Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Government Searches of Your Laptop When You Return From Abroad

You return from a trip abroad.  What does Customs look for when you return?  Cigarettes?  Alcohol?  Food?  No.  They look inside the files on your laptop.

The ABA Section of International Law Committee on National Security will hold a teleconference on the hot topic subject of Border Searches of Electronic Devices: A Discussion of Legal and Policy Issues.

This program will discuss the Ninth Circuit’s decision, U.S. v. Arnold, which held that the U.S. government has the authority to search the contents of electronic devices (e.g. laptops, blackberries and cellphones) of persons entering the U.S. -- including U.S. citizens -- without reasonable suspicion.  This decision may affect the manner of travel for lawyers and businesspersons who may wish, or are required, to keep confidential information stored in electronic devices.  Furthermore, it is unclear where and how confiscated devices and content will be managed and retained once seized.   

Critics argue that there must be some suspicion of wrongdoing before the government can search potentially sensitive personal, professional, or commercial information at the border and that some of the searches appear to be based on ethnic or religious profiling done in the name of national security.  The Ninth Circuit, however, agreed with precedents supporting the border search doctrine and found the searches to be legal.  This program will address the legal and policy issues of the practice and whether the Ninth Circuit erred in its decision.

The speaker will be Lee Tien, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation, San Francisco , California.  The teleconference will be held on July 17, 2008 from 12:30-1:30 pm EST. 


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