David Frum

02.20.13

Chopping Up the 4th Amendment

The Department of Homeland Security office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties concluded that police searching and seizing electronic devices within 100 miles of the US border without reasonable suspicion or a warrant does not violate the 4th Amendment. Between 2008 and 2010, 6,500 people had electronics searched near the border, thanks to the DHS rule that was enacted by the Bush Administration, and has been continued under the Obama Administration.

The ACLU has requested the DHS report using the Freedom of Information Act and are conducting a lawsuit on behalf of Pascal Abidor. At an Amtrak inspection point, Pascal Abidor showed his U.S. passport to a federal agent. He was ordered to move to the cafe car, where they removed his laptop from his luggage and “ordered Mr. Abidor to enter his password,” according to the lawsuit.

Agents asked him about pictures they found on his laptop, which included Hamas and Hezbollah rallies. He explained that he was earning a doctoral degree at a Canadian university on the topic of the modern history of Shiites in Lebanon.

He was handcuffed and then jailed for three hours while the authorities looked through his computer while numerous agents questioned him, according to the suit, which is pending in New York federal court.