DHS watchdog, Congress now probing secret government database tracking journalists and activists
A secret government database of journalists and immigrant rights advocates to be surveilled is now facing two separate probes, following a whistleblower’s leak of documents revealing officials were keeping tabs on dozens of people, including seven U.S. citizens, who reported on or had associations with the so-called migrant caravan last year.
For some, surveillance levels were frightening. Information on Nicole Ramos, an attorney with immigrant rights advocacy group Al Otro Lado, included “specific details about the car she drives, her mother’s name, and her work and travel history.” Following the release of the report, House Democratic leaders are pressing Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan for explanations.
“The appearance that CBP is targeting journalists, lawyers, and advocates, and particularly those who work on immigration matters or report on border and immigration issues, raises questions about possible misuse of CBP’s border search authority and requires oversight to ensure the protection of Americans’ legal and constitutional rights,” said Reps. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Kathleen Rice of New York. The Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General is already probing the database. The government claims the database was created to help investigate alleged incidents at the border, but the people targeted are crying bullshit. Reported San Diego’s NBC affiliate, “Of the journalists on the list NBC 7 spoke with, only one said he was even at [a border] incident in November.”
Hugo Castro, a U.S. citizen and volunteer with advocacy group Border Angels, said he was interrogated at the border for over five hours.
But the American citizen says officers primarily asked him general questions about the caravan of migrants coming from Guatemala and Honduras, how he was getting paid and what his organization’s role was in assisting migrants.
Castro said he was not asked about specific clashes.
Immigration officials have become Trump’s own police, along with Immigration and Customs Enforcement also tracking his critics. Just weeks after his inauguration, unshackled agents stalked a Dreamer who had spoken out against mass deportation. “The tools the President is using are nothing short of chilling,” said Douglas Rivlin of immigrant advocacy group America’s Voice, “from watch lists of activists and journalists to double-speak and deception that would make George Orwell blush.”