Privacy Law

Probable Cause Requirement for Border Searches is Dropped


Documents and electronic devices seized by border control agents can be copied without any suspicion of wrongdoing under new standards issued by the government this summer. The change lowers a previous bar that had been set for copying materials.

Before the change, the government had required probable cause that a law had been broken before agents could copy material being brought into the country, the Washington Post reports. The prior higher standard for searches was not disclosed when the policy change was announced in July. Materials seized at the border may be shared with other government agencies if there is a suspicion of a legal violation.

The policy changes are part of a broader effort to use technology to fight terrorism. Critics say the new standards are being implemented largely without public input, according to the story, “raising concerns that federal border agents are acting without proper guidelines or oversight and that policies are being adopted that do not adequately protect travelers’ civil liberties.”

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