ACLU Releases Documents Detailing DHS Search and Seizure Practices at the Border

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has released a series of government documents obtained by its client, David House, as a result of his lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

House, a friend of Chelsea Manning, filed suit against DHS after his laptop, USB drive, and camera were seized by U.S. customs officials at Chicago O’Hare International Airport when he reentered the U.S. after vacationing in Mexico.  According to ACLU, House, a former researcher at MIT and a fundraiser for Manning’s defense, was questioned about his political activities and beliefs.

The lawsuit alleges the government “targeted House solely on the basis of his lawful association with the [Chelsea] Manning Support Network,” in violation of House’s First and Fourth Amendment rights.

In May, DHS and House reached a settlement agreement, pursuant to which the government agreed it would:

  1. Destroy all remaining data copied from House’s devices,
  2. Hand over documents, such as reports describing the inspection of the data seized, and
  3. Release reports on DHS agents questioning of House.

The documents have been released.  As The New York Times reports, “The documents detail what until now has been a largely secretive process that enables the government to create a travel alert for a person, who may not be a suspect in an investigation, then detain that individual at a border crossing and confiscate or copy any electronic devices that person is carrying.”

However, spokespersons for Customs and Border Patrol defended the agency’s actions saying that searches of electronic devices “are essential to enforcing the law and protecting national security and public safety—always with the shared goals of protecting the American people while respecting civil rights and civil liberties.”

The documents further disclose that the search of House’s devices revealed no evidence of a crime.

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One Response to “ACLU Releases Documents Detailing DHS Search and Seizure Practices at the Border”

  1. […] a supplement to yesterday’s post about David House and the controversy over the treatment of Fourth Amendment righ… here’s a little summary of how constitutional law addresses electronic devices and the warrant […]

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. She is the 2018-9 Editor in Chief of the Syracuse Law Review, as well as a member of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography


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