ACLU sues TSA to release info on phone search policy

Passengers are processed by TSA screeners at Los Angeles International Airport on November 2, 2013. This week, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the TSA to get information released about its policy on electronic device searches. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

March 14 (UPI) — The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California filed a lawsuit Monday against the Transportation Security Administration to find out how the agency decides when to search passengers’ electronic devices.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, the lawsuit seeks records from the TSA field office in San Francisco and the TSA headquarters in Arlington, Va.pertaining to “policies, procedures, or protocols regarding the search of passengers’ electronic devices; equipment used to search, examine, or extract data from passengers’ devices; and training of the officers conducting the screenings and searches of electronic devices.”

“The federal government’s policies on searching the phones, laptops and tablets of domestic air passengers remain shrouded in secrecy,” said Vasudha Talla, Staff Attorney with the ACLU in Northern California.

She added: “TSA is searching the electronic devices of domestic passengers, but without offering any reason for the search. We don’t know why the government is singling out some passengers, and we don’t know what exactly TSA is searching on the devices.”

Although the TSA and other federal agencies have been searching people’s electronic devices for years, the Department of Homeland Security announced last year that it would enhance TSA’s screening methods, in particularly on flights originating outside of the United States.

And NBC News reported that DHS has published several technical reports about how it is able to retrieve data from various electronic devices.

The ACLU said it hopes to shed light on how the U.S. government decides who gets screened and why.

“Our phones and laptops contain very personal information, and the federal government should not be digging through our digital data without a warrant,” Talla said.


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