Alasaad v. Wolf
Nate Kitch

Alasaad v. Wolf

A lawsuit challenging warrantless searches of electronic devices at the border

On August 7, 2020, the Knight Institute, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and 12 media organizations submitted an amicus brief in Alasaad v. Wolf, a constitutional challenge brought by the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to warrantless device searches at the border.

In support of Plaintiffs’ cross-appeal to the First Circuit, the amicus brief explained the particular burdens that electronic device searches place on journalists, whose cell phones, laptops, and digital cameras contain sensitive newsgathering information, including the names and communications of their confidential sources. It also explained how electronic device searches burden the First Amendment rights of travelers more broadly, citing traveler complaints and search reports obtained by the Knight Institute through FOIA litigation. The brief urges the First Circuit to conduct analyze border searches of electronic devices under the First Amendment in addition to the Fourth Amendment, and to require a warrant for those searches.

Status: On November 12, 2019, the district court granted plaintiffs’ cross-motion for summary judgment in part, requiring the government to articulate reasonable suspicion that an electronic device contains contraband before searching the device at the border. The parties’ cross-appeals are currently pending in the First Circuit.

Case Information: Alasaad v. Nielsen, No. 1:17-cv-11730 (D. Mass.); Alasaad v. Wolf, Nos. 20-1077, 20-1081 (1st Cir.).

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