Saturday, October 27, 2012

US rights group sues Homeland Security for violation of constitutional rights

The ACLU sues the US Department of Homeland Security, whose agents are seen in this file photo, saying the agency’s banning of photography at America’s international border crossings violates constitutional rights

Source: Press TV

A prominent US rights group has taken legal action against the US Department of Homeland Security, saying the agency’s banning of photography at the nation’s international border crossings violates constitutional rights.

The lawsuit against the US government was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of two activists that were attempting to document potential human rights abuses at the US-Mexico border crossings at the southwestern state of California, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

According to the legal papers filed in the suit, US authorities detained the activists and deleted their photos, the report added.

The suit further contends that the US Customs and Border Protection agency prohibits the public from photographing or videotaping at or near American ports of entry without permission.

The rights group has described the US government’s policy as a violation of free speech rights and protections against illegal search and seizure.

"The border is not a Constitution-free zone,” said David Loy, legal director of the ACLU in San Deigo, as quoted in the report. “Border agents are not above the law, and the law guarantees our right to hold them accountable by documenting their conduct.”

ACLU’s lawsuit, says the report, points to a number of incidents, including that of activist Ray Askins, who took pictures last April “from a city street of an inspection area at a Calexico border crossing.” The legal suit alleges that Askins was then “handcuffed and searched” by authorities, who later returned his digital camera with photos erased.

The director of Calexico port wrote to Askins in an email a day after his arrest that “permission is needed to take photos and video at Customs and Border Protection facilities.” The email, however, does not mention any restrictions on taking photographs from a nearby street, said the ACLU.

The lawsuit further refers to another case involving Christian Ramirez, a human rights director at Equality Alliance San Diego, who reported that US customs authorities deleted about 10 cellphone photographs in June 2010 at San Diego's San Ysidro port of entry.

Ramirez added that at the time he was on a pedestrian bridge, capturing images of male officers conducting a pat-down search on female travelers.

US Customs and Border Protection officials have not issued any statement in reaction to the lawsuit.

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