Privacy SOS

Senator Wyden demands info about border device searches, pledges to file legislation

In a February 20, 2017 letter to DHS Secretary John Kelly, Oregon democrat and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee Ron Wyden voiced alarm at media reports of Customs Border Patrol (CBP) agents demanding device and social media passwords of travelers at the border. Senator Wyden called the practice an “unacceptable” circumvention of Fourth Amendment protections, which typically require warrants for government access to phones, laptops, and private social media information. Demanding passwords and devices at the border, Wyden warns, threatens the US economy by making it a hostile place for business travel, and endangers US security by distracting CBP agents from “its core mission.” 

“I intend,” Wyden writes, “to introduce legislation shortly that will guarantee that the Fourth Amendment is respected at the border by requiring law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before searching devices, and prohibiting the practice of forcing travelers to reveal their online account passwords.”

Wyden’s letter then demands that CBP provide information about its border searches by March 20.

Meanwhile, Secretary Kelly on February 20 issued two new policy memos, vastly expanding detention and deportation powers inside DHS. Among many other major changes, one of the memos revokes Privacy Act protections for legal visa holders and undocumented people. And the battle over the Muslim ban isn’t over yet. White House aide Steve Miller told Fox News last night that the administration soon plans to reveal a revised Executive Order, which Miller said would have the “same basic policy outcome.” Here’s what the ACLU had to say about that on Twitter:

© 2017 ACLU of Massachusetts.