Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sixth Circuit Allows Privacy Act Case To Go Forward On Some Counts Where A Muslim Mother and Daughter Were Held, Searched, and Car Damaged Without Cause

Shearson, a US citizen, and her four-year-old daughter, both Muslims, returned by car from Canada in January 2006, via the Peace Bridge in the Buffalo, New York/Fort Erie area. On scanning their United States passports, the computer flashed “ARMED AND DANGEROUS,” and agents asked Shearson to turn over her car keys and step out of the car. Shearson was handcuffed, and, after several hours of questioning in the terminal, she and her daughter were released without explanation. As they left, Shearson asked whether her car had been searched and she was told no search had been conducted. This was a lie. Shearson’s vehicle had been searched and it was damaged in the course of the search.

The Sixth Circuit held that "We VACATE the dismissal of Shearson’s claims under §§ 552a(b) and (e)(7) because Defendants could not properly exempt the TECS and ATS from civil liability for violating these sections. We REMAND these claims for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

This is a civil action to seek records to account for the problems that Shearson and her daughter encountered.  The governing authority is THE PRIVACY ACT OF 1974.

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