Duane Kerzic Suing Homeland Security

You might remember Duane Kerzic as the photographer who was detained and cited for trespassing in 2008 by Amtrak police for taking pictures inside New York’s Penn Station while participating in Amtrak’s annual photo contest, “Picture Our Train.” Kerzic was later vindicated by an undisclosed financial settlement and an appearance on “The Colbert Report,” and now he’s a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s laptop search policy at the border.

According to NPPA:

In July 2007, Kerzic was returning to the United States from a trip to Canada where he’d been photographing lighthouses and national parks for a story. He was riding his motorcycle and his laptop and camera gear were in his saddlebag when he arrived at the Customs and Border Protection inspection point at the Thousand Island border crossing. When agents asked him where he was going and then referred him to secondary screening, he was asked to wait inside a building while his motorcycle and saddlebag remained outside. Kerzic could see CBP agents going through his belongings outside, and in a few minutes a CBP agent came into the building with Kerzic’s laptop in his hands.

After looking through the photographer’s laptop for about 15 minutes, Kerzic was permitted to leave and to enter the United States.

The policy authorizes US Customs and Border Protection agents to conduct suspicionless searches on U.S. citizens’ electronic devices at international borders and then copy and distribute the devices’ contents (even after the individual is permitted entry into the United States). And that, needless to say, is deeply concerning to journalists who rely heavily on protecting their sources from disclosure and possible retribution to do their jobs.

As a First Amendment concern NPPA’s lawyer, Mickey H. Osterreicher, believes that “government officials’ unfettered ability to search journalists’ laptops and other electronic devices will have a chilling effect on their ability to gather and disseminate the news once it becomes widely known that any information they gather may be subject to search and seizure without probable cause or reasonable suspicion.”

“This will directly impact their ability to provide confidentiality to their sources,” Osterreicher said. “One can only imagine the added difficulty, if not impossibility, for journalists to conduct interviews, report on foreign relations or cover stories involving allegations of corruption when news sources believe that the information gathered abroad may be reviewed, copied and shared by agencies of the government without any of the normally guaranteed Constitutional protections.”

More important, these DHS policies not only impact journalists, but all Americans.

“Allowing government officials to look through American’s most personal materials – the things we store in our laptops, cameras, and cell phones – without reasonable suspicion is unconstitutional and inconsistent with American values, and a waste of limited resources. It doesn’t make us ‘safer’. Instead it ‘builds a bigger haystack’ and diverts resources away from proven law enforcement methods.”

The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf  of the National Press Photographers Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, New York Civil Liberties Union, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, graduate student Pascal Abidor, and Duane Kerzic as plaintiffs against Janet Napolitano, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security head, argues that Americans do not relinquish their constitutional rights when they decide to travel outside the United States, i.e., protection from unreasonable searches and seizures that are protected by the Fourth Amendment.

Source: NPPA Joins Federal Lawsuit Challenging Constitutionality of DHS Laptop Search

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