U.S. border agents stopped journalist from entry and took his phones
Award-winning Canadian photojournalist Ed Ou has had plenty of scary border experiences while reporting from the Middle East for the past decade. But his most disturbing encounter was with U.S. Customs and Border Protection last month, he said.
On Oct. 1, customs agents detained Ou for more than six hours and briefly confiscated his mobile phones and other reporting materials before denying him entry to the United States, according to Ou. He was on his way to cover the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline on behalf of the Canadian Broadcast Corporation.
If Ou had already been inside the U.S. border, law enforcement officers would have needed a warrant to search his smartphones to comply with a 2014 Supreme Court ruling. But the journalist learned the hard way that the same rules don’t apply at the border, where the government claims the right to search electronic devices without a warrant or any suspicion of wrongdoing.
That alarms civil liberties advocates because smartphones have become the hub that connects all aspects of a person’s digital life. The status quo means the most intimate photos or messages of anyone who crosses the border could end up in the government’s hands. It’s even more concerning when wielded against people like journalists, who may have confidential information stored on their devices, critics argue.
Photo credit: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post