Patterico's Pontifications


A Vote for Obama …

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Law,Obama — DRJ @ 6:57 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

… is a vote to put laptops of persons passing through customs in legal limbo where the Bill of Rights does not apply.



12 Responses to “A Vote for Obama …”

  1. Note that this implies that until YOU get through customs, the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply to you either. I wonder how long they could hold citizens in that “limbo” if this crap had been accepted?

    Kevin Murphy (5ae73e)

  2. If you read through the links, this policy applies to electronic equipment but not people. It was started during the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration has specifically elected to continue it. What I don’t understand is why the Obama Administration, with its commitment to civil liberties above all else, thinks it’s okay to conduct a warrantless search of the laptop’s contents after holding it for months.

    It reminds me of the Obama Administration’s decision to ask for an exception to Miranda in terror cases instead of relying on the so-called public safety exception. Obviously holding a suspect for days before questioning him, or keeping an electronic item for weeks before searching it, undermines the argument that the questions or search are needed for a public safety reason. But the Obama Administration clearly wants more tools to fight the War on Terror. I don’t blame them, but the hypocrisy of how they are doing it is still stunning.

    The bottom line is the Obama Administration is moving closer to doing what they claimed the Bush Administration wanted to do but never did — create a terror exception to America’s civil liberties.

    DRJ (d43dcd)

  3. It is the Fourth Amendment that does not apply, essentially. It’s pretty old law and it is not limited to border crossings. It can extend to fifty miles from the border.

    nk (db4a41)

  4. nk,

    As I read it, the court distinguished the Custom official’s general right to search property from the right to search the electronic contents of property.

    DRJ (d43dcd)

  5. I love how the media coverage of this story conflates the rights of U.S. citizens inside the country with their rights when leaving or entering the U.S.
    Is it not normal for items being brought into the U.S. to have to pass through customs inspection?
    How is inspecting a laptop any different?
    During WWII, my wife’s aunt, a U.S. citizen, lived in Great Britain. Every single one of the letters passed between her mother and family in the U.S. and her letters back were opened, read, and marked as passed by U.S. government censors.
    When possibly objectionable passages were in the letter, they used a razor blade to remove the text from the page.

    It is the duty of the Executive Branch to secure our borders.
    This judge is going beyond his authority, IMHO.

    nbindo (8b5ad5)

  6. In a 2008 opinion, the 9th Circuit authorized warrantless border searches of the contents of electronic equipment. I assume this applies to laptops as well as cellphones, iPads, iPods, Kindles, etc.

    DRJ (d43dcd)

  7. I think I could draft a complaint against a federal agent that would bypass the Federal Tort Claims Act. Essentially, that his actions were motivated by personal spite, malice, laziness and malfeasance of office, and not falling within the scope of his duties. Twenty years ago. Now, I’m too old and fat and comfortable.

    nk (db4a41)

  8. I can’t believe these comments. Didn’t you pay attention to what the judge ruled? The search immediately after he crossed the border was good. So were the three searches done within the next month. But the government had no right to hold on to the laptop and keep searching it indefinitely. A search six months later is no longer incident on the border crossing. That seems to me a very reasonable, indeed an overly conservative decision. I’d have ruled out everything that didn’t happen while the guy was actually at the airport.

    Milhouse (ea66e3)

  9. I voted for Sen. Obama because I thought he would be more likely than Sen. Clinton to roll back some of the more aggressive security-state developments of the Bush administration than Senator Clinton was.

    I don’t know if that was correct; it’s difficult to falsify.

    But I do know that President Obama’s performance in this regard has left me deeply, deeply disappointed.

    aphrael (9e8ccd)

  10. aphrael – it would be ignoble of me to gloat *LOUDLY* and tell you We TOLD you so ! We WARNED you !

    So I won’t do that … cuz we already know that you are finally realising it in your own mind … no matter how hard you try to tell yourself otherwise – and the harder you try, the more obvious you realise it was …

    Alasdair (205079)

  11. Alasdair, the thing is, it’s really not clear to me that either Sen. Clinton or Sen. McCain would have been better in this regard.

    Which suggests that perhaps I should have voted for the Libertarian.

    aphrael (9e8ccd)

  12. Very old law, from long before either Bush. The idea that they can hold and repeatedly search is much newer. Not sure when that started, probably with 9/11.

    htom (412a17)

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