This past weekend's edition of On the Media delivered an important story on policies, procedures and rights of U.S. citizens at a U.S. border.
The short answer is: The constitutional rights of U.S. citizens are less solid at a U.S. border than they are withing the United States. As The New York Times recently reported:
Newly released documents reveal how the government uses border crossings to seize and examine travelers’ electronic devices instead of obtaining a search warrant to gain access to the data.
The documents detail what until now has been a largely secretive process that enables the government to create a travel alert for a person, who may not be a suspect in an investigation, then detain that individual at a border crossing and confiscate or copy any electronic devices that person is carrying.
To critics, the documents show how the government can subvert Americans’ constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure, but the confiscations have largely been allowed by courts as a tool to battle illegal activities like drug smuggling, child pornography and terrorism.
So, back to OTM's reporting, which featured a personal story from producer Sarah Abdurrahman, who, as the story recounts, "was headed back to New York from her cousin's wedding near Toronto, when she was detained, along with a carload of family and friends, for six hours, without explanation, by U.S. Border Patrol agents at Niagara Falls. Everyone in the car was a US citizen."
"For weeks, I've been trying, unsuccessfully, to get someone from" Customs and Border Protection or Department of Homeland Security headquarters "to respond to direct questions about detainment policies. During my detainment, I tried asking the guy in charge, Supervisor McPherson, why we were held for so long. He said it wasn't my right to know. I asked him the names of the agents who interacted with us while we were detained, and was once again told it wasn't my right to know."
The entire package is worth a listen: