Christine Von Der Haar, senior lecturer at Indiana University, was recently detained by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) at Indianapolis International Airport during an incident in 2012.
The sociology professor traveled to the airport merely to help her friend pick up some computer parts that had been shipped separately. Greek national Dimitris Papatheodoropoulos had already arrived in the country under a valid business visa which allowed him to enter and leave the United States for a period of 10 years.
Christine was not entering or leaving the country or had any intention of boarding a flight that day. She was simply at the airport accompanying her friend to retrieve his computer equipment that was shipped separately a few days earlier.
After detaining Von Der Haar, CBP officials, who obviously had access to personal emails Von Der Haar and her friend had sent back and forth, quizzed her about her sex life. Feds alleged that the two secretly conspired so that Papatheodoropoulos could stay in the country illegally.
This is a complete violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures. This also raises serious questions about under what authority can email be obtained by DHS and the choice to quiz her about her sex life.
The lawsuit, Christine Von Der Haar v. Sherlana Lieba, Mr. Combsaclu, Cause No. 1:14-cv-247, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on Feb. 19, 2014.
ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Kenneth Falk, who represents Von Der Haar said “This case raises troubling issues about the power of the government to detain and question citizens “.
According to the lawsuit:
Given that Mr. Papatheodoropoulos had retained his hard drive that contained the emails, the only way that the Customs and Border Protection Agents could have reviewed the emails is for someone to have surreptitiously monitored the communications between Dr. Von Der Haar and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos and reported those communications to the agents questioning her. Defendant Lieba admitted that employees of the United States had read email communications between Dr. Von Der Haar and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos.
CBP officers grossly exceeded their jurisdiction. Dr. Von Der Haar’s US citizenship was never questioned; she wasn’t trying to enter, leave, or ship and goods in or out of the country; and she was never accused of any crime. In general, immigration (as distinct from customs) offenses are handled by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Border Patrol, not CBP. We’re curious what basis CBP will claim for its officers’ authority to detain and interrogate Dr. Von Der Haar or obtain her email.
Customs and Border Protection seized Papatheodoropoulos’ passport and commenced proceedings to remove him from the country, claiming he had misrepresented his intentions. After Papatheodoropoulos consulted with lawyers and the Greek Consulate in Chicago, the proceedings were halted and his passport was returned. Papatheodoropoulos left the country of his own volition in August 2012.
Read entire Lawsuit here .