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Government Surveillance

Bill Would Rein In Laptop Searches at the Border

Random, intrusive searches of the contents of laptop computers at the border would be outlawed by legislation introduced on September 26 by Senators Feingold, Cantwell, Wyden, and Akaka. The Traveler's Privacy Protection Act (S. 3612) would require U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials to have a "reasonable suspicion" of a crime before they could search a laptop computer and other data storage devices; a court order based on probable cause would be needed to seize a device. Travelers would have the right to be present while electronic devices were searched, discriminatory searches would be barred, and strict time limits for searching would be imposed. The bill, which limits its protection to residents of the US, would displace recently-disclosed Customs policies permitting suspicionless laptop searches at the border that could last for weeks.