ACLU sues TSA over electronic device searches

Megan Rose Dickey
ACLU sues TSA over electronic device searches

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Transportation Security Administration over its alleged practices of searching the electronic devices of passengers traveling on domestic flights.

“The federal government’s policies on searching the phones, laptops, and tablets of domestic air passengers remain shrouded in secrecy,” ACLU Foundation of Northern California attorney Vasudha Talla said in a blog post.

The lawsuit, which is directed toward the TSA field offices in San Francisco and its headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, specifically asks the TSA to hand over records related to its policies, procedures and/or protocols pertaining to the search of electronic devices.

This lawsuit comes after a number of reports came in pertaining to the searches of electronic devices of passengers traveling domestically. The ACLU also wants to know what equipment the TSA uses to search, examine and extract any data from passengers' devices, as well as what kind of training TSA officers receive around screening and searching the devices.

“TSA is searching the electronic devices of domestic passengers, but without offering any reason for the search,” Talla added. “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. Our phones and laptops contain very personal information, and the federal government should not be digging through our digital data without a warrant.”

The ACLU says it first filed FOIA requests back in December, but TSA "subsequently improperly withheld the requested records," the ACLU wrote in a blog post today.

Although the TSA did announce heightened screening procedures in October 2017, it did not provide any information about its policies or procedures. TSA does, however, have public policies pertaining to the search and seizure of electronic devices at the border and during international trips. That practice, however, is also being challenged by the ACLU in court.

I've reached out to the TSA and will update this story if I hear back.

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