Showing posts from January, 2014

Illegal Wildlife Importer Pleads Guilty

A woman from Oakland, California has pleaded guilty to illegally importing shark fins, shark fin noodles, sea horses, dried conch, dried fish and eel maw (which are swim bladders used in food preparations). The two importations resulted in two violations of the Lacey Act and two violations of the False Statements Act. Details and a copy of the indictment can be found here . One interesting note is that the arrest resulted from an investigation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Law Enforcement . You don't see that every day.

Customs News of the Weird

Customs and Border Protection in Nogales seized a mask covered in chicken blood and feathers from a car arriving from Mexico. The mask was described as being intended to cure insomnia and was prescribed by a Native American healer. Despite the therapeutic intent, the item likely violations some agricultural product restrictions. Here are some more details. And, more bird smuggling. This time, someone was attempting to bring their pet parakeet into the U.S. from Mexico in a camera bag.

Customs "Aggies" Care for Macaw Rejected by Mexico

It turns out that Mexico, like the United States, does not permit the entry of live animals without proper documentation. In this case, the offender was a person who carried a macaw on a bus to Nuevo Laredo. Upon arrival, the passenger was informed that the bird would not be permitted entry. Rather than abandon the bird, the passenger walked back across the bridge to the U.S. Upon entering the U.S., the bird ran into the same problem. As a result, it was promptly taken into custody by CBP Agricultural Inspectors. This animal story has a happy ending. The Ag Inspectors took good care of the bird until it was turned over to proper authorities so that the owner could get the proper documentation to export the bird legally to Mexico. Here are the details.

Supreme Court Lets Cotterman Stand

Another day, another update on the law of border searches. Without an opinion, the Supreme Court has let the Cotterman conviction stand. Here is a press report.  This decision is a bit of a victory for privacy advocates in the 9th Circuit, but Cotterman stays in jail. The 9th Circuit decision holds that a forensic search of digital media is requires particularized suspicion and is not allowable simply as part of a routine border search. Here is my last posting on the issue.

Trade Promotion Authority Bill Introduced

Yesterday, a bipartisan group from the House Committee on Ways & Means and the Senate Finance Committee announced the introduction of H.R. 3830 , the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014 to set negotiating objectives for trade agreement talks. Here is a link to the statement from Ways and Means . I usually do not get all breathless about legislation that has just been introduced. There will be lots of tea leaf reading happening as people discuss whether and how this might get passed. Regardless of the inside-the-beltway analysis, this is an important step. There are two major trade agreements in the works. Neither the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership nor the Transpacific Partnership will go anywhere unless the President has a delegation of authority to negotiate.

Border Search Update

Remember my post on U.S. v. Cotterman ? You should read that as background. Also, remember that I am speaking at the Georgetown ITU again this year. For that talk, I have been reading up on the state of litigation involving Customs and Border Protection's searches of digital media. Below is a portion of what I prepared for Georgetown. You'll have to register to attend to get everything. In an effort to mount a broader challenge to Customs’ policies regarding border searches of digital media, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Press Photographers Associations and an individual named Pascal Abidor brought a case in the Eastern District of New York seeking a declaratory judgment that border searches of digital media without particularized suspicion of criminal activity are unconstitutional violations of both the First and Fourth Amendments. See, Abidor, et al. v. Napolitano, et al., Court No. 10-CV-04059 (Slip Op. Dec. 31, 2013).   Abidor, a gr

A Blog Resolution

Remember when this space included funny articles about Customs as well as more personal observations? I plan to do more of that in 2014. Granted, I started this blog in the pre-Face Book days and there was no other place to write about a ginormous spider in my basement or bike commuting . So, I will try and stay at least arguably on point. Starting with this story (which is not funny at all): Customs and Border Protection seized and destroyed a number of rare wooden flutes from the luggage of a musician returning from Morocco to New York. Customs states that because the "bamboo" flutes were not fully dried and split, they were treated as live bamboo, which is prohibited entry in most cases. Fully dried bamboo is permitted entry after inspection to ensure there are no agricultural pests on board as is furniture and other manufactured goods of bamboo. That would seem to include manufactured flutes. A potential problem for CBP is that these flutes were not actually made of