Supporter of leak suspect Bradley Manning settles with US over laptop seizure

A Cambridge computer programmer who backed a US Army private accused of leaking classified information has settled with the federal government in a case that began when federal agents seized the programmer’s laptop after he returned from a Mexican vacation.

David House, a former MIT researcher, who co-founded an organization to raise money for accused leaker Bradley Manning, accused the Department of Homeland Security of violating his civil rights without a warrant when he passed through airport security in Chicago in November, 2010.

House said Homeland Security agents questioned him about his political work and beliefs, then took his laptop, camera and USB drive. In his lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, House accused the government of launching a “fishing expedition’’ in an effort to find out who was supporting Manning, who is accused of leaking classified information about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The information was posted on WikiLeaks and published by The New York Times and other news organizations.

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According to the settlement with House, the government has agreed to destroy any data it retrieved from the laptop and other devices agents took from House.

The government also agreed to hand over copies of reports of the investigation into House.

“The seizure of David House’s computer is a chilling example of the government’s overbroad ability to conduct a search at the border that intrudes into a person’s political beliefs and associations,’’ said John Reinstein, an ACLU attorney. “Those rights were vindicated by the settlement we reached.’’

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice was not immediately available for comment.

House helped start the Bradley Manning Support Network, which aims to raise money for Manning’s defense. So far, more than 17,500 people have donated a total of $1.1 million, according to the network.

Manning’s trial is scheduled to begin next month.

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