Iran arms deal prosecution falls apart because of warrantless laptop search

The case against Jae Shik Kim — a South Korean exec caught selling weapons components to Iran — has collapsed because the prosecutors abused the rule allowing them to search laptop hard-drives without a warrant when someone is at a "border crossing" (in this case, LAX).

The doctrine that your constitutional rights are nullified within 100 miles of a "border crossing" (including a seaport or airport) is hugely controversial and is an open invitation to abuse by lazy prosecutors and cops who don't want to make their cases to a judge, preferring to skip the warrant process and jumping straight to the search.

In this case, a judge has ruled that the government conducted an illegal search when it confiscated Jae Shik Kim's laptop while he was waiting for a flight to Korea from LAX, sending it to San Diego for forensic examination and duplications of all his data. Without the evidence from the laptop, prosecutors have no case, so they've asked the court to dismiss it and have no plans to appeal.

After considering all of the facts and authorities set forth above, then, the Court finds, under the totality of the unique circumstances of this case, that the imaging and search of the entire contents of Kim's laptop, aided by specialized forensic software, for a period of unlimited duration and an examination of unlimited scope, for the purpose of gathering evidence in a pre-existing investigation, was supported by so little suspicion of ongoing or imminent criminal activity, and was so invasive of Kim's privacy and so disconnected from not only the considerations underlying the breadth of the government's authority to search at the border, but also the border itself, that it was unreasonable.

Warrantless airport laptop search dooms Iran arms sales prosecution [David Kravets/Ars Technica]

(Image: Welcome to California, Nevada-California Border, U.S. 95, Ken Lund, CC-BY-SA)