Thursday, December 12, 2013

Another abusive digital search

My Twitter feed this morning has been full of tweets by, about, and in support of Sam Blackman, whose digital devices were seized at the border by Customs. No reasons were given for the seizure. Which would seem to be the very definition of an unreasonable search and seizure.

In the absence of reasons from Customs, all we have is suspicion. And on that front, its worth noting that Blackman had recently attended the Stop Bugging Us conference in the UK, and thinks that might have raised a red flag. If so, then Customs seems to be using border searches to persecute and surveill the political opponents (and those who might be opponents, such as academics and journalists) of state spies. Which doesn't really seem to be related to the enforcement of Customs controls at the border, and thus is an unlawful exercise of state power.

Unfortunately, unless Blackman has a few thousand dollars to throw away on a BORA case for unreasonable search and surveillance, we'll never know. Though there is one avenue. The Ombudsman has jurisdiction over Customs, and can investigate actions for unreasonableness. Anyone whose devices are searched at the border by Customs should immediately file a complaint with the Ombudsman's Office. At the least, you'll force Customs to disclose a reason, which can then be examined - and that's the first step to ending these searches.