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Monday, Dec. 11
The Indiana Daily Student

academics & research

Professor sues, alledges breach of privacy rights

IU senior lecturer Christine Von der Haar and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Feb. 19 against Sherlana Lieba and a man referred to only as “Mr. Combs.”  

Von der Haar said she felt her right to privacy was violated when she and a friend were detained at the Indianapolis International Airport.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents detained Von der Haar when the two went to pick up some of her friend Dimitris Papatheodoropoulos’ items June 8, 2012.

That day, the senior lecturer in the IU Department of Sociology and Papatheodoropoulos were detained from about 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Papatheodoropoulos was visiting from Greece.

Von der Haar said she soon realized what appeared to be a misunderstanding was much more complicated.

She said they questioned her twice.

Von der Haar said the border protection agents first questioned her for about 20 minutes, and then again for a shorter period of time about a half hour later.

She said she did not see Papatheodoropoulos until he was released at about 3:30 p.m.

In addition to the detainment and interrogation, Von der Haar discovered the agents had knowledge of personal email correspondences between her and
Papatheodoropoulos.

The agents asked if she and Papatheodoropoulos were planning to be
married.

Von der Haar denied the allegation.

At no point did Von der Haar feel she was able to leave or choose not to answer a question, she said.

The lawsuit filed stated one of the agents stood blocking the door to the windowless room where she was interviewed.

Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury of the Electronic Frontier Foundation reviewed Von der Haar’s case.

He said he had not seen that specific track pattern before or such an aggressive line of questioning about seemingly irrelevant information.

“You don’t see a lot of situations like that,” he said.

Van der Haar said she hired an attorney and contacted senators and congressmen.

She worked the entire summer to try and find out what had happened at the airport.  

She also contacted the American Civil Liberties Union in mid-July and has been working with them since.

Von der Haar said she has also used the Freedom of Information Act to request the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security release any files they have on her.

All of the files are public record.

She said the FBI has told her they do not have a file on her.

“I’m doing this for the American public,” she said. “We need more transparency.”

Follow reporter Amanda Marino on Twitter @amandamarino.

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