Saturday, April 1, 2017

Senator Aims to End Phone Searches at Airports and Borders

More than a month after Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) requested information about US Customs and Border Protection's practice of searching cell phones at US borders and airports, he's still waiting for answers—but he's not waiting to introduce legislation to end the practice.

"It's very concerning that [the Department of Homeland Security] hasn't managed to answer my questions about the number of digital searches at the border, five weeks after I requested that basic information," Wyden, a leading congressional advocate for civil liberties and privacy, told Mother Jones on Tuesday through a spokesman. "If CBP were to undertake a system of indiscriminate digital searches, that would distract CBP from its core mission, dragging time and attention away from catching the bad guys."

Wyden's request to DHS and CBP came on the heels of a February 18 report from the Associated Press of a "fivefold increase" in electronic media searches in fiscal year 2016 over the previous year, from fewer than 5,000 to nearly 24,000. It also followed Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly's suggestion that visitors from a select group of countries, mainly Muslim, might be required to hand over passwords to their social media accounts as a condition of entry. (That comment came a week after President Donald Trump first unveiled his executive order⁠ banning travel from seven majority-Muslim countries.)

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