The result of a “Civil Liberties Impact Assessment” conducted by the Department of Homeland Security has concluded that it’s unnecessary to require border officials to identify “reasonable suspicion” before searching personal electronic devices.
From an excellent writeup on the decision’s significance by Wired’s David Kravets:
The memo highlights the friction between today’s reality that electronic devices have become virtual extensions of ourselves housing everything from e-mail to instant-message chats to photos and our papers and effects — juxtaposed against the government’s stated quest for national security.
The President George W. Bush administration first announced the suspicionless, electronics search rules in 2008. The President Barack Obama administration followed up with virtually the same rules a year later. Between 2008 and 2010, 6,500 persons had their electronic devices searched along the U.S. border, according to DHS data.
The DHS watchdog’s conclusion isn’t surprising, as the DHS is taking that position in litigation in which the ACLU is challenging the suspicionless, electronic-device searches and seizures along the nation’s borders. But that conclusion nevertheless is alarming considering it came from the DHS civil rights watchdog, which maintains its mission is “promoting respect for civil rights and civil liberties.”
Only the assessment’s executive summary was quietly posted online last week, so since then the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a FOIA request demanding access to the full report.
The root of their skepticism, from a post on the ACLU’s site:
What we want to discover is what would make the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which wrote the report and according to its website is supposed to be “promoting respect for civil rights and civil liberties in [DHS] policy creation and implementation,” reach such conclusions about these highly invasive practices. If it’s true that our rights are safe and that DHS is doing all the things it needs to do to safeguard them, then why won’t it show us the results of its assessment? And why would it be legitimate to keep a report about the impact of a policy on the public’s rights hidden from the very public being affected?
Kravets points out that the DHS decision “highlights the friction between today’s reality that electronic devices have become virtual extensions of ourselves…juxtaposed against the government’s stated quest for national security.”
Do you think the impact assessment is at odds with our plugged in reality? Share your thoughts in the comments.