Have You Heard of the “Constitution Free Zone”?

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by Elizabeth Vale

According to the ACLU, almost two-thirds of the United States lives in a “Constitution Free Zone”. What, you may ask, is a Constitution Free Zone? The Constitution Free Zone is a hundred mile wide strip that outlines the entire United States. Within these boundaries federal agents, such as the Border Patrol, can search and seize electronic devices without a warrant and for literally any reason basically annihilating a person’s Fourth Amendment rights.

I had never heard of the Constitution Free Zone until my mother, who lives near the Canadian border, mentioned it in a recent conversation. I was completely shocked when she told me what it was and I was also terrified considering I live in Florida and almost the entire state is considered a Constitution Free Zone.

These wide ranging rules were instated by the Bush administration in 2008 and have been used countless times since. According to a Wired Magazine article, 6,500 people between 2008 and 2010 had their electronic devices searched at the border and who knows how many people since then have had their Fourth Amendment rights violated.

The DHS conducted an investigation into their search and seize practices starting in 2009, but the investigation wasn’t available until earlier this year. Their investigation concluded that “imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits.”

In September of this year, The New York Times ran an article saying that the Department of Homeland Security uses these Constitution Free Zones as a way around a search warrant. They will put a travel alert on a specific person of interest, who is not involved in any criminal activity, and use the border as a way to seize their personal electronic devices.

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