Federal security workers are now free to snoop through more than just your undergarments and luggage at the airport. Thanks to a recent series of federal court decisions, the digital belongings of international fliers are now open for inspection. This includes reading the saved e-mails on your laptop, scanning the address book on your iPhone or BlackBerry and closely scrutinizing your digital vacation snapshots.
Unlike the more common confiscations of dangerous Evian bottles and fingernail clippers, these searches are not being done in the name of safety. The digital seizures instead are part of a disturbing trend of federal agencies using legal gimmicks to sidestep Fourth Amendment constitutional protections. This became clear in an April 8 court ruling that found admissible the evidence obtained by officials who had peeped at a passenger’s laptop files at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.