A former senior lawyer for the National Security Agency (NSA) described the Trump administration’s proposal to begin demanding to review the browsing and contact data stored on the mobile phones of people visiting the United States as “tremendously intrusive” and “grossly overbroad,” as well as probably unlawful.
“It defies belief to my way of thinking that web browsing histories and contacts list of every person who wants to enter the US on a visit could possibly have intelligence value,” April Doss, a former associate general counsel for intelligence law with the NSA said, according to an article by ZD Net‘s Zack Whittaker.
— CNET (@CNET) January 30, 2017
Doss’ comments came in response to accounts from earlier Sunday that suggested the White House is “discussing the possibility of asking foreign visitors to disclose all websites and social media sites they visit, and to share the contacts in their cell phones,” as CNN reported.
Doss, who “provided legal advice on the NSA’s intelligence operations as well as ensuring compliance with privacy and civil liberties policies,” according to ZD Net, argued that border and customs officials neither have the legal authority nor the logistical capability to search the personal mobile phones or electronic devices of everyone attempting to enter the country.
She added that there is a legal precedent that affords a reasonable expectation of privacy to contact lists and social media data.
“To ask every single visitor to the U.S. to provide this information would certainly be grossly overbroad,” Doss concluded.
The suggestion that border or customs agents might start reviewing the personal data on visitors’ phones came just days after President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning the immigration of people from seven predominately Muslim countries. The ban even affects many Green Card holders and others who have the legal right to return to the United States after traveling abroad.
Critics have argued that the ban is racially and religiously motivated and that it jeopardizes the safety and security of refugees and those seeking asylum from war-torn nations like Syria and Iraq. They urged Trump to rescind the executive order.
The ban caused major protests at airports across the country and even prompted some judges to temporarily block part of the immigration ban.
— The Hill (@thehill) January 30, 2017
After representatives of several people detained at U.S. airports after the executive order was passed petitioned to be released in the U.S. rather than being returned to their home countries, U.S. Judge Ann M. Donnelly decided to grant them their release on the grounds that there was a “strong likelihood of success” in establishing that their removal “violates their rights to Due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution,” CNN reported in an earlier article.
A White House spokesperson stood by the president’s decision after the ruling.
“Saturday’s ruling does not undercut the President’s executive order,” the spokesperson said.
All stopped visas will remain stopped. All halted admissions will remain halted. All restricted travel will remain prohibited. The executive order is a vital action toward strengthening America’s borders, and therefore sovereignty. The order remains in place.”
Trump personally defended his decision to sign the executive order on Sunday.
“We will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do [so] while protecting our own citizens and voters,” he said, according to CNN.
“This is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”
If the weekend’s protest and legal actions are any indicator, the executive order banning immigration from the seven countries is bound to continue to be a point of contention between judges, lawyers, activists, and the White House.
[Featured Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]