Groups Fight Border Laptop Searches

Two groups have filed an amicus brief in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, asking the court to review a decision that allows border-patrol agents to search U.S. citizens' laptops without suspicion of crime.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Association of Corporate Travel Executives claim that the laptop searches violate citizens' Fourth Amendment rights, which protect them from unreasonable search and seizures.

The case began in 2005, after U.S. citizen Michael Arnold returned to the U.S. from the Philippines and was arrested by Customs and Border Patrol agents who searched his laptop. A district court ruled in Arnold's favor. 

A three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the district court's decision in April.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Association of Corporate Travel Executives now contend that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision essentially negated the Fourth Amendment and put citizens' privacy and identities at risk, since border patrols can confiscate laptops and make full copies of their contents, ARS Technica reported.

"These random searches give businesses and individuals a reason not to travel across U.S. borders to conduct business, and they force businesses to expend significant resources protecting confidential information," the amicus brief states.

The two groups argue that laptops often contain personal banking and identity information and the level of privacy invasion at a border search is "enormous."

"The panel decision failed to appreciate the constitutional concerns raised when border agents randomly search and seize laptop computers from international travelers," the brief states.

The groups are asking the court to require border agents to have reasonable suspicion of a crime to search a laptop. A decision on whether the court will rehear the case is expected to come within the next few months.