Nabila Mango, a therapist and a U.S. citizen who has lived in the country since 1965, had just flown in from Jordan last December when, she said, she was detained at Customs and her cell phone was taken from her purse.
After her phone was returned, Mango noticed records of calls had been erased.
Maria Udy, a marketing executive with a global travel management firm in Bethesda, Md., said she had her company laptop seized by a federal agent as she was flying out of Washington, D.C., to head home to London in December 2006.
The seizure of electronics at U.S. borders has prompted protests from travelers who say they now weigh the risk of traveling with sensitive or personal information on their laptops, cameras, cell phones or MP3 players.
In some cases, companies have altered their policies to require employees to safeguard corporate secrets by clearing laptop hard drives before international travel.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Asian Law Caucus, two civil liberties groups in San Francisco, planned to file a lawsuit to force the government to disclose its policies on border searches, including what rules govern the seizing and copying of the contents of electronic devices.
The lawsuit was inspired by some two dozen cases, almost all of which involved travelers of Muslim, Middle Eastern or South Asian background, many of whom said they are concerned they were singled out because of racial or religious profiling.
Civil liberties officials in Metro Detroit say they are aware of complaints from travelers that their electronic equipment had been seized and searched at border crossings and at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
Officials of the ACLU-Michigan say they have received one or two official complaints about the searches over the years. Officials of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Council on American Islamic Relations say that many business people of Arab descent or the Muslim faith know that traveling with a computer and other equipment related to their work may result in it being seized. (MORE)