After clearing security checkpoints at the airport, American citizen, Haisam Elsharkawi, thought he was about to board a plane in Los Angeles, but he was pulled from the boarding line by a Customs and Border Protection officer, who started questioning him. according to the lawsuit.
“As the questioning continued and became increasingly aggressive, Mr. Elsharkawi asked if there was a problem and whether he needed an attorney,” the lawsuit continues. “Officer Rivas then accused Mr. Elsharkawi of hiding something because of his request for an attorney.”
Another agent began searching Haisam’s pockets and pulled out his phone. Haisam was asked to unlock his phone, and told he had no right to an attorney because he was not under arrest. The agents began rifling through his carry-on bag.
Then he was handcuffed when he asked for his phone back to make a call. Officer “Rodriguez responded by stating that Mr. Elsharkawi had an attitude, was obviously racist, and had a problem with the uniform of CBP officers.”
Officer Rodriguez, along with two other CBP officers began pulling Mr. Elsharkawi into an elevator. Officer Rodriguez then pushed Mr. Elsharkawi’s arms up to his neck, to the point that Mr. Elsharkawi feared they would break.
One of the officers said Haisam was causing problems and said they should take him downstairs. He was put in a cell and eventually brought before more agents who explained that the officers who brought him here were “just protecting the country” and all he had to do was unlock his phone. Haisam declined.
As more agents came in and searched his bag, Haisam “felt he had no choice but to acquiesce and unlocked his phone.” Officers began searching his phone, asking him “where he got merchandise for his e-commerce business, and what swap meets he frequents. Officer Jennifer also commented that Mr. Elsharkawi had a lot of apps and a lot of unread emails on his phone.”
It is not clear how many people are subjected to these searches. Federal authorities say they do not need a warrant seize and examine a phone or a computer at the border.