The government has decided to settle a lawsuit brought by American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Bradley Manning Support Network co-founder David House. The lawsuit involves a suspicionless border search that House experienced in 2010, where he had his laptop and other electronic devices seized.

As part of the settlement, the government will destroy all “images” or copies of his devices and confirm through an affidavit that “no documents contain data extracted, or information derived, from the contents of the devices or images.” The government will also produce an “index” that shows the “chain of custody for both Mr. House’s devices and the images that were created from the devices.”

“The index will reflect which government personnel, identified by agency and position, accessed or had custody of the devices or images of the devices. The index will also indicate the dates on which Mr. House’s devices or images were disclosed to these individuals,” according to the settlement.

Information on a Treasury Enforcement and Communications System (TESC) “lookout” that was used by the Department of Homeland Security to alert House when he was crossing the border will also be produced, creating the possibility that the ACLU could gain insight into security procedures that have been kept mostly secret.

Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, told Firedoglake this is a win for David House and “for those who care about the issues he cares about.” House was concerned the government had “extensive information” about Manning supporters. Now, the government will no longer have his data on their computers.

When House had his laptop and other electronic devices seized, the DHS made copies of the “complete Support Network mailing list, confidential communications between members of the Steering Committee about strategy and fund-raising activities, the identity of donors, lists of potential donors and their ability to contribute, and notes on meetings with donors including personal observations about those donors.”

His property was only returned to him after the ACLU sent a letter in December 21, 2010, to DHS, CBP and ICE urging the agencies to return his electronic devices. They returned the devices to House on December 22, but it was later found out that agencies had maintained copies of information on his property.

Crump said the records the government has been ordered to hand over will “shed light on what happened after the government seized electronic devices at the border.”

Apparently, House was designated as a “person of interest” by someone in New York. He was flagged. Federal agents and state and local agents were then authorized to act as “lookouts” and watch for him to cross the border. [cont’d.]

Photo by utnapistim under Creative Commons license

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