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A 'technological wall'? Pelosi and Democrats slammed over idea

Levi Sumagaysay, The Mercury News on

Published in News & Features

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- As the federal government shutdown continues over the wall that President Donald Trump wants built at the U.S.-Mexico border, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday presented possible alternatives to a physical wall.

Among the president's justifications for a wall is to stop drugs from coming into the United States, so Pelosi proposed spending "hundreds of millions of dollars" for technology to scan cars for drugs, weapons and contraband at the border.

"The positive, shall we say, almost technological wall that can be built is what we should be doing," Pelosi, D-Calif., said during her weekly news conference.

That didn't go over well with Fight for the Future, a digital rights advocacy group that on Friday started a petition asking Democrats to drop plans for a "technological wall" that it says could threaten Fourth Amendment rights that guard against unreasonable searches and seizures.

"Current border surveillance programs subject people to invasive and unconstitutional searches of their cell phones and laptops, location tracking, drone surveillance, and problematic watchlists," the group's petition says. "The Congressional Democrat plan to build a 'technological wall' at the border is just as unacceptable as Trump's plan to build one is."

In December, the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General released a report that showed searches of electronic devices at the border were up nearly 50 percent in 2017. The report also found that border agents were not always following standard operating procedures for searches, including failing to properly document such searches. In addition, information copied by agents were not always deleted as required. U.S. and Customs Border Protection concurred with the OIG's findings, according to the report.

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In addition, the ACLU has expressed concerns about other border technology it considers intrusive. For example, some companies are working on a virtual border wall, including Orange County-based Anduril Industries, which was founded by Palmer Luckey of Oculus virtual-reality fame.

Pelosi's office did not immediately return a request for comment Friday.

(c)2019 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

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