Former Mozilla CTO Files Civil Rights Case Against CBP

Written by

The former CTO of Mozilla has filed a civil rights complaint against the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency after allegedly being threatened and interrogated for several hours by officers who denied him a lawyer.

The November 2018 incident occurred at San Francisco International Airport and began when US citizen Andreas Gal was sent to a secondary inspection facility where he was surrounded by three armed agents.

“They started to question me aggressively regarding my trip, my current employment, and my past work for Mozilla, a non-profit organization dedicated to open technology and online privacy,” he explained.

“The agents proceeded to search my belongings and demanded that I unlock my smartphone and laptop. This was rather concerning for me. My phone and laptop are property of my employer and contain unreleased software and proprietary information. I’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement promising not to give anyone access.”

When he asked to speak to a lawyer before unlocking the devices, Gal was told that he had no right to do so and that failing to comply would be a violation of federal criminal code 18 USC 111.

After staying silent and refusing to comply, he was eventually allowed to leave with his devices, although officers kept his Global Entry card. Ironically, Global Entry is a CBP program specifically designed to allow “pre-approved, low-risk travelers” with expedited clearance on entry to the US.

Gal argued that such border searches are far from random, and that he is not alone in being intimidated and unlawfully detained, with the CBP reportedly having drawn up lists of US reporters, lawyers and activists to question at the border.

“My past work on encryption and online privacy is well documented, and so is my disapproval of the Trump administration and my history of significant campaign contributions to Democratic candidates. I wonder whether these CBP programs led to me being targeted,” he said.

Gal’s complaint, filed with the help of the ACLU, alleges unlawful detention and violation of his constitutional rights.

What’s hot on Infosecurity Magazine?