Trump's government is secretly tracking journalists and activists


A Homeland Security official leaked evidence of the secret program to track people who covered and worked with the migrant caravan.

So much for freedom of the press.

A local NBC affiliate in San Diego reported on Wednesday that the U.S. government secretly tracked journalists and activists covering and assisting the migrant caravan that traveled from Central America to the U.S. in 2018.

Journalists and activists were placed on a secret tracking list, which not only flagged them for extra screenings at the border but also allowed the government to collect information on them, according to the report.

On the list were 10 journalists, including seven U.S. citizens; one U.S. attorney; and 47 other people the government called "organizers" or "instigators."

A Homeland Security source, who leaked documents about the secret program to NBC 7 San Diego and spoke to the affiliate on the condition of anonymity, called the secret tracking of these reporters and activists "an abuse of the Border Search Authority."

Activists on the list said they had long assumed they were being tracked by the government, and that it was an attempt to "retaliate against human rights defenders who work with asylum seekers and who are critical of CBP practices that violate the rights of asylum seekers," Nicole Ramos, the Refugee Director and attorney for Al Otro Lado, which gives legal advice to migrants and refugees on the border, told NBC San Diego.

Some of the targeted journalists spoke to NBC 7 about their disturbing experiences being detained for extra screening at the border.

One freelance photojournalist who covered the migrant caravan, Ariana Drehsler, said she was detained three times, and that she was asked some very odd questions.

"They asked about the new caravan and if word had gotten out about how difficult it is to seek asylum in the U.S.," Drehsler said. "Then before I left, the female agent asked if I rented or owned my home."

Trump has used the migrant caravan as a political scare tactic to get his racist base to head to the polls and vote Republican — unfairly vilifying a group of people fleeing violence in their own country.

However, the fact that the government was secretly tracking reporters and activists embedded with the caravans is news that Esha Bhandari, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, called an "outrageous violation of the First Amendment."

"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," Bhandari said in a statement. "We are exploring all options in response."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.