U.S. government documents disclosed on Monday provide insight into how the Homeland Security Department seizes and searches electronic devices at the border without reasonable suspicion of a crime.
The files present the case of David House, a computer programmer who in the summer of 2010 ended up on a government watch-list because of his friendship with, and advocacy for, military whistleblower Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning.
House said that the Army, State Department and FBI interviewed him regarding “leaks of classified material.” Border officials later seized his laptop, thumb drive and digital camera upon his return from a Mexico vacation in October, not returning his property until seven weeks later.
The government has since acknowledged that House had committed no crime and promised to destroy copies made of his personal data.
This information was released as part of a legal settlement following a two-year court battle with the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the government on House’s behalf.
Like his predecessors, President Obama claims that the Fourth Amendment requirement to show probable cause does apply to people crossing into U.S. territory.