The Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection is accused of detaining an Indiana woman at the airport without cause and then quizzing her about her sex life on knowledge the agents may have gained through the interception of private emails.
Christine Von Der Haar, a senior lecturer at the Department of Sociology at Indiana University, has teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union and filed suit against the agency, saying it violated her constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizures.
In 2012, Miss Von Der Haar accompanied her friend, a Greek national named Dimitris Papatheodoropoulos, to the CPB office at the Indianapolis International Airport to pick up computer equipment he had shipped separately when he flew into the airport a few days earlier, according to a release issued by ACLU.
The custom agent asked Miss Von Der Haar and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos if they had any plans to marry, and then isolated them from one another to ask about the nature of their romantic and flirtatious relationship and if they were having sexual relations. Dr. Von Der Haar sat in a guarded room for 20 minutes, the suit alleges.
CBP appeared to be concerned that Mr. Papatheodoropoulos was trying to stay in the country illegally.
"This case raises troubling issues about the power of the government to detain and question citizens," said Kenneth Falk, ACLU of Indiana's legal director, who represents Miss Von Der Haar.
According to the suit, Miss Von Der Haar had first met Mr. Papatheodoropoulos 40 years earlier while studying abroad, and the two had reconnected on the Internet. Mr. Papatheodoropoulos had obtained a business and leisure visa to the U.S., which lets him enter and leave the country for 10 years. On his most recent trip, he came to the U.S. for business, but wanted to catch up with Miss Von Der Haar.
The suit charges the only way authorities could have known that information and been able to question the nature of their relationship was by reading emails stored on Mr. Papatheodoropoulos's hard drive.
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