Since laptop and other electronic device seizures at US borders became legal without a warrant (including making copies of data), 7% of ACTE's business travelers reported being subject to a seizure as far back as February 2008.

Recently U.S. District Judge Amy B. Jackson has issued the government a long overdue smack-down in this regard. While her ruling is based on the particularly egregious circumstances of this case (waiting for someone to leave in order to get around a warrant, seizing the laptop without searching it and transporting it to be imaged and forensically analyzed, the flimsy tip, and the lack of any allegation of a current crime), she resoundingly rejects CBP’s assertion that it needs no suspicion to do whatever it wants at the border regarding digital devices.

Americans can plead the Fourth Amendment, but what can foreigners do?

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    The Fifth Amendment is irrelevant; search and seizure is the Fourth amendment. Also, TSA is not US Customs; that's CBP, and the two agencies are very different (among other things, nothing TSA does has anything to do with borders).
    – cpast
    May 27, 2015 at 5:38
  • @cpast corrected that May 27, 2015 at 5:40
  • Also, the case you cited was a foreign citizen. (and this is still a fourth amendment thing, not a fifth amendment thing).
    – cpast
    May 27, 2015 at 5:42
  • The problem with the case was not the that CBP wanted to seach the laptop, it was that it was doing so to get around other search and seisure laws. All that CBP is charged with is enforcing import/export restrictions or other legal orders.
    – Chad
    May 27, 2015 at 16:31
  • @Chad CBP is also charged with enforcing immigration law. That includes not letting foreigners who have committed serious crimes into the US. A search could be justified by these considerations, but there would likely be a need for probable cause or at least reasonable suspicion for the search to extend beyond a standard border search justified on grounds of customs enforcement.
    – phoog
    Mar 29, 2022 at 12:30

1 Answer 1


Foreign citizens are just as entitled to Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure as American citizens are. The case you cited was, in fact, a South Korean citizen who successfully had evidence suppressed from an unjustified border search.

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