Under Suspicion: Student Challenges Laptop Seizure

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Pascal Abidor, an Islamic studies doctoral student at McGill University in Montreal, fears the U.S. government will forever have its eye on him.

“I have no control over who I am anymore,” he told The Associated Press recently. “What I do with my life doesn’t matter. How I am perceived and how I want to be perceived are not connected anymore.”

Abidor, who is not Muslim, was on a train home to Brooklyn on May 1 when a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent stopped him at the Champlain, N.Y., port of entry. The agent turned on Abidor’s computer and found a picture of a rally by the Hamas militant group, something he had downloaded from the Internet for schoolwork.

Abidor said the agents handcuffed him, took him off the train, questioned him for hours and told him they were keeping his computer and external hard drive. He was given an invoice warning him the contents would be copied and forwarded to any government agency requiring it.

His computer was returned 11 days later. Two weeks after that, he went to Britain to visit his girlfriend. When he returned, he was searched and questioned for an hour at the Newark airport in New Jersey.

“You could see the guy react as soon as he scanned my passport and the message came up,” Abidor said. “They went through everything, and asked the same questions: ‘Are you Muslim, are you a convert, do you go to lectures?”‘

Abidor has sued the Department of Homeland Security, saying the border agents had no right to go through his computer files without a warrant. The Department of Homeland Security said Abidor’s case was under investigation and would not comment on it.

But in court documents responding to the lawsuit, the government asserts that border agents “are not subject to any requirement of reasonable suspicion, probable cause or warrant.” It also says that computers are like “closed containers” and that border agents have the right to search and copy them without a warrant.

“Abidor offers no reason why a different standard should apply to him,” government lawyers wrote.

Should the security be reformed? Leave a comment below…

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • khurshid ahmad


  • kendra

    that doesn,t make any sense to me ..and everyone has a right to pravicy reguarding there computer or anything else that may be electronic..it,s not he was threating any1 on the bus or anything../..so i really do think that they should focus on more imortant things like watching out for child molesters and such those are the one,s that need to be checked and all/…

  • David Goldstein

    We live in a post 911 world. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

    • Chris

      you are okay with it cause it doesn’t happen to you

  • Eric G

    The govt has a right yp protect its citizens fom terrorists.

  • Michael H.

    That’s it. I’ve had it. I am leaving this alleged “country” as soon as I can. Moving to Tripoli, where a man’s a man! My rights shan’t be trampled ever again.

    • Michael H.

      Hey CBS, right here is why you should require a log-in to comment on your articles.

      if I’m worried about civil rights why the $%^& would I want to move to *Libya* of all places. You’re a sorry excuse for a troll.

  • Douglas

    As an american ALL our rights have been trampled on!

    All of our law enforcement agencies are out of control!

    At one time we used to be “presumed innocent”, now we are ALL presumed GUILTY!

    Heck, not only can they take computers, they will, I said WILL kick down the doors of your house WITHOUT any search warrants, or even reason!

    All because Dear Old G.W. got his political cronies to believe his LIES and created all these (phony) anti-terrorism laws!

    When the innocent are persecuted, NONE of us have freedom!

    • Da Persian

      Of coarse it is these Bush doing, yes?

  • Jack Ryan

    What is ironic, is if this guy is truly NOT an Islamic nor terrorist sympathizer nor terrorist in training, then since he is an “Islamic Studies” doctoral student he probably would have wound up working for the Gov’t or such in ANTI-terrorist function or international relations.

  • benny ops

    If the towelhead has nothing to fear.
    Let it go

    end of story

    • Michael H.

      If you don’t know how to read, you shouldn’t comment on a story. It says very clearly that Pascal is not a Muslim.

      They are taking away our 4th amendment rights under the guise of false security. There is no benefit to harassing law abiding US citizens.

      • Michael H.

        Yes, I am a SICK SICK INDIVIDUAL for wanting to RETAIN MY RIGHTS as an AMERICAN.

        You can invoke September 11th all you want. It does not change the fact that the government is overstepping it’s authority and violating the rights of the American people day in and day out under the guise of ‘protecting’ us. Enjoy your police state.

      • americanatheart

        Taking away our 4th amendment rights???? Are you sick! Do you remember Sept 11th?!!! Nothing has happened since than so someone must be doing something right! PREVENTION FOOL!!!!

  • americanatheart

    What does any of this matter? The fact is that the government is trying to protect AMERICANS from terrorism. If you have nothing to hide and the downloads are not connected to any shady dealings than just deal it, keeping in mind that the end result is our protection and ultimate freedom from terrorism. Search me all day long I have nothing to hide but keep me and my family protected from the terrorists who want to destroy what our country has built!!! MAN UP AND STOP COMPLAINING UNLESS OF COURSE YOU ARE HIDING SOMETHING????

    • Michael H.

      Bend over. The government is going to commence cavity searches for your protection. After all, if you have nothing to hide it should not be a problem, right? Let the cops into your home and have them overturn everything just to make sure you’re not going to hurt somebody. After all, you have nothing to hide, so the search isn’t a problem, right? You’re a pathetic excuse for an American. These are direct violations of our rights guaranteed by the constitution.

      • Barney Frank

        Michael H.,

        So, you admit that you took my gerbil?

      • MrNativecolor

        @Michael H. A true “American” can understand what you are saying. Be it known that there those of us who do agree with you. God “help” America!

  • gyuu

    Who cares

  • sp

    ericm – really?!?!

    So where is the line here? Does this mean we do not have the freedom to research/study any topics we chose? Does this mean I can get DHS to arrest the creators of various crime scene shows (Criminal Minds, CSI, Law & Order, etc…) because they make people think about crime? Is it a bad thing to study about islamic terrorists? Just because you are doing a doctoral thesis on one, does not make you one. This guy has been branded with a scarlet letter just because of this educational interests?!? Sure, terrorists are bad. Guns are bad. Anyone who has ever once had an evil thought against another human being and has acted on that thought is bad! But so are drugs.. and don’t get me started on knives and needles!! Did you know that approximately 3% of Americans have been in prison at one point in their lives… that is ~1 out of 33 people… think about that a little! How much do you think it costs to throw people in jail (court costs, etc…). Now, how much does it cost to prevent people from going to jail? What are the benefits of improved education?

    What you should fear most is fear and paranoia!

  • ericm

    Unfortunately, the world has changed and the old rules no longer apply. People have to be careful about what they download on their computers, and what they carry with them when they travel. The safety of millions of people is much more important than the inconvenience of one person. As much as it seems unfair (and it is), I feel fine with the way Homeland security handled this case.

    • Profiled

      Civil liberties no longer apply? Ah, welcome to Taliban USA!

      In truth, Homeland Security is a very bad, taxpayer-money-wasting joke. It is terrified by crochet hooks and nail clippers, breast-milk and bottled water. The TSA agents are hysterical about under-wire bras and prosthetic limbs.

      The NYC police are as dumb. They routinely profile young men of color — whether African-American, Southeast Asian, or hispanic/latino. Will this ensure the “safety of millions”? No, because a terrorist may just as easily be a woman with a baby-stroller or an elderly, white-haired, white woman!

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