The Barack Obama administration did it, and few mainstream media outlets acknowledged the happening.
The Donald Trump administration does it with national security reasons in mind, an inside source leaks the effort, and it becomes headline news.
“It” is the monitoring of journalists. The Obama Administration targeted journalists reporting on their nefarious activity. The Trump Administration is watching those “covering” the migrant caravans, the invasion force if you will, coming north through Mexico to the southern border.
As the migrant caravan reached the San Ysidro Port of Entry in south San Diego County, so did journalists, attorneys, and advocates who were there to work and witness the events unfolding.
But in the months that followed, journalists who covered the caravan, as well as those who offered assistance to caravan members, said they felt they had become targets of intense inspections and scrutiny by border officials.
One photojournalist said she was pulled into secondary inspections three times and asked questions about who she saw and photographed in Tijuana shelters. Another photojournalist said she spent 13 hours detained by Mexican authorities when she tried to cross the border into Mexico City. Eventually, she was denied entry into Mexico and sent back to the U.S.
These American photojournalists and attorneys said they suspected the U.S. government was monitoring them closely but until now, they couldn’t prove it.
Now, documents leaked to NBC 7 Investigates show their fears weren’t baseless. In fact, their own government had listed their names in a secret database of targets, where agents collected information on them. Some had alerts placed on their passports, keeping at least two photojournalists and an attorney from entering Mexico to work.
The documents were provided to NBC 7 by a Homeland Security source on the condition of anonymity, given the sensitive nature of what they were divulging.
The source said the documents or screenshots show a SharePoint application that was used by agents from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations and some agents from the San Diego sector of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).
The intelligence gathering efforts were done under the umbrella of “Operation Secure Line,” the operation designated to monitor the migrant caravan, according to the source.
The documents list people who officials think should be targeted for screening at the border.
The individuals listed include ten journalists, seven of whom are U.S. citizens, a U.S. attorney, and 48 people from the U.S. and other countries, labeled as organizers, instigators or their roles “unknown.” The target list includes advocates from organizations like Border Angels and Pueblo Sin Fronteras.
So, the documents themselves that tell of the monitoring of journalists, also list the reasons why the Department of Homeland Security was watching them. Vital and personal information was shared with the Government of Mexico where most of the harassment and searching took place.
President Trump did say that Mexico was helping.
The Homeland Security source was not done with the sabotage, however.
In addition to flagging the individuals for secondary screenings, the Homeland Security source told NBC 7 that the agents also created dossiers on each person listed.
“We are a criminal investigation agency, we’re not an intelligence agency,” the Homeland Security source told NBC 7 Investigates. “We can’t create dossiers on people and they’re creating dossiers. This is an abuse of the Border Search Authority.”
And the leak made by this individual is an act against national security and sovereignty. If there are journalists, lawyers, and others working against the nation, they darn well and good need to be monitored and their actions documented.