Did you know that your cell phone can be confiscated at an airport by Border Protection and downloaded to their computers? That’s right. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, that means they can access whatever is on your phone, all your conversations, any app activity, Facebook, twitter, anything you’ve ever said to anyone, etc. And they don’t have to have a search warrant.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection are searching the phones and other digital devices of international travelers at border checkpoints. While digital searches increased five-fold in the final year of the Obama administration but still that is less than one-hundredth of 1 percent of all international arrivals.
Watchdog groups have noticed an uptick in complaints about searches of digital devices by border agents. It has especially become noticeable under the new president, said Adam Schwartz, a senior lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “We are concerned that a bad practice that has existed under past presidents has gotten worse in quantity under the new president,” Schwartz said.
CBP has its own explanation saying nothing has changed. But that isn’t true. With all the information that can be stored in phones and other devices, CBP wants to mine it for their own reasons.
Americans have protection under the Fourth Amendment from unreasonable search and seizure. A police officer, for example, must obtain a warrant from a judge before searching a suspect’s phone. But the U.S. border is a legal gray zone, said Nathan Wessler, Attorney at the ACLU. Border agents have long had the right to search travelers’ physical luggage without a warrant, and that interpretation has been expanded to include digital device. And that creates tremendous constitutional questions, said Wessler.
In 2016, under the Obama administration, there were 23,877 electronic media searches. That comes to .0061 percent of total arrivals into the U.S. In fiscal year 2015, there were only 4,764 electronic media searches.
While CBP does uncovers some crimes this way, a random system of searches is a form of privacy invasion and is not something most people expect. CBP agents are supposed to have a reasonable cause of suspicion.
U.S. citizens can’t be denied entry for refusing to comply with requests to supply a password for a phone. But they can detain them temporarily and take their phones for days. Travelers who are not U.S. citizens can be denied entry.
Data searches at airports deepen the surveillance state that has gripped western countries. It is a violation of the constitution of the United States which guarantees its citizens the right to privacy and from unwarranted search and seizure. Every principle of the U.S. Constitution will be repudiated. See Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, page 451.