On December 31, 2013, a US District Court judge in Brooklyn, New York ruled that US border officials need not have ‘reasonable suspicion’ in order to search and copy people’s laptops, cell phones, and other devices at border checkpoints. The judge’s opinion can be seen here.
This lack of basic protections from unreasonable searches and seizures is not unique to the US. We saw it happen with David Miranda at London’s Heathrow airport and via reader Sarah, I learn that the airport authorities in Auckland, New Zealand seem to be copying the same thuggish practices as those at Heathrow and the US, taking away people’s electronic equipment supposedly because of a terrorist threat, but in reality because of the person’s association with the Snowden revelations.
A backpacker coming home for Christmas had every bit of electronic equipment stripped from him at the airport.
A Customs officer at Auckland International Airport took law graduate Sam Blackman’s two smartphones, iPad, an external hard drive and laptop – and demanded his passwords.
Mr Blackman, 27, who was breaking up travelling with his journalist fiance Imogen Crispe for a month back in New Zealand for Christmas, was initially given no reason why the gear was taken.
The only possibility of why it occurred was his attendance – and tweeting – of a London meeting on mass surveillance sparked by the Snowden revelations, he said.
Later Blackman was given a dubious explanation for why he was singled out.
He was also given an explanation – although he is unsure whether to believe it.
He said he was told by a Customs official that his name matched a username on an account for an internet service provider in 2007.
He said he was told someone using the account accessed objectionable material on a specific date in 2007.
Mr Blackman said the account, which was in a university student flat, was used by all the people living in the flat. He said he was not living at the address at the time the material was accessed.
Mr Blackman and journalist fiancee Imogen Crispe had attended a meeting last month at which Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger was present where the Edward Snowden NSA leaks were discussed.
He said the explanation left him wondering whether it was his public tweets from the Snowden meeting which had raised his profile.
New Zealand is one of the ‘Five Eyes’ English-speaking countries (the others are the US, UK, Australia, and Canada) that cooperate in the global spying network and share information and tactics.