Sam Levin, The Guardian:
There are a growing number of reports of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) searching the electronic devices of passengers on domestic flights in the US, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has sued the federal agency for records.
“We’ve received reports of passengers on purely domestic flights having their phones and laptops searched, and the takeaway is that TSA has been taking these items from people without providing any reason why,” the staff attorney Vasudha Talla told the Guardian. “The search of an electronic device has the potential to be highly invasive and cover the most personal details about a person.”
Over the past year, civil liberties groups have repeatedly raised concerns about US border agents expanding the invasive searches of international travelers’ phones. Some travelers reported authorities demanding they unlock their devices and allow officials to review text messages, social media accounts, photos and other private information – without warrants or reasonable suspicion. Now, there are questions about whether similar practices could be happening for passengers traveling within the US, raising fears that the government may be increasing surveillance and privacy violations at airports.
“It speaks to a growing attempt by the government to investigate individuals not based on probable cause or reasonable suspicion, but perhaps based on impermissible factors,” said Talla.
Under Donald Trump, Border Patrol has escalated its searches in areas far from the border. CBP has also claimed it has the authority to conduct warrantless searches of electronic devices at international border crossings, without probable cause, sparking an ACLU challenge.
In 2015, CBP conducted 5,000 searches of electronic devices in airports – a number that increased to 30,000 searches last year, the ACLU noted.