Lawsuit challenges US border searches of computers, phones

Under current law, US customs officers have the right to search or seized electronic devices, on the basis that the owners are not technically inside the US. (File photo, US government)

WASHINGTON: A federal lawsuit filed Wednesday claims the US government's growing practice of searching laptops and cellphones at the border is unconstitutional because electronic devices now carry troves of private personal and business information.

The government has vociferously defended its searches as critical to protecting the homeland.

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, and requires law enforcement to secure warrants based on probable cause. Courts, however, have made an exception for searches at US ports of entry and airports. They've ruled the government can do warrantless border searches to enforce immigration and customs laws and protect national security.

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