A new report from the Department of Homeland Security is asserting the right of immigration and border patrol officials to execute “suspicionless and warrantless” searches of electronic devices (cell phones, laptops, tablets, etc.) within their jurisdiction, which extends 100 miles into the United States from our international borders and coast lines.
A glance at this map from the ACLU showing this “constitution-free zone” shows that most of North Dakota is included:
From the DHS report:
The overall authority to conduct border searches without suspicion or warrant is clear and longstanding, and courts have not treated searches of electronic devices any differently than searches of other objects. We conclude that CBP’s and ICE’s current border search policies comply with the Fourth Amendment.
We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits.
This might make sense at the border, but how about 100 miles from the border?
This is also an interesting question in light of a bill before the North Dakota legislature (HB1373 introduced by Rep. Rick Becker) which would would require that state agencies get a warrant before using a surveillance drone for a criminal investigation. Given North Dakota’s proximity to the Canadian border, and the assertion by the federal government that they don’t need a warrant for any type of border search, it’s not hard to imagine local law enforcement piggy backing their drone investigations onto existing federal drone missions.
The implications for privacy issues are serious, and worrisome.
Not only can US border and immigration agents exercise their authority with little constitutional restraint in most of North Dakota, there’s little state officials can do to protect citizens.