No warrant? No problem. Search and Seizure at the Borders

Oscar-and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Laura Poitras’ “My Country, My Country” (2005) is a documentary of the occupation in Iraq, while “The Oath” (2010) followed Salim Hamdan and his brother-in-law, a driver and bodyguard for  Osama bin Laden, respectively.  Glenn Greenwald describes DHS’ reaction to these films in an article published today in Salon:

Since the 2006 release of “My Country, My Country,” Poitras has left and re-entered the U.S. roughly 40 times. Virtually every time during that six-year-period that she has returned to the U.S., her plane has been met by DHS agents who stand at the airplane door or tarmac and inspect the passports of every de-planing passenger until they find her (on the handful of occasions where they did not meet her at the plane, agents were called when she arrived at immigration). Each time, they detain her, and then interrogate her at length about where she went and with whom she met or spoke. They have exhibited a particular interest in finding out for whom she works.

She has had her laptop, camera and cellphone seized, and not returned for weeks, with the contents presumably copied. On several occasions, her reporter’s notebooks were seized and their contents copied, even as she objected that doing so would invade her journalist-source relationship. Her credit cards and receipts have been copied on numerous occasions. In many instances, DHS agents also detain and interrogate her in the foreign airport before her return, on one trip telling her that she would be barred from boarding her flight back home, only to let her board at the last minute. When she arrived at JFK Airport on Thanksgiving weekend of 2010, she was told by one DHS agent — after she asserted her privileges as a journalist to refuse to answer questions about the individuals with whom she met on her trip — that he “finds it very suspicious that you’re not willing to help your country by answering our questions.” They sometimes keep her detained for three to four hours (all while telling her that she will be released more quickly if she answers all their questions and consents to full searches).

Greenwald’s article includes as well a discussion of the March 28 ruling by  U.S. District Judge Denise Casper refusing to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network against DHS for seizing his laptop at the border and refusing to return it for two months.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has this practical Defending Privacy at the U.S. Border: A Guide for Travelers Carrying Electronic Devices.

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