The three judges who heard the arguments in October in the appeal of his decision seemed persuaded that a computer is just a container and deserves no special protection from searches at the border. The same information in hard-copy form, their questions suggested, would doubtless be subject to search.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., took that position in a 2005 decision. It upheld the conviction of John W. Ickes Jr., who crossed the Canadian border with a computer containing child pornography. A customs agent’s suspicions were raised, the court’s decision said, ‘after discovering a video camera containing a tape of a tennis match which focused excessively on a young ball boy.’
It is true that the government should have great leeway in searching physical objects at the border. But the law requires a little more – a ‘reasonable suspicion’ – when the search is especially invasive, as when the human body is involved.
Searching a computer, said Jennifer M. Chac?n, a law professor at the University of California, Davis, ‘is fairly intrusive.’ Like searches of the body, she said, such ‘an invasive search should require reasonable suspicion.’
(via The Agitator).