National Press Club

NPC panel to debate 'Civil Liberties Dead Zone' at U.S. borders

January 30, 2014 | By Rachel Oswald |

Please note: This event has been cancelled due to inclement weather.

The NPC Freedom of the Press Committee will host a panel next month to probe the federal government's under-reported practice of examining the electronic devices of reporters and other individuals crossing into the United States.

The panel will take place on Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the National Press Club First Amendment Lounge. Admission is free for NPC members and $5 for nonmembers. Register here.

The event -- "Civil Liberties Dead Zone: Do First and Fourth Amendment Rights Not Apply at the Border?" -- will examine known cases of Department of Homeland Security personnel interrogating journalists and others entering the United States and demanding access to their laptops, thumb drives and other digital devices.

Defended as a tool in the fight against crime and terrorism, the DHS policy has aroused the concern of press freedom advocates, who worry the practice could jeopardize reporters' sensitive information -- including the identities of anonymous sources -- particularly if journalists are unaware their digital information is vulnerable to search and seizure at the U.S. border.

The NPC's Freedom of the Press Committee has put together a well-rounded expert panel that will examine the legal environment of the policy, the risks it poses to press freedom and to privacy, as well as the potential benefits in the fight against terrorism.

Speakers include:

  • Moderator Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center
  • Michael Chertoff, chairman of the Chertoff Group and former secretary of the Homeland Security Department under President George W. Bush
  • Frank Smyth, senior adviser for journalist security at the Committee to Protect Journalists
  • Neema Guliani, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union

The NPC's Press Freedom Committee leads club efforts to speak out about potential threats to press freedom and open government in the United States and abroad and to promote greater transparency and protections for journalists.