US Government Being Sued By ACLU For Tracking, Detaining Journalists
“Reporting on the database also revealed that the U.S. government coordinated with Mexican authorities to monitor these individuals.”
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing on behalf of journalists it says were detained and spied on by the United States Government. In a press release on its website, the ACLU said that journalists who traveled to Mexico to report on the situation at the border were harassed by government agents.
The organization said that it was “part of a coordinated effort that undermined the freedom of the press” and claimed that the reporters were “tracked, detained, and interrogated” by Border Patrol.
Then national ACLU joined with its New York and San Diego chapters in filing the lawsuit on behalf of the five photojournalists who went to Mexico to document a caravan that was headed to the United States.
The photographs taken by the five photojournalists who were allegedly detained by the government were published in media outlets including The New York Times.
Watching Every Move
“On multiple separate occasions, border officers detained each journalist as they sought to return to the U.S. They interrogated the journalists about their coverage of the caravans of people traveling, and asked them about their observations of conditions at the U.S.-Mexico border, including in shelters,” the ACLU said.
Some of the journalists were asked to identify people they might recognize from headshots that were shown to them. The ACLU also claimed some of the detained photojournalists were forced to show the agents some of the photos they had taken.
“The interrogations and searches were part of a concerted government effort. A secret government database leaked to the public in March 2019 revealed that the five journalists were specifically targeted as part of a broad group of people including lawyers, a pastor, and immigration advocates working at the southern border,” it said.
“Reporting on the database also revealed that the U.S. government coordinated with Mexican authorities to monitor these individuals,” said the ACLU in its press release.
The database was found to have the names and birthdates of the detained journalists, a notation that an alert was on them and notes that showed whether or not they had been interrogated.
“Three of the photos were crossed out with a bold X on them. A fourth, which wasn’t crossed out, stated: Pending Encounter,” the ACLU said.
Freedom of The Press
The ACLU claimed that the journalists’ detention and interrogation was “unconstitutional” and “violated the First Amendment by compelling each journalist to disclose confidential information.”
One of the detained journalists was prevented from entering Mexico to continue her work, the report said.
The ACLU argued the actions of the government could intimidate other journalists into not doing their jobs for fear of interrogations.
“That the government’s actions occurred at the border makes them no less unlawful. Border officers at ports of entry may ask questions relating to immigration or customs, but they may not use border screening as a pretext to interrogate journalists about their work,” the ACLU declared.
“Even in the case of federal law enforcement investigations, journalists enjoy basic protections that play an important part in preserving the freedom of the press.”