National Press Club

Panel to examine civil liberties dead zone at U.S. borders Thursday, March 20

February 26, 2014 | By John Donnelly | JDonnelly@cq.com

The National Press Club's Freedom of the Press Committee will hold a panel to probe the federal government's under-reported practice of examining the electronic devices of individuals crossing into the United States.

The panel will be Thursday, March 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the Club's First Amendment Lounge. Admission is free for NPC members and $5 for nonmembers. Register here:

"Civil Liberties Dead Zone: Do First and Fourth Amendment Rights Not Apply at the Border?" -- will examine known cases of media workers and journalists who have been interrogated at the U.S. border by Homeland Security Department (DHS) officials who have demanded access to their laptops, thumb drives and other digital devices.

Defended as a tool in the fight against crime and terrorism, the DHS policy has aroused the concern of press freedom advocates who worry the practice could jeopardize reporters' sensitive information - including the identities of anonymous sources - particularly if journalists are unaware their digital information is vulnerable to search and seizure at the U.S. border.

The expert panel will examine the legal environment of the policy, the risks it poses to press freedom and to privacy, as well as the potential benefits in the fight against terrrorism.

Speakers include:

  • Moderator Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center
  • Frank Smyth, senior adviser for journalist security at the Committee to Protect Journalists
  • Neema Guliani, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union
  • Steven Bradbury, partner, Dechert LLP, and former head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, 2005-2009

The Press Freedom Committee leads club efforts to speak out about potential threats to press freedom and open government in the United States and abroad and to promote greater transparency and protections for journalists.