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San Francisco - Recently obtained documents show that last year the Department of Homeland Security quietly reversed a two-decades-old policy that restricted customs agents from reading and copying the personal papers carried by travelers, including U.S. citizens. The documents were made public today by the Asian Law Caucus (ALC) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which sued the government under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain policies governing the searches and questioning of travelers at the nation’s borders.
"For more than 20 years, the government implicitly recognized that reading and copying the letters, diaries, and personal papers of travelers without reason would chill Americans' rights to free speech and free expression," said Shirin Sinnar, ALC staff attorney. "But now customs officials can probe into the thoughts and lives of ordinary travelers without any suspicion at all."