Warrantless airport seizure of laptop “cannot be justified,” judge rules
“The US government’s prosecution of a South Korean businessman accused of illegally selling technology used in aircraft and missiles to Iran was dealt a devastating blow by a federal judge. The judge ruled Friday that the authorities illegally seized the businessman’s computer at Los Angeles International Airport as he was to board a flight home.
The authorities who were investigating Jae Shik Kim exercised the border exception rule that allows the authorities to seize and search goods and people—without court warrants—along the border and at airport international terminals. US District Court judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District of Columbia noted that the Supreme Court has never directly addressed the issue of warrantless computer searches at an international border crossing, but she ruled (PDF) the government used Kim’s flight home as an illegal pretext to seize his computer. Authorities then shipped it 150 miles south to San Diego where the hard drive was copied and examined for weeks, but the judge said the initial seizure ‘surely cannot be justified.'”