A federal court has ruled that the government’s search of a traveling businessman’s laptop at the California border was unreasonable and violated his privacy.

In an opinion posted Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson suppressed evidence obtained from the computer of South Korean businessman Jae Shik Kim, undercutting the government’s case that he conspired to sell aircraft technology illegally to Iran. Jackson said that federal law enforcement improperly used Kim’s border crossing as an excuse to seize his computer and gather evidence it needed to prove suspected arms control violations.

The ruling was a sharply worded rebuke of the Obama administration’s treatment of laptops as containers like any other that can be searched without a warrant and without time limits to protect national security.

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