Border searches

Alasaad, et al. v. Nielsen, et al.

February 2, 2018

The Reporters Committee and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed an amicus brief in support of 11 plaintiffs, several of whom are journalists, who are challenging government searches of smartphones and other electronic devices at the U.S. border without a warrant.  The amicus briefs argues that because electronic devices store enormous amounts of private information about a person's speech and associations, searching them at the border without a warrant violates travelers' First Amendment rights.  The amicus brief highlights the particular concerns of journalists, whose electronic devices contain sensitive information about their newsgathering activities that, if revealed to the government, could chill their relationships with sources and ability to report freely.

Letter to DHS Inspector General on border searches of journalists

June 13, 2017

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press wrote to the Department of Justice's Inspector General to express our concern about United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) policies and practices that affect journalists at the border. The Office of the Inspector General had earlier announced that it is looking into border inspection procedures.

Askins v. DHS

October 3, 2016

Plaintiffs Ray Askins and Christian Ramirez sued the Department of Homeland Security to challenge policies of Customs and Border Protection that ban photography at United States ports of entry without advanced permission from CBP. The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in support of Plaintiffs, arguing that policies that restrict the news media's ability to photograph or record activity at the US border impinge upon the press's constitutionally protected rights to gather news and report on matters of public concern. We argued that photography and recording are essential elements of reporting on matters of public concern, including those that arise at the border; that strong public policy rationales underlie a First Amendment right to photograph public officials such as CBP officials; and that national security concerns do not provide a compelling interest that justifies the CBP photography policies.

Oscar-nominated filmmaker detained at U.S. border sparks debate over searches of electronic devices

Rachel Bunn | Privacy | News | April 10, 2012
April 10, 2012

An Oscar and Emmy nominated filmmaker and journalist said she was detained by the Department of Homeland Security when trying to re-enter the United States last week after traveling in Great Britain, renewing the legal debate over electronic device searches at U.S. borders and their implications for newsgathering.

Border searches of journalists raise First Amendment issues

Kristen Rasmussen | Privacy | Feature | March 1, 2011
March 1, 2011

Federal officials recently detained another journalist and photocopied the contents of his laptop computer and other electronic devices as he returned to the United States from assignment overseas. Meanwhile, the U.S. government has asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of such border searches.

Democracy Now! host detained at Canadian border

Amanda Becker | Newsgathering | Quicklink | December 1, 2009
December 1, 2009

Alternative journalist Amy Goodman was delayed by Canadian border officials last week while they questioned her about whether she intended to discuss the upcoming 2010 Vancouver Olympic games -- and not her latest book -- at a public library in Vancouver, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Homeland Security restricts laptop searches at border

Newsgathering | Feature | August 31, 2009
August 31, 2009

The Obama Administration has taken a first step toward restricting the laptop search policy that subjected journalists' confidential information to scrutiny by border officials, but in the end still defends the practice.

ACLU demands records of border searches of laptops

Corinna Zarek | Freedom of Information | Quicklink | August 27, 2009
August 27, 2009

The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol's controversial practice of randomly searching laptops upon U.S. entry quietly began last year but has quickly drawn attention, including a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union for records related to the practice.