Border searches of journalists raise First Amendment issues


The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
March 21, 2011

Federal officials recently detained another journalist and photocopied the contents of his laptop computer and other electronic devices as he returned to the United States from assignment overseas. Meanwhile, the U.S. government has asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of such border searches.

Videographer Brandon Jourdan said immediately after he deplaned at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport last month, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents approached and led him to a room used by U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials, according to Jourdan’s interview with “Democracy Now!,” a nationally syndicated daily television and radio news program for which he was documenting the rebuilding of schools in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. Homeland Security agents questioned Jourdan about his travels, and searched and photocopied his documents and the contents of his computer, phone, camera flash drives and external hard drive, Jourdan said. The detainment lasted more than five hours, he added.

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