'Constitution-Free Zones' Ruling Appears Headed for High Court

Tuesday, 14 Jan 2014 08:23 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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A federal judge's ruling that approved random searches of laptops and cell phones within 100 miles of U.S. borders effectively creating what critics call "Constitution-free zones" is likely to face a Supreme Court challenge, according to Fox News.

Judge Edward Korman last month reaffirmed the Obama administration policy allowing federal agents to examine electronic devices near the border, contradicting a decision in California that demands "a reasonable suspicion" of criminal activity before conducting a search of personal information on computers, cameras and other similar devices.

Korman, a Reagan appointee, made his ruling in New York three years after the American Civil Liberties Union sued claiming the searches posed a danger to the lives of ordinary American citizens and violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure.

"I think Americans are justifiably becoming increasingly surprised and even outraged by the extent to which the national security state seems to be monitoring and collecting information about us all," ACLU Attorney Catherine Crump told Fox News Monday.
"We think that having a purely suspicion-less policy is wrong, because it leaves border agents with no standards at all to follow. That opens the door that people will be [targeted] for inappropriate reasons."

The ACLU lawsuit involved student Pascal Abidor who was a passenger on a train from Canada to New York when U.S. Customs agents noticed he had two passports, which is increasingly common for people with dual citizenship.

He had been studying Middle Eastern affairs and had photos of political protests by terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah on his laptop. Although he explained about his research, the agents then studied his personal photos and his conversations with his girlfriend.

"I knew I needed help," he said of the search.

Under the new ruling, federal agents can carry out such up to 100 miles from the U.S. border. But is expected to appeal the case to the highest court.

"The administration's rationale is you can never be too careful, that people do bring contraband across the border and it needs to be detected," Crump said. "We think that policy is really problematic because of the sensitive and private nature of the materials people have on their laptops and phones these days and we want to try to put an end to this suspicion-less search policy."

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