The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Transportation Security Administration over its alleged practices of searching the electronic devices of passengers traveling on domestic flights. The federal governments policies on searching the phones, laptops, and tablets of domestic air passengers remain shrouded in secrecy, ACLU Foundation of Northern California attorney Vasudha Talla said in a blog post. The lawsuit, which is directed toward the TSA field offices in San Francisco and its headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, specifically asks the TSA to hand over records related to its policies, procedures and/or protocols pertaining to the search of electronic devices. This lawsuit comes after a number of reports came in pertaining to the searches of electronic devices of passengers traveling domestically. The ACLU also wants to know what equipment the TSA uses to search, examine and extract any data from passengers devices, as well as what kind of training TSA officers receive around screening and searching the devices. TSA is searching the electronic devices of domestic passengers, but without offering any reason for the search, Talla added. We dont know why the government is singling out some passengers, and we dont know what exactly TSA is searching on the devices. Our phones and laptops contain very personal information, and the federal government should not be digging through our digital data without a warrant. The ACLU says it first filed FOIA requests back in December, but TSA subsequently improperly withheld the requested records, the ACLU wrote in a blog post today. Although the TSA did announce heightened screening procedures in October 2017, it did not provide any information about its policies or procedures. TSA does, however, have public policies pertaining to the search and seizure of electronic devices at the border and during international trips. That practice, however, is also being challenged by the ACLU in court. Ive reached out to the TSA and will update this story if I hear back.
It wants to know the whys and hows when it comes to searching domestic passengers' devices. When the TSA launched stricter screening procedures for domestic passengers' electronic devices last year, it didn't reveal the whys and hows. That didn't sit well with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, which has now filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the organization in an effort to extract more info about its procedures and motivations. ACLU staff attorney Vasudha Talla explains: "TSA is searching the electronic devices of domestic passengers, but without offering any reason for the search. We don't know why the government is singling out some passengers, and we don't know what exactly TSA is searching on the devices. Our phones and laptops contain very personal information, and the federal government should not be digging through our digital data without a warrant." The rights and liberties watchdog wants to see the TSA's records detailing its policies, procedures or protocols when it comes to searching domestic passengers' devices. It also wants to see the equipment the TSA uses to probe deep into people's phones and laptops when they don't think manual searches are enough. Finally, it wants to know what kind of training the officers who conduct electronic searches get. The question now is whether the TSA would comply with the ACLU's request -- this is the second FOIA the non-profit org filed following its first attempt in December 2017. ACLU says the "TSA has subsequently improperly withheld the requested records" that time, so it's putting the pressure on the agency to be more transparent yet again. While the TSA is keeping procedures for domestic screening a secret, it did reveal that "border officials can search [international passengers'] devices with or without probable cause. " The ACLU is also challenging that practice for international flights, especially since the agency's number of searches has ballooned considerably these past couple of years.