The U.S. Customs Service and the FBI were sued in Los Angeles federal court Monday by a dozen people and five organizations seeking to halt what they said are "intrusive searches and seizures" as well as the copying of personal papers found on people returning from trips to Nicaragua.
Ten of the individuals said they were subjected to such searches even though none of the materials were treasonous under federal law. They said their constitutional rights of free expression, inquiry and travel have been damaged.
Groups filing the class-action suit included the National Central American Health Rights Network, which the suit described as an organization of physicians, nurses and others promoting health care in Central America and "educating North Americans about the deleterious effects of Administration policies on the health rights of Latin-American people."
Another participant in the suit was the Nicaragua Task Force, identified as an organization of Los Angeles-area residents "committed to educating North American people about Nicaragua and to organizing opposition to the Administration's escalation of its war in Nicaragua."
One individual plaintiff, Santa Monica nurse Alice Heidy, said her address book and a notebook containing personal notes were taken from her purse by a customs agent at New Orleans on April 2, 1985. The notes were photocopied, then returned to her, she said.