WIth this notice of hearing by the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary we have evidence that the laptop searches conducted by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) service have become a subject of concern at the highest levels of the U.S. government. This, in general, is good news. Some of the senators most concerned with issues of constitutional and civil liberties sit on this subcommittee, e.g., Chairman Feingold himself, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts (now, of course, at home recovering from brain surgery), and Senator Arlen Spector.
The committee's website does not yet disclose the names of the witnesses to be heard, but we can assume there will be witnesses from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, both of which appeared as amici curiae in the U.S. v. Arnold case (see preceding post on this blog) in opposition to the position of the government that the CBP does not need a reasonable suspicion to search a laptop at the border, together with witnesses from the relevant governmental agencies. One must hope that the hearing will give the public its first opportunity to learn about the policies and practices of the CBP concerning laptop searches and the frequency with which they are being conducted.