Trump Administration Loses Effort to Halt Phone-Search Suit

(Bloomberg) -- A federal judge denied the Trump administration’s request to throw out a lawsuit challenging the right of border agents to seize and search the mobile phones and laptops of U.S. citizens without warrants or a showing of probable cause.

"Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that the government’s digital device search policies substantially burden travelers’ First Amendment rights," U.S. District Judge Denise Casper in Boston wrote in a ruling Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued in September, alleging the searches at airports and land borders of U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants are based on outdated laws that were intended to apply to the contents of suitcases and purses -- not the detailed personal data stored on smartphones and laptops. The U.S. had argued that a longstanding federal court precedent recognizes the authority of the border searches.

Trump Administration Defends Border Searches of Electronics

Ten plaintiffs -- including a military veteran, a journalist and a NASA engineer -- will now move toward trial, said ACLU attorney Esha Bhandari.

“This is a win for constitutional rights at the border,” Bhandari said in a statement. “The court has rightly recognized the severity of the privacy violations that travelers face when the government conducts border searches of electronics.”

Customs and Border Protection didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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