In response to the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking documents about the government’s policy of searching travelers’ laptops and cell phones at U.S. border crossings without suspicion of wrongdoing, the government has released hundreds of pages of documents about the policy. The records reveal new information about how many devices have been searched, what happens to travelers’ files once they are in the government’s possession, and travelers’ complaints about how they are treated by border officials.
The ACLU's analysis of the first batch of documents released by CBP reveals:
• In a span of just nine months, CBP officials searched over 1,500 electronic devices belonging to travelers. Under the current policy, they were not required to justify a single one of these searches.
• Travelers' laptops are not the only devices at risk of being examined, detained, or seized by the government. In fact, cell phones were the most commonly searched and seized devices between October 2008 and June 2009.
• Other types of devices that were searched and detained during this time period include digital cameras, thumb drives, hard drives, and even DVDs.
• Between July 2008 and June 2009, CBP transferred electronic files found on travelers' devices to third-party agencies almost 300 times. Over half the time, these unknown agencies asserted independent bases for retaining or seizing the transferred files. More than 80 percent of the transfers involved the CBP making copies of travelers' files.[...]
Those interested in analyzing the data themselves may find these spreadsheets useful.