• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Reasonable Search and Seizure at the Border

    Both the fourth circuit and the ninth circuit courts have ruled that Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) searches of laptops and other electronics are legal; however, people are still protesting. A recent USA Today op-ed accused the CBP practice to be “without focus” and “arbitrar[y].” Constitutional objections have also been invoked, claiming the searches to be in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

    To call on the words of the Fourth Amendment myself, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures…” is not being violated. The goal of the CBP to stop information relating to terrorist plots and child pornography is perfectly reasonable.

    In a testimony before the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate, I made the point that “hundreds of millions of people cross the U.S. border each year in numbers approaching twice the population of the United States.” By not doing thorough checks at the border, we are essentially giving these hundreds of millions of people free reign in our country. I additionally stated that “there have been numerous instances where information gathered from terrorist laptops has provided crucial information.” Thorough inspections at the border even go beyond protecting against terrorism alone, and venture into the realm of drug, weapons, and human trafficking. Looking at these facts laptop searches are hardly “unreasonable” or “arbitrar[y].”

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    2 Responses to Reasonable Search and Seizure at the Border

    1. Darvin Dowdy, Houst says:

      The 4th Amendment applies to U.S. citizens. Not foreign nationals. I'll wager the biggest complainers are the foreign nationals crossing into our country. In particular those OTM's. Probing our system to see what can be gotten away with, so to speak. And thanks to G.W. Bush and Johnny Sutton, it continues to be a cake walk. Only ones being prosecuted/jailed are our valiant Border Patrol agents.

      It continues to amaze me how the President has fought the GWOT everywhere except on our southern border. Continues to leave that flank wide open. He has this "fatal attraction" type relationship w/Mexico. So perplexing. DD

    2. Ed Smithe, Virginia says:

      Darvin,

      I'm an American citizen and I'd have to say that your trust in the government is perplexing. On the one hand, you can't trust them to seal off the border–a gaping hole in our nation's security…but on the other, you're willing to trust them not to misuse personal information despite the fact that they are continuously caught doing so (see the FBI Director's testimony on National Security Letters).

      The question that ought to be asked with respect to this practice is, what can't be searched if the government can seize your laptop for security related concerns? Given this argument, is it not unreasonable for them to search your person and seize any papers that you may be carrying regardless of their use? Since Terrorists will now cease to use computers to store information (since they can be seized), why not just take along a package full of papers that details terrorist plots and details?

      I think that at that point (I sincerely pray) we realize that we've fallen down the slippery slope. Just because you may find what you're looking for (and can we please have the statistics on how much they've located with respect to searching laptops crossing the border?) doesn't make it reasonable…nor does it make it a legitimate constitutional test. Most lawbreaking in this nation occurs within the home…does that mean that one does not need a warrant to search another's home because the chances of finding someone breaking the law are so high?

      Heritage ought to do themselves a favor and stay away from endorsing decisions that come out of the 9th Circuit. This one is going to be struck down by Scalia, Alito, Roberts, and a Heritage favorite: Justice Thomas.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×