Last week, seven individual Twitter account holders joined the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in a lawsuit against President Donald Trump. The lawsuit alleges that the Trump administration violated the First Amendment by blocking seven people on Twitter from the @realDonaldTrump account because they mocked or criticized the president and his policies.
The Trump administration was given warning a month ago from the Knight Institute in a letter that advised the president to unblock the accounts or face litigation. Both the letter and the legal complaint argue that because Trump uses his account as a platform for his policies, he cannot legally block individuals from reading and responding to the tweets.
On today’s episode of the Young Voices Podcast, Stephen speaks with Advocate Dan King. Dan is a Niagara University alumnus, where he double majored in communications and social studies education. While at NU, Dan helped start his college libertarian chapter. He currently works as an editor and blogger for a small town newspaper in upstate New York. Dan is also the secretary for his local Libertarian Party chapter.
Dan wrote a piece for RealClearPolicy, outlining a bill in the U.S. Senate & House to protect individuals crossing the border from having their phone’s and devices invaded by government agents.
Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) recently introduced a much-needed, bipartisan Senate bill to combat mobile device searches. Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO.) and Blake Farenthold (R-TX) also introduced this bill to the House. The “Protecting Data at the Border” Act is a vital step towards protecting the American people from one of the most egregious forms of government overreach.
The bipartisan, bicameral bill would shut down what Wyden calls a “legal Bermuda Triangle,” which allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to search people’s mobile devices at the United States border without a warrant. If passed, the bill would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a “warrant based on probable cause” before seizing the device of “a U.S. person.” It also prevents law enforcement from denying or delaying entry to the country if a person refuses to turn over PIN numbers, passwords, or social media account information.
Current device search policy applies to U.S. citizens and noncitizens alike and allows the federal government to search cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices at border crossings without any suspicion of criminal wrongdoing. In 2009, after concerns were raised about the legality of the policy, the DHS conducted a civil liberties impact assessment, which came to the troubling conclusion that such searches are justified. The summary reads:
“We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits.”
In other words: Fourth Amendment need not apply.
It is abundantly clear that this policy treads all over civil liberties. As the American Civil Liberties Union points out, federal authorities are granted “broader” power near border areas. But those powers do not allow them blatantly to violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.