In response to an ACLU Freedom of Information Act
request, the Department of Homeland Security has at long last released its December 2011 Civil
Rights/Civil Liberties Impact Assessment of its policy of conducting
suspicionless searches of electronic devices at the border.
Because of the
sensitive, personal nature of the records we all carry with us on our laptops
and phones, both the First and Fourth Amendments prohibit the government from
searching these devices at the border, absent reasonable suspicion that a search
will turn up evidence of wrongdoing.
Disappointingly, the DHS Civil
Rights and Civil Liberties Office disagrees. While its constitutional analysis
is largely redacted (it's unclear why), the report does explain why such a
policy is, in the office's view, "inadvisable."
This is striking because it
is the first time, as far as we know, that the government has explained why
purely suspicionless searches supposedly enhance security: