District Judge Rules in Favor of Warrantless Border Searchers

Paul Lilly

Heads up, travelers

Today marks the first day of a brand new year, but if you have plans of traveling abroad, be advised that the same old laws apply. That includes the government's right to search and seize your electronic devices without a warrant. The controversial law comes up in headlines every once in a while, and is again making the rounds after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the policy.

According to a report in The New York Times , Judge Edward R. Korman of the Federal District Court of the Eastern District of New York ruled that plaintiffs lacked legal backing for their lawsuit because border searches happen so rarely that "there is not a substantial risk that their electronic devices will be subject to a search or seizure without reasonable suspicion."

It doesn't stop there. Judge Korman said that if even the plaintiffs did have legal standing for their lawsuit, they'd still lose because the U.S. government does not need reasonable suspicion to search or confiscate a traveler's mobile phone, notebook, or any other device at the border.

"There's no silver lining to this decision," Catherine Crump, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement. "It's not just that we lost the case, it's that the judge decided against us on multiple alternative grounds."

Pascal Abidor, a graduate student in Islamic studies, first filed the lawsuit back in 2010 after U.S. border agents escorted him in handcuffs off an Amtrak train crossing from Canada to New York. He was held in a cell and questioned for several hours, and his laptop detained for 11 days.

Image Credit: Flickr (CBP Photography)

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