WASHINGTON, D.C. – Earlier today, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), chairman of the Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management (FSO) Subcommittee for the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), held a hearing entitled, “Examining Warrantless Smartphone Searches at the Border.”
“I think that most Americans could agree that it’s reasonable to let customs officials search suitcases for contraband. What’s unreasonable is that the government lawyers want you to believe that there’s no difference between a suitcase and a smartphone. I disagree, and here again, I think most Americans would, too,” Dr. Paul said in his opening statement.
Currently, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policies permit customs and border authorities to seize and search American citizens’ smartphones and other digital devices when they travel internationally to and from the United States, without a warrant or suspicion of wrongdoing.
The FSO subcommittee heard testimony regarding the history of this so-called “border search exception” to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment and evaluated the far-reaching privacy implications of DHS’ policy of allowing customs and border officials to seize and search the digital devices of international travelers without a warrant.
“There are no statutory limits on who can see this information, how long it can be kept, or how it can be used, and there is no special protection provided for sensitive material, political material, client-attorney privilege, trade secrets, medical information, or materials otherwise privileged under the law,” Georgetown Law Professor Laura Donohue noted in her testimony.
In April 2017, Dr. Paul joined U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) in introducing the Protecting Data at the Border Act (S. 823) to stop this violation of Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights and prevent government officials from requiring Americans to disclose sensitive information on their digital lives in order to leave or re-enter the country.
You can find video from today’s hearing HERE.