The Association of Corporate Travel Executives, Alexandria, Va., is warning its members that anyone bringing a laptop across the U.S. border could risk having the laptop seized or its contents searched by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers.
ACTE was responding to a series of U.S. court rulings, one of which, U.S. v. Romm, holds that search of a laptop is permissible without probable cause under the border search doctrine. The case was decided in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in July of this year.
Do CBP officers randomly search laptops at border crossings? “They certainly have that authority,” said Christopher Wolf, an attorney for Proskauer Rose LLP, which has offices in the United States and Europe, and which has issued a client alert on the topic. “Whether or not they will use that right to randomly search computers is an open question. As a practical matter, we advise our clients that it's not very wise to carry sensitive data on laptops.”
While the CBP doesn't intend to subject travelers to unwarranted scrutiny, a press officer said, laptop computers may be subject to detention for violation of criminal law if it contains information with possible ties to criminal activity.