Expectations of Privacy

That we have no reasonable expectation of privacy in our personal effects as we cross foreign borders into foreign countries, and in the crossing process are subject to that country’s laws, is well understood.

Should that lack of expectation in those foreign countries matter, though, concerning our expectation of privacy as we cross our own country’s borders re-entering home from a trip abroad?

In a quasi-related expectations matter, our courts have already ruled, in a mind-reading tour de force, that we must have no such expectation when our private matters are given up to third parties.  These rulings come despite the plethora of privacy protection laws that require those third parties to safeguard our personal matters, and they come while ignoring the enormous hue and cry that ensues a third party’s perceived misuse of our personal matters, even when that (mis)use is narrowly legal—which plainly demonstrates that we do indeed have such an expectation.

One Federal District Judge, Edward Korman of the Eastern District of New York, has ruled that we have no legitimate expectation of privacy on crossing our own border pursuant to coming home.  In a case involving the search of the laptop of an American citizen and journalist (a news photographer, specifically), Korman decided that it’s jake for US border agents have the authority to search laptop computers without reasonable suspicion—just the bald fact that an American is coming home.  Korman’s ruling held, among other things, that

[plaintiff] cannot be so naive to expect that when he crosses the Syrian or Lebanese border that the contents of his computer will be immune from searches and seizures at the whim of those who work for Bashar al-Assad or Hassan Nasrallah.

This application of foreign law as a reason to abrogate an American citizen’s rights domestically, is of a piece with other judges’ rulings that Sharia Law applies in American courts, even to the point of justifying spousal rape (it took an appellate court to overturn this travesty).

Compounding this…opinion…is the further fact that Korman used this excuse to dismiss the citizen/journalist’s lawsuit over the search because he had no standing, having suffered no harm: he had not privacy to invade, and so there was no foul committed.

Korman’s opinion can be seen here.

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