December 31, 2013
NATIONAL SECURITY
Court upholds laptop
inspections at border

A federal judge in New York upheld a government policy that permits officers at U.S. borders to inspect and copy the contents of travelers’ laptops and other devices without reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.

U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit by a university student and a group of criminal defense lawyers and press photographers challenging regulations adopted by the Department of Homeland Security that allow searches of passengers’ electronic equipment at the nation’s borders, including at airports and on trains.

The plaintiffs, who were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, allege that the policy violates their rights to privacy and free speech.

University student Pascal Abidor had his laptop inspected and taken by Customs and Border Protection officers while he was on an Amtrak train from Montreal to New York in May 2010. It was returned 11 days later. The officers had reasonable suspicion to inspect the laptop, Korman said. Abidor, an Islamic studies scholar and a dual French-American citizen, had images of rallies by militant Islamist groups Hamas and Hezbollah on his laptop.

— Ellen Nakashima

Blind sheik’s lawyer
released from prison

A federal judge on Tuesday granted Lynne Stewart, a former defense lawyer convicted of aiding terrorism, a “compassionate” release from prison because she is dying of cancer.

Stewart, 74, has been serving a 10-year sentence over her 2005 conviction for helping a client, blind Egyptian cleric Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, smuggle messages from prison to his supporters.

U.S. District Judge John Koeltl in Manhattan, who had earlier rejected the petition, granted Stewart’s request Tuesday following a recommendation for release from the Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. attorney in New York.

— Reuters

NEW YORK
Judge upholds much
of gun-control law

A federal judge on Tuesday upheld most of New York’s new gun-control law, rejecting arguments that its bans on large-capacity magazines and the sale of some semiautomatic rifles violate Second Amendment rights.

Judge William Skretny in Buffalo concluded those provisions are constitutional because they’re related to achieving an “important governmental interest” in public safety. The New York affiliate of the National Rifle Association, sportsmen’s groups, firearms businesses and gun owners filed the lawsuit.

— Associated Press

FLORIDA
Welfare drug testing
rule is struck down

A federal judge on Tuesday struck down a Florida law requiring applicants for welfare benefits to undergo mandatory drug testing, ruling it was unconstitutional and shouldn’t be enforced.

U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven’s 30-page order made permanent an earlier, temporary ban on the law by the judge.

Gov. Rick Scott (R) had backed the drug testing of prospective welfare recipients, arguing it helped protect taxpayers and families. He said in a statement Tuesday that his administration would appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Opponents of the law had argued it was an unconstitutional search and seizure. The judge agreed, writing that there was no pervasive drug problem among applicants for the welfare program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

— Associated Press

Barbara Bush hospitalized: Former first lady Barbara Bush has been hospitalized in Houston for treatment of early signs of a “respiratory-related issue,” the office of former president George H.W. Bush said Tuesday. Bush, 88, was admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital on Monday.

— From news services

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