Thursday, August 10, 2017

EFF To Court: Border Agents Need Warrants to Search Contents of Digital Devices

New Orleans, LA - August 10, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Searches of mobile phones, laptops, and other digital devices by federal agents at international airports and U.S. land borders are highly intrusive forays into travelers’ private information that require a warrant, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said in a court filing.

EFF urged the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to require law enforcement officers at the border to obtain a warrant before performing manual or forensic searches of digital devices. Warrantless border searches of backpacks, purses, or luggage are allowed under an exception to the Fourth Amendment for routine immigration and customs enforcement. Yet EFF argues that, since digital devices can provide so much highly personal, private information—our contacts, our email conversations, our work documents, our schedules—agents should be required to show they have probable cause to believe that the device contains evidence of a violation of the immigration or customs laws. Only after a judge has signed off on a search warrant should border agents be allowed to rifle through the contents of cell phones, laptops, or tablets.

Digital device searches at the border have more than doubled since the inauguration of President Trump. This increase, along with the increasing number of people who carry these devices while traveling, has highlighted the need for stronger privacy rights while crossing the U.S. border.

“Our cell phones and laptops provide access to an unprecedented amount of detailed, private information, often going back many months or years, from emails to our coworkers to photos of our loved ones and lists of our closest contacts. This is light years beyond the minimal information generally contained in other kinds of personal items we might carry in our suitcases. It’s time for courts and the government to acknowledge that examining the contents of a digital device is highly intrusive, and Fourth Amendment protections should be strong, even at the border,” said EFF Staff Attorney Sophia Cope.

EFF filed its brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in U.S. v. Molina-Isidoro. In that case, Maria Isabel Molina-Isidoro’s cell phone was manually searched at the border, supporting her prosecution for attempting to import methamphetamine into the country.

The Supreme Court has held that cell phones hold “the privacies of life,” and police need a warrant to search the contents of a phone seized during an arrest. The same principle should apply to the digital devices seized at the border, EFF told the appeals court.

“Any search of data stored on a digital device, whether performed using special forensic software or conducted manually after obtaining and entering the owner’s password, provides access to a person’s entire private life,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Adam Schwartz.

EFF is urging the court to find that the extraordinary privacy interests that travelers have in their digital devices render warrantless searches of those devices unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Border agents should be required to show they have sufficient cause for this immense invasion of privacy.

The Persuader Rule would have shined a spotlight on the union-avoidance industry—but the Trump administration is rescinding it

Washington, D.C. - August 10, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- In a new comment submitted to the Department of Labor, EPI Associate Labor Counsel Marni von Wilpert argues that the “Persuader Rule,” which is designed to add transparency to union elections by requiring companies to disclose when they hire professional union busters, should not be rescinded.

Von Wilpert notes that up to 87 percent of employers fight their employees’ efforts to unionize by hiring professional anti-union consultants—“persuaders”—to thwart union organizing drives. Union-busting firms promise to equip employers with campaign strategies and opposition research, as well as produce anti-union videos, literature, and PowerPoint presentations for employers to deploy. Employers spend large amounts of money to hire these anti-union consultants—sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars. The union-avoidance industry has been estimated to be a $1 billion industry.

Despite a federal law that requires employers and anti-union consultants to publicly disclose their persuader activities, a significant amount of anti-union organizing has gone unreported because of a loophole in DOL’s regulations. DOL issued the Persuader Rule in 2016 to close that loophole, so that employees in the workplace can understand the source of the anti-union information they are given during a union election campaign.

“As we saw recently in Mississippi, companies can employ all sorts of anti-union tactics, which in this case resulted in the National Labor Relations Board filing an unfair-labor-practice complaint against Nissan. But without the Persuader Rule, employees and the public have no way of knowing what role anti-union persuaders may have played behind the scenes,” said von Wilpert. “The Department of Labor should hold employers accountable for disclosing their anti-union activities, which is required by federal law, and is in the best interest of American workers.”

DOL’s mission is to safeguard the welfare of America’s workers by, among other things, “strengthening free collective bargaining.” The Persuader Rule furthers that mission by taking a modest step toward leveling the playing field for workers during organizing drives, ensuring that they receive the information they deserve before choosing whether or not to form a union.

“Working people should be free to join together to bargain collectively to negotiate for higher wages and better benefits,” said von Wilpert. “An important reason behind the past four decades of stagnant wages is the decline of workers’ ability to join together and negotiate for better pay. If the DOL rescinds the Persuader Rule, it will be further evidence that Trump administration is on the side of corporations over working people.”


Washington, D.C. - August 10, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Dwight Evans (PA-02) introduced the No Conflict of Interest Presidency Act of 2017.

The No Conflict of Interest Presidency Act of 2017 requires the conversion of the Trump Organization’s businesses, which include real estate, golf courses, hotels, resorts and a range of other investments, into cash; with which he would then be required to buy treasury bills and widely diversified mutual funds, which are considered conflict free under federal law.

“The American people have heightened concerns about President Trump’s untamed business interests,” Congressman Evans said. “The No Conflict of Interest Presidency Act of 2017 aims to calm fears of conflict and collusion by creating a clear wall between President Trump’s duty to govern and his family and business interests.”

“There is a big difference between campaigning and governing,” Evans said. “It is time for President Trump to govern for the well-being of the American people. Their needs to be a clear wall, a clear line between President Trump’s business connections and his role as President. My hope is that the No Conflict of Interest Presidency Act of 2017 will provide much needed clarity so that the Trump Administration can start to focus on issues that matter such as improving the quality of life for Philadelphians, Pennsylvanians and Americans—things like food policy, school modernization and necessary home repairs that give the residents in our cities and suburbs the tools they need to build strong, healthy neighborhoods.”


Washington, D.C. - August 10, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, made the following statement after Trump threatened North Korea with "fury like the world has never seen":

“President Trump has again undermined American credibility by drawing an absurd red line, committing to respond to North Korea’s bluster and missile tests with ‘fire and fury like the world has never seen.’ Make no mistake: North Korea is a real threat, but the President's unhinged reaction suggests he might consider using American nuclear weapons in response to a nasty comment from a North Korean despot.

“America’s security is based not just on the strength of our armed forces but on the credibility of our Commander-in-Chief. Today President Trump’s reckless behavior and impulsive outburst undermined the security of the American people, and that of our friends and allies. Kim Jong Un will call his bluff as America’s adversaries watch.”


Washington, D.C. - August 10, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, decried the decision of Secretary of State Tillerson to sideline American anti-propaganda efforts by rejecting $80 million designated for efforts to combat Russian and ISIS propaganda. In a letter to Secretary Tillerson, Rep. Engel underscored the risks to American security this decision poses, and called on the Secretary to reverse course or present a new strategy for dealing with this challenge.

“It is unacceptable to members of Congress that information warfare from Russia and ISIS will go unanswered. Doing nothing is not an option,” wrote Rep. Engel. “I urge you to come up with a strategy and work with Congress to implement it at once. Otherwise, the House and Senate will look for legislative alternatives to direct the Administration to treat the threats of Russia and ISIS with the seriousness they deserve.”

Full text of the letter follows:

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I'm seriously concerned by reportsthat you have decided not to use resources Congress provided to combat the propaganda campaigns of Russia and ISIS. The threats we face from these adversaries are clear, and I am troubled that you do not appear committed to the efforts needed to address them.

It seems again that this Administration just isn't getting the message about Russia, so let me put it plainly: Russia is not America's friend. President Putin attacked American democracy. He wants to splinter Western unity and undermine our alliances. His actions merit a tough response, not the coddling that President Trump seems determined to offer him.

To compound matters, ISIS has employed propaganda as a key tool for recruitment and disseminating its violent anti-American message. They show no sign of backing down from their online efforts. Failing to come up with an effective strategy to combat that threat could seriously reverse the gains we've made and embolden ISIS and other terrorist groups to expand their propaganda campaigns.

Furthermore, since you've been Secretary, the State Department has struggled to understand Congress's intentions on these issues. While we, too, would ultimately like to see better relations with Russia, the Kremlin’s actions simply do not permit such improvement. Despite what the President tweets, Putin—not Congress—is responsible for the tensions between the United States and Russia. And despite the baffling statementfrom your spokesperson, our bipartisan legislation, passed by overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate, was designed to protect the United States from Vladimir Putin’s aggression and punish Moscow for interfering with American democracy, invading Ukraine, and other malign actions. As such, when Congress allocated nearly $80 million for anti-propaganda efforts, the signal should have been clear that Congress wants this issue addressed.

It is unacceptable to members of Congress that information warfare from Russia and ISIS will go unanswered. Doing nothing is not an option. I urge you to come up with a strategy and work with Congress to implement it at once. Otherwise, the House and Senate will look for legislative alternatives to direct the Administration to treat the threats of Russia and ISIS with the seriousness they deserve.

I look forward to your reply on this matter.



Ranking Member

Committee on Foreign Affairs