ACLU Suing Border Patrol over Laptop Confiscated Frm Amtrak PAX

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Apparently it was just filed today, and I have no real details.

From memory, I think the passenger was traveling south, a grad student in Canada, who also carried a French passport.

Heard it on the local (WAMU) radio station. Apparently AU members are not the only ones who are getting pissed off about un-warranted searches.........

The report did indicate that when a laptop is taken, it can be MONTHS before it is returned.

Airport Checkpoints: Your Laptop and Your Data

TUESDAY, SEP 7, 2010 AT 1:40 P.M. in LAW, PUBLIC SAFETY, TECHNOLOGYMost of us are used to the possibility of having our suitcases searched at the airport. But should everything we carry when we travel be subject to search and seizure -- including the information we store on computers? We explore a debate triggered by a lawsuit from criminal defense lawyers, press photographers and a university student who feel that information should be private.

 

 

Guests

David ColeProfessor of Constitutional Law and Criminal Justice at Georgetown Law.

 

Arthur SpitzerLegal Director, ACLU of the National Capital Area

 
 
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Alan, I think you wrote one time past that there are virtually no intercity trains in the USA that a border agent couldn't legitimately get on, 'cause they can "board any train that goes within 100 miles of the USA border" (and this radio radio show this AM reiterated this, the "coast" line is considered the border).

But as I was listening to the train, er radio, this morning, I got to thinking about the few Chicago Amtrak trains, like to Milwaukee, Quincy, or St. Louis, or even Grand Rapids?

Maybe the border agents "claim" Lake Michigan as an international border? (I'd love to see this logic)
 
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the_traveler

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We don't know the facts at all! I'm not saying this is the case, but maybe this laptop had nuclear bomb making instructions on it!
ohmy.gif
(And he doesn't work for a nuclear agency at all!
ohmy.gif
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)

Maybe the border agents "claim" Lake Michigan as an international border? (I'd love to see this logic)
The only Great Lake totally within the US is Lake Michigan. All the other 4 have a border with Canada!
wink.gif
 

PerRock

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I know that for the Navy the Great Lakes are considered one entitiy both the US & the Canadians have agreed to only keep # many (I don't remember what the actual number is) war ships max in the Great Lakes. But this might be different for BP.

peter
 

jis

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So can someone please enlighten us about where this incident took place and what happened? So far all that we have seen here is at best hearsay with no details about anything whatsoever for anyone to be able to form an informed opinion about whatever allegedly transpired.
 

AlanB

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Alan, I think you wrote one time past that there are virtually no intercity trains in the USA that a border agent couldn't legitimately get on, 'cause they can "board any train that goes within 100 miles of the USA border" (and this radio radio show this AM reiterated this, the "coast" line is considered the border).

But as I was listening to the train, er radio, this morning, I got to thinking about the few Chicago Amtrak trains, like to Milwaukee, Quincy, or St. Louis, or even Grand Rapids?

Maybe the border agents "claim" Lake Michigan as an international border? (I'd love to see this logic)
Actually IIRC, what I said back then was that there was no long distance train that doesn't come within 100 miles of a border, hence all are ripe for boarding.

But a train from Chicago to St. Louis would indeed not be subject to border by a border agent.
 

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Alan, I think you wrote one time past that there are virtually no intercity trains in the USA that a border agent couldn't legitimately get on, 'cause they can "board any train that goes within 100 miles of the USA border" (and this radio radio show this AM reiterated this, the "coast" line is considered the border).

But as I was listening to the train, er radio, this morning, I got to thinking about the few Chicago Amtrak trains, like to Milwaukee, Quincy, or St. Louis, or even Grand Rapids?
Actually IIRC, what I said back then was that there was no long distance train that doesn't come within 100 miles of a border, hence all are ripe for boarding.

But a train from Chicago to St. Louis would indeed not be subject to border by a border agent.
Or the MORR from STL to KCY and the HF from FTW to OKC!
laugh.gif
 
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It was a passenger crossing the border from Montreal on the Adirondack.

Although I agree with them, I don't give the ACLU much hope of success. There's a lot of case law that says that Customs can inspect anything they want at the border, no suspicion required, including personal papers. Inspecting computer files is just another version of that.

This isn't related to the immigration (not customs) checks inside the US.
 

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It was a passenger crossing the border from Montreal on the Adirondack.

Although I agree with them, I don't give the ACLU much hope of success. There's a lot of case law that says that Customs can inspect anything they want at the border, no suspicion required, including personal papers. Inspecting computer files is just another version of that.
I agree with you. I don't see them winning this. I think there is always a balance to be struck, and on customs inspection at the border I'd lean towards giving more leeway to the inspectors than for one inside the country.

Remember the discussion we had on another thread about when the Constitution starts applying as one enters the country? Well, on the broader principle, the courts can have another go at clarifying that, but I suspect eventually they will decide one more time that it applies after you have been admitted into the country, not while you are being processed to determine the suitability of allowing you entry.

On the details of this case, they might give some narrow opinion on the matter of handcuffing and such perhaps. I don't see them taking away the DHS's right to inspect anything they desire at the border though.
 
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It was a passenger crossing the border from Montreal on the Adirondack.

Although I agree with them, I don't give the ACLU much hope of success. There's a lot of case law that says that Customs can inspect anything they want at the border, no suspicion required, including personal papers. Inspecting computer files is just another version of that.

This isn't related to the immigration (not customs) checks inside the US.
I'm about as far away from a legal scholar as they get, but logic kind of tells me that the courts may come down with a ruling more on the side of the plaintiffs. I would think that there should be SOME FORM of reasonable suspicion, otherwise, what's to stop that behavior from spreading to other jurisdictions?

Time will tell.
 

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I'm about as far away from a legal scholar as they get, but logic kind of tells me that the courts may come down with a ruling more on the side of the plaintiffs. I would think that there should be SOME FORM of reasonable suspicion, otherwise, what's to stop that behavior from spreading to other jurisdictions?
And it is logic that suggest exactly the opposite to me. ;) Other jurisdiction's primary duty is not border customs inspection. Any other jurisdiction that tries to claim the same rules as for border inspections will get shot down rather quickly. This same behavior by any agent inside the US is not likely to be supported by any court, since clearly the right spelled out in the Constitution applies in that case. The distinct difference of purpose of the jurisdictions in question is what will prevent such from spreading to other jurisdictions.

As I said, the courts will get an opportunity to define again where the applicability of the Bill of Rights begins. Should be interesting to watch. My guess is they will punt and rule narrowly on the specifics of this case without touching the constitutional issue and carefully not set any precedent, since they do not have to.
 
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Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution says Congress has the power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations".

The courts have interpreted that as meaning that Customs can inspect anything crossing the border, reasoning that allowing any uninspected items would frustrate such regulation. I don't see this suit as doing much to change that.

A case might be made for not confiscating items otherwise covered under the 1st Amendment, or for not excessively delaying the entry of items, but I think excluding items from inspection is a non-starter. Right now, only diplomatic pouches are excluded (under international treaty).
 
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Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution says Congress has the power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations".

The courts have interpreted that as meaning that Customs can inspect anything crossing the border, reasoning that allowing any uninspected items would frustrate such regulation. I don't see this suit as doing much to change that.

A case might be made for not confiscating items otherwise covered under the 1st Amendment, or for not excessively delaying the entry of items, but I think excluding items from inspection is a non-starter. Right now, only diplomatic pouches are excluded (under international treaty).
Yea, you guys are all smarter than me, and probably right. I'd just like to live in a world tho, that would prevent customs from taking someone's laptop, "just because the kid was studying Islam," or "they didn't like their last name", or other what I consider inane reasons.........

It is a delicate balance, national security and rights, but with anything that is a balance, it is rare that it is always IN balance. It's usually tipped to one side or the other, and most often it goes back and forth.

Tell my guys, if they take my laptop for a month, or they ask me to get off the train, then release me 2 hours later, (no charges, no nothing) and the train is looooooong gone, and I lose my connections on a "round the USA on a paid ticket in sleeper class" am I due any compensation? Or is it just my "bad luck"?

I'm not being flippant, I'm just curious as to what you all think...........
 

jis

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Yea, you guys are all smarter than me, and probably right. I'd just like to live in a world tho, that would prevent customs from taking someone's laptop, "just because the kid was studying Islam," or "they didn't like their last name", or other what I consider inane reasons.........
Smarter? I doubt it. Having experienced the good the bad and the ugly more than many? Yes.

It would be nice if such could be adequately monitored and it could be ensured that blatant abuse did not take place, but I doubt that anyone in Congress will want to second guess border agents across the board specially in current circumstances and mood of the nation. Border agents at border checkpost generally operate under different rules than police officers within the US. You do notice that they don't Mirandize you before asking questions at Customs and Immigration posts, right?

It is a delicate balance, national security and rights, but with anything that is a balance, it is rare that it is always IN balance. It's usually tipped to one side or the other, and most often it goes back and forth.
Actually historically the situation right now is not particularly bad. It may be worse for some people of the appropriate color, race etc., but it is way better for others than was historically the case. Also customs check has more to do with commerce than security, though the same access does provide an opportunity for catching security issues too.

Tell my guys, if they take my laptop for a month, or they ask me to get off the train, then release me 2 hours later, (no charges, no nothing) and the train is looooooong gone, and I lose my connections on a "round the USA on a paid ticket in sleeper class" am I due any compensation? Or is it just my "bad luck"?
First of all what I state below is just facts as far as I know them, and should not be construed as something that I like or endorse. Assuming that you get released in US and not shipped back to Canada (which could happen, though very unlikely, for someone that is able to establish their US citizenship, but things are always dicier for dual citizens) I have never heard of anyone successfully recovering much from CBP in the way of damages. Even when people have to be shipped back from whence they came, usually the airlines have to eat the cost.

I'm not being flippant, I'm just curious as to what you all think...........
I understand. And do understand, just because I am trying to explain the way things are, does not mean I like them either. I should know, since I have been through more of this $hit than most of you have, first as a non-resident alien, then as a resident alien and finally as a citizen.
 

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Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution says Congress has the power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations".

The courts have interpreted that as meaning that Customs can inspect anything crossing the border, reasoning that allowing any uninspected items would frustrate such regulation. I don't see this suit as doing much to change that.

A case might be made for not confiscating items otherwise covered under the 1st Amendment, or for not excessively delaying the entry of items, but I think excluding items from inspection is a non-starter. Right now, only diplomatic pouches are excluded (under international treaty).
The rationale behind this is for purposes of collecting duties on items over a certain value bought overseas and brought into the US by those returning from abroad. Hence those oh so much fun Customs declaration forms you fill out before coming back into the country.

It would be nice if such could be adequately monitored and it could be ensured that blatant abuse did not take place, but I doubt that anyone in Congress will want to second guess border agents across the board specially in current circumstances and mood of the nation. Border agents at border checkpost generally operate under different rules than police officers within the US. You do notice that they don't Mirandize you before asking questions at Customs and Immigration posts, right?
Jishnu, one of the major reasons you don't get Mirandized before being asked by Customs at Customs and Immigration posts is because Miranda rights only kick in during a custodial interrogation. The initial contact with CBP at a Customs post when reentering the country does not constitute a "custodial interrogation." Combine that with the "you're Constitutional rights don't kick in until you're admitted into the US" issue and this explains the lack of being Mirandized.
 

jis

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Jishnu, one of the major reasons you don't get Mirandized before being asked by Customs at Customs and Immigration posts is because Miranda rights only kick in during a custodial interrogation. The initial contact with CBP at a Customs post when reentering the country does not constitute a "custodial interrogation." Combine that with the "you're Constitutional rights don't kick in until you're admitted into the US" issue and this explains the lack of being Mirandized.
Correct. I was mostly focusing on the latter of those two reasons, since the first set of rules would take effect only in a situation where constitutional rights had kicked in. But you are correct that even if constitutional rights had kicked in, there would be no reason to Mirandize, until at least one had become a suspect in some hanky-panky is an important one too.
 
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