The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is once again coming under fire for possible violation of constitutional rights.
New claims have emerged about DHS agents tracking a man, and then searching and seizing his electronic devices along the United States border without probable cause. As previously reported by Off The Grid News, a so-called Constitution Free Zone exists at all American airports and within 100 miles of all our borders.
Recently disclosed US federal government files shared by the Associated Press offer a glimpse inside the DHS search and seizure practices. Department of Homeland Security agents are not required to have a reasonable suspicion in order to seize an electronic device, or to garner a judge’s approval prior to relieving an American citizen of their personal property.
AP reported the experiences of David House, a young Boston man who is also a computer programmer. House had been, at most, a casual friend of Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, who leaked classified documents to WikiLeaks.
Federal agents wanted House’s laptop and other electronic equipment but – instead of obtaining a search warrant – waiting for him to leave and re-enter the country. By doing that, they supposedly did not have to have a warrant.
House and Manning had met briefly during a computer science event in January 2010. House claims he had nearly forgotten the short conversation and handshake until he saw Bradley Manning on the news. The 22-year-old computer programmer and some friends established the Bradley Manning Support Network, an advocacy group.
The summer that House went to the prison to visit Manning, he also wound up on an immigrations and customs enforcement watch list. A note in the government file on House reportedly stated that federal agents were searching for another set of classified documents that Manning has given to WikiLeaks, but had not yet been shared publicly. According to reported excerpts from House’s file, federal agents were explicitly told to “secure digital media” and identify all of House’s companions if he ever attempted to cross a United States border.
Months after House and Manning had been in contact, the computer programmer planned an overseas trip. When the Boston man re-entered the United States, his digital camera, jump drive, laptop and cell phone were immediately confiscated by DHS agents. Weeks later the laptop was finally returned, but it took about a year before the federal agency admitted that David House had not committed any crime. House claims that he had also been questioned by the FBI, State Department, and the Army.
Federal agents reportedly had reviewed flights records, watching for House’s name. The DHS search and seizure occurred in November 2010, when the Boston man and his girlfriend were returning from a vacation in Mexico. When he walked out of the airport terminal, two agents were waiting — one of which was a computer forensics expert.
“It was pretty clear to me I was being targeted for my visits to Manning in prison and my support for him,” House said. “I’m hoping we can get our country to go in a better direction.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the agency on House’s behalf. The federal government was ultimately forced to turn over all the records about House at the end of the two-year legal battle. The ACLU contends that DHS and other federal investigators are using border crossings to circumvent the Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens.
Catherine Crump, an ACLU lawyer who represented House, said Congress sadly has not gotten involved in monitoring and even limiting DHS actions.
“Ultimately, the Supreme Court will need to address this question because unfortunately neither of the other two branches of government appear motivated to do so,” Crump said.