ACLU Files Complaint with Department of Homeland Security Over Unwarranted Interrogation and Attempted Device Search

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SAN FRANCISCO – Today the ACLU Foundation of Northern California (ACLU-NC) filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on behalf of Andreas Gal who, on November 29, 2018, was subjected to interrogation and retaliation by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for questioning the unwarranted search of his electronic devices. The complaint demands an investigation into whether CBP’s interrogation and search of Gal was consistent with the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, as well as a comprehensive review of CBP’s policies to determine if they are consistent with the agency’s obligations under the U.S. Constitution and laws.

Andreas Gal is a successful entrepreneur and technologist who has been an outspoken proponent of online privacy, an opponent of warrantless mass surveillance, and a strong opponent of the current administration’s policies. Upon arrival at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Gal was interrogated by three CBP officers who demanded to search his electronic devices. Gal, who is currently employed by one of the world’s largest tech companies and bound by the company’s non-disclosure agreements, asked to speak to a lawyer before giving CBP officers access to his devices. CBP officers repeatedly told Gal that he had no right to an attorney and threatened him with criminal prosecution.

After an extended interrogation, Gal was allowed to leave with his devices, however, his Global Entry card was taken and he was told his privileges would be revoked because he refused to comply with the search.

 “CBP’s baseless detention and intrusive interrogation of Andreas Gal and the attempted search of his devices violated his Fourth Amendment rights,” said William Freeman, ACLU of Northern California Senior Counsel. “Furthermore, CBP’s policies lack protections for First Amendment rights by allowing interrogation and device searches that may be based on a traveler’s political beliefs, activism, nation of origin, or identity.”

“Digital devices contain huge amounts of personal data about our lives and our work,” said Jacob Snow, Technology and Civil Liberties Attorney at the ACLU of Northern California. “Border Patrol agents should not be able to access this data without a search warrant.”

CBP must ensure that its officers comply with the U.S. Constitution. The attempted unconstitutional search of Gal’s devices illustrates that CBP’s policies do not include the requirements necessary to safeguard the constitutional rights of people at the border.

Read more about Andreas Gal’s story here.

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