In the past month, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have gone to extreme measures to target Iranian-Americans and prevent them from re-entering their own country. In the midst of increased tensions, a Vice “Motherboard” exclusive details the seizure of an active duty American soldier’s iPhone – while traveling on official business – apparently due to their Iranian heritage. This instance of discrimination and racial profiling not only violates the soldier’s privacy, it speaks loudly to the endless attacks and countless efforts that Trump, his administration and CBP use to keep out minorities; in this case, even targeting those sacrificing their lives for this country.
Below are key excerpts from Vice’s article entitled, “Border Patrol Detains Iranian-Born American Soldier at the Border, Seizes Their Phone”:
Earlier this month Customs and Border Protection seized the iPhone of an active duty American soldier as they were transferring through a U.S. airport as part of their directed orders. After questioning, the CBP sent the iPhone to a lab for forensic analysis, according to the service member and a CBP document obtained by Motherboard. The soldier, an American citizen born in Iran, told Motherboard they believe the questioning and seizure was due to their Iranian heritage.
…The service member said that after landing at the airport, they were selected for secondary screening. At the screening, the service member said they provided the border agent with their passport, military orders, and ID, and mentioned that they were active duty Army flying on military orders. According to the soldier, the agent then asked a series of questions, and said that the service member’s phone number—which they had not provided to the agent—was “popping” up on multiple different travelers that had been flying recently.
The agent then checked the service member’s bags, found nothing suspicious, but asked for the soldier’s phone.
…After around 20 minutes, the agent came back and said he had “good news and bad news,” according to the Army member. The agent said they were free to go, but they would not be getting the phone back anytime soon.
“When I question him on this, he states that since my phone was updated to the latest version of iOS, the ‘IT guy’ [wasn’t] able to do anything and my phone would be sealed and prepared to be sent overnight to a lab for analysis,” the Army member told Motherboard.
…A CBP spokesperson declined to comment on the specific incident, but said in a statement, “All travelers crossing the United States border are subject to CBP inspection. On rare occasions, CBP officers may search a traveler’s mobile phone, computer, camera and other electronic devices during the inspection process. These searches have resulted in evidence helpful in combating terrorist activity, child pornography, drug smuggling, human smuggling, bulk cash smuggling, human trafficking, export control violations, intellectual property rights violations and visa fraud.”