reply

    The feds are seriously trying to start a civil war here. And they will lose.

  3. standingbear February 21, 2013 at 5:06 am - Reply

    If what Pakalert Press news is true regarding this article. Then why haven’t DHS been using surveillance drones on/or near the U.S. south borders assisting our Border Patrols with the illegal immigration issue?

  4. Noelle February 20, 2013 at 5:02 am - Reply

    ABOLISH the dhs now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ENOUGH OF THIS NEW WORLD ORDER TYRANICAL POLICE STATE BULL SH#$!!!

  5. john pepin February 20, 2013 at 4:56 am - Reply

    The political elite take more and more fo our God given rights every day. How much longer before we are slaves… or are we already? The answer to this our of control government is in my book, The Fourth Branch;


  6. Rich Buckley February 19, 2013 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    In an security contrivance by NSA-DOE-LLNL with perhaps even greater dark-motive potential for a real False Flag terrorism setup, someone in NSA-DOE-LLNL has floated and allowed a colossally stupid “what if” discussion to intentionally reach public awareness: to truck nuclear bomb cores into Silicon Valley (LLNL Lab in Livermore, Ca) for stockpile certification. 


    The idea was floated into the public media on Superbowl weekend to insure no one would see it. Please help us raise public awareness.

  7. david frobel February 19, 2013 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    I live 50 miles from canada,,not herd aneything about it,,I found myself in canada by mistake while hunting and just walked back,,no hastles,,I dident know i was there till i sore cars whith diffrant plates,,,lol,

  8. ravenmaven February 19, 2013 at 9:14 pm - Reply

    Most of my friends and relatives live in the 100 mile zone and so far no one has had their electronics confiscated.

    • Luger February 22, 2013 at 5:20 am - Reply

      You forgot to include, “yet…”

  9. Michael J. Marsalek February 19, 2013 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    The U.S. is the most over-legislated society in the world with the highest prison population of any country in the world. It seems that there are laws against everything. There are so many laws and regulations that it is impossible for anyone to know what they all are and ignorance of a law is no excuse. That said, most people break some law or violate some regulation daily. Whereas the authorities cannot possibly arrest everyone, they have resorted to system of selective enforcement or an uneven application of the law on a completely arbitrary basis. This is, in and of itself, illegal. The secret DHS policy is a work around the 4th Amendment Constitution protection intended to permit law enforcement to have extra-judicial discretion.

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