Leahy And Daines Reintroduce Legislation To Protect Americans’ Privacy At The Border


WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, Oct. 24, 2019) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.) Thursday reintroduced their legislation requiring the government to have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to search or seize Americans’ electronic devices at the border.  Currently, under the so-called “border search exception” to the Fourth Amendment, U.S. government officials can seize or search Americans’ laptops, cell phones and other devices without any showing of probable cause to believe the device may contain illicit content.  This raises serious constitutional concerns.  Government searches of electronic devise at border crossings have nearly quadrupled since 2015, rising to 33,295 last year.

Just yesterday, for instance, it was reported that an American citizen was picking up gifts at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport customs office, ahead of his daughter’s wedding, when he was detained and had his cell phone seized.  In this case, the man was not even traveling but was simply picking up belongings at the airport that had been shipped to him.

This bipartisan bill includes provisions requiring reasonable suspicion or probable cause to search or seize Americans’ electronic devices at the border, and it would require the government to obtain a warrant before conducting forensic searches of such devices.  It also requires the Department of Homeland Security to collect statistics on these searches and seizures and report them to Congress.

Leahy said:  “This bill strikes a much needed balance between our Fourth Amendment rights and protecting our homeland.  Much of the most personal details of our lives is now stored on our cell phones and other devices.  Americans should not have to relinquish all of their fundamental privacy rights simply because they are coming home.

Daines said:  “I will always fight to protect the privacy of Montanans.  Regardless of where Montanans are, they should never have to give up their right to privacy – including at the border.”

Leahy and Daines introduced similar legislation in the last Congress.

# # # # #

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693