House bill would restrict laptop searches

DHS would have to perform rule-making to continue searches

A bill pending before a House subcommittee would require the Homeland Security Department to provide official notice and conduct a rule-making if that department wants to continue its laptop searches and data seizures that affect U.S. citizens at all the nation's borders.

Under the bill (H.R. 1726) sponsored by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), DHS officials would be required to perform an open rule-making process with public comment to continue their policy of searching computer laptops belonging to U.S. citizens at the borders.

The bill is scheduled for mark-up today by the House Homeland Security Committee’s Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee, which is chaired by Sanchez, according to a news release. It is intended to bolster privacy protections for U.S. citizens whose electronic data is seized in such searches, she said.

“This bill preserves the Department of Homeland Security’s broad authority to search individuals and their belongings at our borders, while setting standards to protect travelers’ privacy,” Sanchez said. “In short, the bill strikes the right balance between security and civil liberties by requiring DHS to engage the American public and undertake an open rule-making process.”

The National Business Travel Association supports the bill.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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