U.S. Government Possibly Collecting Journalist names, Causing Concern

Peyton Upchurch
Staff Writer

PC: UNclimatechange

According to a recent report from National Public Radio (NPR), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security facilitated an interagency-created documentation of journalists involved in reporting on the migrant caravan incident on the Southwest border in 2018. The database also includes activists present at the scene, and may lead to an additional investigation and screening into the people involved.

Although a representative from Customs and Border Patrol declined to comment on the existence of the alleged file containing the names of these journalists, the report of the interagency collaboration on the matter came shortly after several journalists noted that they were “singled out” at border checkpoints and complained about being subjected to additional screenings when going through customs. One journalist was even denied entry to Mexico.

In their statement to NPR, Customs and Border Patrol claimed that it was “standard protocol following {the caravan} incidents  to collect evidence that might be needed for future legal actions and to determine if the event was orchestrated.” They added that these efforts are intended to “prevent future incidents,” and may include investigation by U.S. departments.

According to a source affiliated with KNSD-TV, however, the creation of such databases and their capability of collecting sensitive information on the journalists involved is an example of the U.S. government overstepping their bounds, even to the point of legal misconduct.

“We are a criminal investigation agency, we’re not an intelligence agency,” said KNSD’s source, adding “we can’t create dossiers on people and they’re creating dossiers…this is an abuse of the Border Search Authority.”

The news outlet published photos of the dossiers on the internet, noting the labels included on their cover: “instigator,” “coordinator,” “organizer” and “media.” Further information in the document includes biographical data on the individuals, flags for additional border screenings, and photographs taken from U.S. passport databases. Journalist Ariana Drehsler, who is included in the file, has lived and worked in San Diego for years, and has crossed the border into Tijuana many times in the last year to photograph asylum seekers in the region. Drehsler was interviewed by NPR regarding the dossier, and said that she had suddenly become a subject of interest to border patrol, noting that she had been repeatedly questioned and subject to additional screenings during her travels.

“They wanted to know who I was working for and what I was seeing,” said Drehsler to NPR in February. “They focused on the shelters, and people crossing illegally.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists Without Borders suggested that the discovery of the CBP databases was a confirmation of the difficulties predicted to affect journalists in the recent years of the Trump administration.

A CPJ Spokesperson stated that the creation of the files on the caravan incident were “thanks to the wide powers granted to Customs and Border Protection agents, who can search electronic devices without warrant, and question reporters about past and current work.”

In addition to the CPJ’s commentary, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called the dossier an “outrageous violation of the First Amendment.” An ACLU representative told NPR: The government cannot use the pretext of the border to target activists critical of its policies, lawyers providing legal representation, or journalists simply doing their jobs.



Categories: News

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