Journalists are being stopped at the U.S. border with alarming frequency, prompting the Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ) to issue an advisory outlining steps to prepare journalists for U.S. Customs. According to CPJ, more than seven journalists, including photographers Ed Ou and Kim Badawi, have been detained and questioned, and have had their belongings, including electronic devices, searched.
According to the advisory, securing computers, phones and other electronic devices is particularly important because there is still a pending legal argument over whether or not Customs and Border Protection officers can ask to search them. This can expose the identities of journalists’ sources and other sensitive information to warrantless search. “According to the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union], whether individuals are required to provide passwords or to unlock their devices and whether officers have the authority to search or copy files from these devices without reasonable suspicion that they contain evidence of wrongdoing are both contested legal issues,” CPJ writes.
CPJ advises journalists not to bring electronic devices over the U.S. border, or to encrypt those devices if they must be carried through border security. For encrypted devices, “Commit passphrase to memory before travel so that you don’t have to have it written down with you. If particularly concerned about border crossing, change the passphrases on your devices to something new that you can’t remember. Make a note of those passphrases at home and send a copy to a trusted contact you plan to meet as soon as you enter the country. That way you won’t be able to unlock or decrypt the devices during the border crossing, no matter what the border agents say.”
Click here to read the full advisory on the CPJ Facebook page.
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