Here's What To Know The Next Time You Cross The US Border

  • Here's What To Know The Next Time You Cross The US Border

Here's What To Know The Next Time You Cross The US Border

Two weeks ago, the Knight Institute and the New York Times published roughly 240 complaints by travelers detailing the "traumatizing" and "highly inappropriate" electronic device searches they endured at global airports and other us borders. A basic search involves reviewing the content of phone, while an advanced search involves connecting the device to external equipment to review, copy or analyze the contents.

The new CBP policy indicates that officers at the border should have reasonable suspicion of unlawful activity or a "national security concern" before they can conduct an "advanced" search of the contents of an electronic device.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Cherry Hill are continuing to investigate the case. While the CBP spun the numbers one way, noting that they search the devices of less than one-hundredth of 1 percent of travelers entering the U.S., and that the large majority (about 80%) of those are of non-citizens, the agency also acknowledged that the number of searches has jumped from 5,085 in 2012 to 30,151 in 2017. In other words, officers may not use the device to access information stored exclusively in the "Cloud". We believe the government does not have the authority to prevent USA citizens and lawful permanent residents from entering the country exclusively for refusing to provide a device password, but be aware that if you refuse, you may be detained longer and your device may be confiscated and retained for days or weeks. Others have concealed them in shipments of pumpkins and squash. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said while the directive contains "a few improvements" from the previous one, it is still, "full of loopholes and vague language that continues to allow agents to violate travelers' constitutional rights".

In FY17, CBP conducted 30,200 inbound and outbound border searches of electronic devices, more than 29,200 of which were outbound searches.

However, agents can detain a device for more than 15 days with the approval of the director of field operations, the chief patrol agent, the director of air operations, the director of marine operations, the special agent in charge or any other equivalent manager, all of whom can also re-approve the detention every seven days. However, the agency will also keep a copy for "purposes of complying with a litigation hold or other requirements". The directive defines "basic" searches as anything else-including any manual review of a device by a CBP officer. "However, this policy still falls far short of what the Constitution requires - a search warrant based on probable cause".

U.S. Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Customs and Border Protection

According to data released by the Department of Homeland Security, searches of electronic devices rose by about 60 percent in 2017 relative to 2016. In FY16, CBP searched the devices of 0.005 percent of arriving worldwide travelers.

Despite the present uncertainty regarding whether USCBP actually has the lawful authority to perform a warrantless search of a traveler's electronic device, refusing to unlock an electronic device at the request of a USCBP officer may still lead to undesirable consequences.

About 80 percent of searches are of non-U.S. citizens, said an ABC News report, noting that only diplomats are exempt.

Agents discovered 256 bricks of cocaine in total.

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