Jenner & Block submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in support of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the government’s warrantless search and seizure of electronic devices at the border. Filed on February 2, 2018, the brief urges a federal judge to deny a motion from the US Department of Homeland Security, US Customs and Border Protection and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to dismiss Alasaad, et. al. v. Nielsen, et. al. The brief argues that because electronic devices store enormous amounts of private information about a person’s thoughts, communications, associations and movements, searching them at the border without a warrant violates travelers’ First Amendment rights. The firm is representing the organizations on a pro bono basis.
According to the brief, “Because electronic devices are necessary to newsgathering, searches of these devices at the border can force disclosure to the government of First Amendment-protected activity. These searches are often highly invasive, to a degree that would make reasonable journalists question whether they are really free to conduct their work. The contents of electronic devices can reveal the stories a journalist is developing, with whom she is communicating, and her specific travel plans. Disclosure of such information can expose sensitive newsgathering methods and deter potential sources from speaking to members of the media.”
The team writing the brief included Partner Scott B. Wilkens and Associate Michael E. Stewart.