9th Circuit Gets Tough on Border Gadget Searches

     (CN) – Border agents need reasonable suspicion to conduct a “forensic examination” of laptops or other digital devices belonging to travelers they stop, the full 9th Circuit ruled Friday.
     Several dissenting judges objected to the decision, calling it a significant departure from current understanding of the Fourth Amendment’s border exemption, and one that could jeopardize national security.
     While Judge M. Margaret McKeown called the ruling a “watershed” case of the digital age, its alleged significance does not help the defendant at the center of it all, whose motion to suppress met rejection from the 11-judge, en banc appellate panel.
     Agents investigating sex tourism in Mexico detained and searched Howard Cotterman in 2007 at the Port of Entry in Lukeville, Ariz. His well-used passport, and the fact that he carried with him a laptop and digital camera, combined with his 1992 conviction for having sex with a minor, suggested to investigators that he could be involved in sex tourism. Unable to access many of the password-protected files on Cotterman’s computer, the agents took it 170 miles to Tucson for a more thorough search.
     Investigators eventually found some 378 images of child pornography hidden away on Cotterman’s laptop, many of them depicting Cotterman sexually molesting the same child, a girl who appeared to be between the 7 to 10 years old.
     After fleeing to Australia, Cotterman was extradited and charged in Arizona for producing, transporting and possessing child pornography. He later tried to suppress