FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 13, 2011
Rachel Myers, ACLU national, (212) 549-2689; firstname.lastname@example.org
Christopher Ott, ACLU of Massachusetts, (617) 482-3170 x322; email@example.com
ACLU Sues Homeland Security Over Seizure Of Activist's Computer
Targeting David House For Lawful Association With Bradley Manning Support Network Is Unconstitutional
"Targeting people for searches and seizures based on their lawful associations is unconstitutional," said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. "The government does not have the authority to demand information about whom you spend time with or what you talk about. We need safeguards to ensure that targeting of people based on their political associations does not continue."
The ACLU lawsuit charges that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) singled out House at the border solely on the basis of his association with the Bradley Manning Support Network, an organization created to raise funds and support for the legal defense of Pfc. Bradley Manning, a soldier charged with leaking a video and documents relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the WikiLeaks website. In so doing, the government violated House's First Amendment right to freedom of association and Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure of his personal papers and effects. The ACLU lawsuit seeks return or destruction of any of House’s personal data still in the custody of the government and disclosure of whether and to whom the data has been disseminated.
In November 2010, DHS agents stopped House at O'Hare International Airport as he returned from a vacation in
"I feel like the American government has made me the target of intrusive and intimidating tactics simply because I joined a lawful group in order to stand up for what I believe is right," said House. "The search and seizure of my laptop has had a chilling effect on the activities of the Bradley Manning Support Network, by silencing once-outspoken supporters and causing donors to retreat. Our government should not be treating lawful activists like suspects."
This lawsuit is one in a series of legal challenges to the government's practice of suspicionless seizures of computers containing personal information at the
"In this increasingly globalized age, the cost of traveling internationally should not include submitting to boundless searches of the personal, private information we all keep on our laptops and cell phones," said Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “Allowing government officials to look through Americans' most personal materials without reasonable suspicion is unconstitutional, inconsistent with American values and a waste of limited resources.”
Today's lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts against U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Alan Bersin and Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement John T. Morton.
For more information, including a video interview with House on the impact the seizure of his property has had, go to
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs