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June 26, 2008 

Senate Holds Hearing on Laptop Searches Conducted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection

In light of the two Circuit Courts of Appeal decisions holding that the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does not require any reasonable suspicion to search and seize the contents of any electronic device, including a laptop computer, belonging to a U.S. citizen returning to the U.S. from abroad, the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights held a hearing earlier this week on "Laptop Searches and Other Violations of Privacy Faced by Americans Returning from Overseas Travel."

At the hearing, subcommittee chairman Russe
ll Feingold (D-WI) expressed concern that the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) did not send a witness to testify.

According to the New York Times , Senator Feingold said a written statement submitted by
Deputy Commissioner Jayson P. Ahern , provided “little meaningful detail on the agency’s policies.” The paper reports that "Mr. Ahern’s statement said that the agency’s efforts did not infringe upon privacy and that it was important to note that the agency was 'responsible for enforcing over 600 laws at the border, including those that relate to narcotics, intellectual property, child pornography and other contraband, and terrorism.'"

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