SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – The American Civil Liberties Union announced Tuesday it has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, seeking an investigation of the way a prominent computer scientist was stopped and interrogated at San Francisco International Airport.
Andreas Gal, 42, of San Carlos, a Hungarian-born naturalized U.S. citizen, now works for Apple Inc. and was formerly the chief technology officer of Mozilla Corp. He is an advocate of online privacy.
“If the government intended to scare me, they certainly succeeded. Ever since, I travel in fear. I’ve reduced my international travel and my heart pounds every time I go through U.S. customs. I will, however, not be silent,” Gal said in a Medium post describing the incident.
“The time is overdue for Congress to step in and provide meaningful oversight and legislation to reign in CBP’s egregious misconduct,” the Apple employee went on to say.
According to the administrative complaint submitted to several offices of the Homeland Security Department, he was stopped at the airport on Nov. 29 on his way home from a business trip to Sweden.
He was allegedly interrogated by three Customs and Border Protection officers who appeared to be aware of his advocacy of privacy and who demanded the passwords to his mobile phone and his laptop computer. They did not have a court warrant.
Gal, who was concerned that the devices contained confidential Apple business information, asked whether he could consult his employer or a lawyer before giving the passwords.
After allegedly telling Gal he had no right to a lawyer and threatening him with prosecution, the officers eventually allowed him to leave with his still-locked devices, but took away his Global Entry card and told him his Global Entry status would be revoked, according to the complaint.
Global Entry is a Homeland Security program granting expedited entry to low-risk travelers. The complaint alleges the officers took away the card in retaliation for his request to consult a lawyer.
The complaint asks for an investigation of Customs and Border Protection search policy and a probe of whether the incident violated Gal’s constitutional rights of free speech and freedom from unreasonable searches.
The complaint letter was sent to five different offices within the Department of Homeland Security, including the agency’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, its inspector general and its Customs and Border Protection field office in San Francisco.
A Homeland Security spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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