US returns items taken from MIT researcher, ACLU says

By Vivian Ho
Globe Correspondent / December 24, 2010

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The electronic possessions of an MIT researcher who is a supporter of the soldier alleged to have given classified information to WikiLeaks were returned to him Wednesday, seven weeks after the US government confiscated them, the American Civil Liberties Union said yesterday.

David House, 23, returned to his Cambridge home Wednesday to find a box with the laptop, digital camera, and USB drive that were taken from him by Department of Homeland Security officials on Nov. 3 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. House had been reentering the country after a trip to Mexico.

According to the US Customs Services Detention Notice and Custody Receipt for Detained Property, his belongings were detained for a simple border search. House, however, said he was questioned about his involvement with US Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, who allegedly passed information about the Iraq war to WikiLeaks, and the Bradley Manning Support Network.

House has visited Manning several times in Quantico, Va., where he is being detained, and helped establish the support network. Homeland Security Department officials could not be reached for comment last night.

House’s possessions were returned one day after the ACLU sent a letter to the Homeland Security Department demanding return of the items. House said he and the ACLU plan to continue pursuing legal action against the government for illegal search and seizure.

“I think that the US government is intimidating and harassing activists who work for Bradley Manning’s campaign in order to get them to stop their activities,’’ House said last night. “I believe this is a continuation of the US government overstepping its bounds. It seems to me that the US government is beginning to treat legitimate advocates like terrorists, which is pretty alarming to me.’’

House plans on running a full forensics report on his laptop to ensure that nothing has been deleted or implanted. He said that after DHS officials returned his cellphone, he experienced noticeable delays in its software.

“You hear about the US government overstepping its bounds, but you never really come face to face with it,’’ he said. “I’ve come face to face with it, and it has been a jarring experience for me, to say the least.’’

Vivian Ho can be reached at