Published May 13, 2011
An MIT researcher who has vocally supported WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning filed a lawsuit today, alleging the government illegally searched him and seized confidential information.
David House, an MIT researcher and founding member of the Bradley Manning Support Network, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit, which claims the government seized House’s laptop and video camera last year.
In November, the Department of Homeland Security detained House at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and questioned him about his association with Manning and the anti-secrecy website Wikileaks, according to the suit, which further claims two DHS officials confiscated House’s laptop, thumb drive and video camera.
“The seizure of my laptop had a very chilling effect on the activities of The Bradley Manning Support Network,” House told WBUR. “[It has] silenced people working [for the the group] and sent many of our donors into retreat.”
In December, seven weeks after allegedly having his possessions confiscated, House returned to his Cambridge home to find a box with his laptop, camera and thumb drive inside. He received the box one day after the ACLU sent a letter to DHS demanding the return of the items.
The Boston Globe reported at the time that “according to the U.S. Customs Services Detention Notice and Custody Receipt for Detained Property, his belongings were detained for a simple border search.”
The lawsuit alleges that the government targeted House solely on the basis of his association with the Bradley Manning Support Network.
“The U.S. government has made me the target of intrusive and really quite intimidating tactics simply because I belong to a lawful group that is standing up for what I believe is right,” House said.
Among other activities, the group raises money for Manning’s legal defense and supports him during his imprisonment. House has been to Quantico, Va., several times to visit Manning while he is being detained for allegedly leaking thousands of documents to Wikileaks.
Carol Rose, the head of the Massachusetts ACLU who is representing House in the suit, told WBUR:
This suit challenges the government’s decision to target and search people based on their political associations and specifically challenges whether the government sees the membership lists of legal organizations as unlawful association just because they do not agree with their politics.
Rose also underscored that the government has not alleged House has been involved in any illegal activities.
“There is no basis in this case for the government to search David House or anyone else’s computer unless they have a reasonable basis of suspicion,” Rose said.
House said today that with his suit he seeks to “roll back” what he sees as government encroachment on citizens’ rights.
“If everything goes well, [the suit] will make it much more difficult for the U.S. government to seize without a warrant the private information and private property of citizens at the borders,” House said.
The Department of Homeland Security does not comment on pending litigation.