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US judge rules warrantless gadget searches at the border aren't unconstitutional

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A United States district judge has ruled that gadget searches upon crossing into the US aren't a breach of the First and Fourth Amendments. In 2010, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Press Photographers and grad student Pascal Abidor challenged the 2008 ruling that authorizes unwarranted device search-and-seizures, saying that they exist to counteract protected speech and certain confidentiality privileges. However, district judge Edward Korman remarks that because the chance of the searches is so low (he estimates odds of less than five in a million, although the government's count has been disputed) there aren't any grounds for dismissing the rulings.

He further states that this is no different than having your baggage or person examined before crossing into the US, and that the government simply doesn't have enough resources to inspect the devices of everyone who enters the country. Most worrying however is when Korman says that it's "foolish, if not irresponsible" that the plaintiffs would store sensitive data on their gadgets in the first place. The ACLU is considering appealing the decision but attorney Catherine Crump tells the New York Times that for now the status quo remains, and in many areas of the country, "the government is free...to conduct all types of electronic device searches without reasonable suspicion."

[Image credit: Flickr/Crashworks]

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