Monday, April 18, 2011

Does Homeland Security Go Too Far?

Kevin Acevedo

Department of Homeland Security: And How They Abuse Their Power

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of Pascal Adibor, against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after Adibor was detained by DHS. In Adibor vs. Naplitano 10-4059, Adibor was traveling home to New York from Canada and a Border Protections Agent took Adibor’s laptop and found a picture of the Hamas militant group, which had been downloaded from the Internet for schoolwork. It should be noted that Adibor is an Islamic Studies Ph. D. student. Adibor was handcuffed and taken into a holding cell for several hours before being let go with no charges. However, his laptop was detained for 11 days and he received an invoice saying that the contents would be copied and forwarded to any government agency that needed them. Two weeks later, he visited his girlfriend in Britain and upon his arrival; he was questioned at Newark airport.

Adibor is suing the DHS, saying that his First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights were violated. His freedom of speech and association were violated and the DHS committed unreasonable search and seizure against Adibor. He feels as if the government will always have an eye on him. “I have no control over who I am anymore”, said Adibor. Adibor is challenging the DHS policy that, “authorizes the suspicionless search of the contents of Americans’ laptops, cell phones, cameras and other electronic devices at the international border.” The policy permits border agents to search and copy electronic devices without reasonable suspicion. “The policies also do not place any time limits on how long DHS can keep travelers’ devices, nor do they limit the scope of private information that may be searched, copied, or detained.”

Considering that Adibor is a Islamic Studies student, there is a good reason as to why he had pictures of a militant group on his computer. According to court documents, “the agents told Mr. Adibor that he had lots of “symbolic materials” in his possession and that he needed to explain the meaning of the materials and why he possessed them. They also asked him about his parents, travel history, and his perspective on the Middle East.” It seems as if these are unnecessary actions by the DHS seeing that they can pull up the information on whether or not he majors in Islamic Studies and look at his files through their database. The ACLU also filed a suit on behalf of the National Press Photographers Association, who travel with laptops and media storage devices to cover global stories. The ACLU claims that the, “search policies interfere with NPPA members ability to communicate confidentially with sources.” If I knew my source was revealed to the government, it would be an uneasy feeling that I would be dealing with because you don’t know what the government would do to someone that is speaking out against their policies or has a crime history.


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