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Leaked Documents Show the U.S. Tracking Journalists Through a Secret Database (nbcsandiego.com)
460 points by jseliger 48 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 175 comments



Not only tracking them, but putting flags on their passports and interrogating them at the border:

“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.”

This sounds much more like a political intimidation operation than serving a national security purpose.


It's terrifying. Free speech should not be infringed upon.

This is obviously happening more and more. High profile cases like journalists and activists caught up in association with Snowden, like Greenwald, Poitras and Lavabit's founder... Are probably known to most here. But I wonder if most are aware even a journalist covering the dakota pipeline protests was detained by the US government(1).

1-https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/02/business/media/canadian-j...


Terrible indeed, I didn't know of this case, thanks for sharing. Regarding the caravan case you can at least try to bury it under international politics/border security. But to detain a journalist that has been covering Dakota pipeline is restricting the freedom of speech for pure economical reasons.


I think they tried some vague excuse that had something to do with him having travelled to the Middle East in the past.

So if you want to retain your civil rights in America, you either can't cover protests, or can't travel to the Middle East. Or both.

Anyways, who on earth is downvoting my parent comment??


I wonder if that might have to do with foreign influence being involved with the protests?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2018/03/01...


No, it doesn't. Not only was that "influence" so minor to have had basically no impact, the posts were made months after the detention.


Pretty ballsy of the WaPo to suggest such a thing, considering their utter lack of interest in the heinous acts carried out there at the time.


[flagged]


If you keep posting flamebait and otherwise breaking the site guidelines, we will ban you. Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and follow the rules from now on. That means posting civilly and substantively, or not at all.

viivaux 46 days ago [flagged]

That Was a substantive comment, which added to the original.

And it Was cowardly to downvote the original comment, which was documentably factual. It's more than a little prudish to come at me a day later and threaten me with a ban. If you have some kind of personal issue with me, I'd like it explained please.


It's definitely nothing personal. It's just that you're breaking the site guidelines by posting flamebait and calling names (in the sense that the guidelines use that term).

In addition to the guidelines, you might also find these links helpful for getting the original spirit of this site:

https://news.ycombinator.com/newswelcome.html

https://news.ycombinator.com/hackernews.html

http://www.paulgraham.com/hackernews.html

http://www.paulgraham.com/trolls.html


Whatever the original altruistic goal of state surveillance, this must stop, because the abuse increases every year and human freedoms decrease, for everyone, no matter your country of origin/ habitation.

Our global political landscape must radically improve for humanity's sake. It seems that every government, particularly the 'western' ones are racing headlong into outright facism: all because of political and corporate maneuvering.


Similar story involved ICE, different location, not explicitly linked to border crossings...

https://www.thenation.com/article/ice-immigration-protest-sp...


Probably taken from the playbook of your new comrades.


It sounds most like a criminal investigation into a particular violent incident at the border and the investigators are trying to follow the money.


This is incorrect. A criminal investigation would be legal.

A quote directly from the article sums up the counterpoint nicely:

“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.”


An unnamed source?

Pray tell, what is the line between creating a dossier and conducting an investigation? When does a collection of evidence of a given suspects involvement (or non-involvement) become a dossier?

Although I don't believe it's relevant to this case, the unnamed source is wrong. The DHS absolutely is an intelligence agency. It even has an office (DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis) dedicated to synthesizing and disseminating the intelligence it collects. Intelligence collected by CBP is part of that mandate.


A quote from the official statement from the Customs and Border Patrol. It was also in the article.

"CBP told our colleagues at NBC News that the names in the database are all people who were present during violence that broke out at the border in November. The agency also said journalists are being tracked so that the agency can learn more about what started that violence."


This doesn't make much sense. They would just interview the journalists after the event, and maybe do some follow-up interviews with a few. They wouldn't tag their passports for increased screenings, interrogate them at every border crossing, etc. They're treating the journalists like they helped organize the violence.

To me it just seems like a way to harass and disrupt journalists trying to closely cover the story.


Don't forget the part about going through their devices.


The part where journalists insinuated their devices might have been searched but admitted it didn't look like anyone had touched them?


If guilt by association could be attributed to on-duty journalists, practically all journalists would be in jail.

Messing with the press will always be construed as intimidation. Means to an end. And rightfully so. So as the government; just don't do it. Don't even think about it. The press doing their job is the turning point in the feedback loop that makes democracy work.

The first amendment protects the press, as well as the people's right "...to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

The whole "keep tabs on journalists to learn more about the violence that journalists didn't contribute too" is a strawman argument, and a fairly obvious boot-licking one at that.


That quote doesn't mean that the journalists have been convicted of crimes. It means they have dossiers/database tracking on them just for being there, reporting the violence, etc. Doing their jobs as reporters. If the agency wanted to find out what started the incidents in question, the agents should swiftly identify that journalists couldn't be the cause and dismiss them instead of keeping a database of them.


So the basis for tracking journalists and treating them with suspicion is that they were present during a newsworthy event (i.e. doing their jobs)?


since when do we as a country track people over violence instead of say just oh doing an investigation of just asking wha5t happened? are we suddenly Communist China or Nazi Germany?


>are we suddenly Communist China or Nazi Germany?

Suddenly? No. This is the inevitable result of the normalization of authoritarianism, militarism and mass surveillance that began after 9/11.

I mean, we have a President who outright calls the press enemies of the people, and half the country agrees with him, and most of the rest just dismiss it as Trump being an angry crazy man. That's how far the Overton window has been pushed towards protofascism in the US.


How do you do investigations if you aren't allowed to question suspects and witnesses and keep records of them? I'm really perplexed by this stance.


If you are investigating or otherwise overseeing the border, would it not be useful to have a list of journalists who are actively gathering on-the-ground intel (for their jobs)? This is a weak attempt to make it look like the Obama era abuses a la Sheryl Attkinson.

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2015/01/29/sharyl_at...


But they're not just tracking them so they can reach out and seek further details as part of an investigation. They're gathering information in excess of what they would need for that purpose and using the information they have to flag them for additional screenings, detain them, and in at least one mentioned case turn them away at the border.


That was the Mexican government that turned a person away at the border, not CBP. If CBP could make the Mexican government turn away arbitrary persons at the Mexican border, don't you think they might have started with caravans from Honduras?


Databases of journalists have slightly different optics when the president has called for opening libel laws, encouraged violence against the press at his rallies, and has labeled journalists the "enemy of the people".


> encouraged violence against the press at his rallies

Could you give a specific example of this?



That had nothing to do with journalists and was specifically about protesters who attempted to disrupt a rally.


Reality is more far important than optics. Contextualizing it doesn't change the facts.


The reality is that a journalist for a publication critical of the president was murdered by a brutal dictator, and the president shrugged his shoulders. The facts are that Donald Trump has attacked individual journalists for writing pieces that are critical of him.

Further facts include that the president has lied about the migrant caravan in question as a way to win political support by claiming it contains middle eastern terrorist elements, and diseases like smallpox and leprosy which will be spread to Americans.

Now we learn that journalists covering the caravan are facing undue scrutiny by border agents and are being tracked and you want to simply dismiss the context?


Come now, the reality of the Khashoggi situation is that he was not a journalist at all but an an agent of Qatar and a client of the former head of Saudi intelligence, who sometimes phoned in opinion columns to the Washington Post dictated by his foreign paymasters.

So that you do not misunderstand, I'm not saying that any of this excuses Khashoggi's murder. I'm saying that it's disingenuous to suggest that those who ordered his killing were motivated be some sort of generalized antipathy to journalism.


> I'm saying that it's disingenuous to suggest that those who ordered his killing were motivated be some sort of generalized antipathy to journalism.

I'm not saying those who ordered his killing did so because he was a journalist, I'm saying Donald Trump shrugged his shoulders in part because Khashoggi wrote for the Washington Post. Donald Trump is known for holding grudges and for treating those he views as loyal differently. For instance, he suggests the federal government should de-fund disaster relief for California (didn't vote for him) wildfires while saying the government will give "A+" relief for an Alabama (did vote for him) tornado. He is a strictly transactional man. He's called out the Washington Post specifically and has looked into hurting Amazon as a way of punishing Bezos for owning the Post.


>I'm saying Donald Trump shrugged his shoulders in part because Khashoggi wrote for the Washington Post.

Or maybe he shrugged his shoulders because a foreign intelligence agent got killed by a foreign intelligence agency in a foreign country? Surely Trump, with U.S. and allied intelligence at his disposal, must have been made aware of Khashoggi's true nature.

Indeed, the German press was reporting that Khashoggi was an intelligence agent right away. It took the Post several weeks to finally admit as much, and still they've continued to spend millions of dollars (for example, on Super Bowl ads) to pretend Kashoggi was a real journalist.

Whatever you think of Trump, the Post deserves a great deal of contempt.


> Or maybe he shrugged his shoulders because a foreign intelligence agent got killed by a foreign intelligence agency in a foreign country?

For the longest time Trump refused to even consider that Saudi Arabia was responsible for the killing, so that's a stretch.

> Surely Trump, with U.S. and allied intelligence at his disposal, must have been made aware of Khashoggi's true nature.

Trump famously discounts the conclusions of our intelligence agencies and can't pay attention to the presidential daily briefing unless his name is included in big bold letters. I think it's a stretch to say that if our intelligence agencies know one thing then it's a given Trump knows it (and believes it) as well.


>For the longest time Trump refused to even consider that Saudi Arabia was responsible for the killing, so that's a stretch.

If your definition of 'refused to even consider' is raised the issue directly with the leader of Saudi Arabia, well then, sure.


I don't think so. Pulling a journalist in once to ask for information would fit with that.

But flagging them so that all future border crossings result in automatic detainment for questioning can't be seen that way. I can only read that as surveillance and harassment.


Look at it from the perspective of an investigator who believes that there are Americans providing financial assistance to a caravan that turned violent, as well as the ordinary customs enforcement duty to ensure that large amounts of cash do not cross the border. If you don't know which Americans were involved, but suspect several who were present at a particular event, it may make perfect sense to question them every time you see them at the border, and search them (at the very least) for money. The fact that a lot of the intrusive questions that the reporter complained about were financial in nature (e.g. "Do you own or rent your home?" or "Who pays for your travel?") seem entirely consistent with this mission.

I agree that it is surveillance, but you seem to forget that that's one of the things law enforcement does in an investigation.

vectorEQ 48 days ago [flagged]

this is normal. journalists are hot targets to either spoof or buy to snoop around as they often have more access than regular civilians to high profile targets.... counter-intelligence and counter-espionage. people should realise that forgein powers demotivate them against their own government, and now these demotivated people are the ones complaining about this kind of shit, preventing their own government from functioning normally.

so yes. keep complaining about your governments hard work to keep you safe, i'm sure the opposing forces will thank you later.


You do realize this is the exact same reasoning places like China & Russia use and indeed why we always hear they're 'non-free' as a result.

If you simply think that the same actions when done by a Western government are somehow more justifiable/right then you simply fell for some form of exceptionalism propaganda.

The very reason why we're supposed to be more free is because we're not supposed to do these things on principle, even if it makes the work of security officials more convenient to do them.


This is the standard wartime playbook for restricting freedom. It's completely incompatible with functioning democracy.


[flagged]


You're not allowed to use those special war powers to suppress normal democratic dissent. This is exactly fascism.


The House and Senate vote to reauthorize the war every year.

Have you called your Representative to express your opinions?

Have you voted for politicians who oppose the reauthorization?

There's a system in place to stop this, you're just not using it.


You're not allowed to cross the border illegally. This list of "journalists" is actually a list of people who were/are trying to help people enter the country illegally.

"Suppress normal democratic dissent" and "fascism" sounds like a conspiracy theory.


Human trafficking is quite illegal. I don't think anyone would have a problem with a database of possible human traffickers


This “war” has been going on for nearly two decades.

There’s no credible linkage to even the ridiculously vague definition of the “war” and migrants fleeing repressive regimes in Central America.


[flagged]


That’s the policy position of the government, and it’s an insane, not credible position. It’s a position born of ignorance and bigotry.

I know many people who were impacted by 9/11. The people responsible were posing as businessmen with normal visas. It disgusts me that our policy is to chase boogeymen and do harm to people and to the nation in pursuit of cheap applause.

End of the day, the consequence of the stupid policy decisions made by Bush and Obama, and then amplified by the Trump circus will result in claw-back of war powers by Congress.


For the record, I agree with you. I'm personally opposed to this line of thought, I'm just devil's advocating what the executive branch and legislature has and will argue.


The Devil already has enough advocates. Please stop spamming HN with bad-faith noise.


You'd rather this forum be a hugbox of agreement rather than one of actual discussion?

That never leads anywhere. Good ideas can stand up to criticism. Strong opinions necessarily must be defendable. You don't get that with a hugbox.

So I put my karma on the line for what I think is good argument.


I’d rather discuss issues with people who actually believe in them and can back them up, or acknowledge they hold their opinion for sentimental reasons.


> Except the wide open southern border is an easy point of insertion for Daesh and AQ operatives.

> Therefore, it can be claimed as warzone under the AUMF.

How delightfully convenient and simultaneously nonsensical.

If you are going to be that overly simplistic and reductionist (and willfully ignorant) about what is happening and why then you may as well just come out in support of all-out martial law and start setting up the FEMA camps in case of a terrorist attack.

> Next question.

You say that like you think your answer was a good one.


It's the same answer used by Mr Holder and Mr Obama to justify dropping hellfire missiles in a dozen countries.


And it was questionable then too.


This is argumentum ad verecundiam, an appeal to authority (a logical fallacy that in no way backs up what you are saying), and not a very good one.


As well, contrary to what your debate 101 professor might have taught you, appealing to authority is not always a fallacy.

If I had said "Mr Obama and Mr Holder think the border is dangerous" then sure.

But what I said was that a US president and attorney general have previously used the loose writing of the 2001 AUMF to expand the "War on Terror" to new theaters. Therefore it is likely a similar case can be made to expand the theater to the southern border.


Your opinion on if it's good or not is inconsequental.

It's been good enough to get FISA warrants for surveillance and executions.

We might see that it's obviously flawed, but the people we've elected disagree.


Part 2: who did you vote for as your representative and senator last cycle? Let's see what their track record of opinion on the AUMF and the southern border is.


And Russia annexed Crimea as a war action that led to arrests, incarcerations and murder of journalists in the opposition. Being at war does not mean you can start controlling your own population and restrict the freedom of the press. Free journalism is one of the pillars of a democratic society. Aren't most of USA wars waged in the name of democracy? Gathering information like what car a journalist drives and the mothers name IMHO cannot be named as a "wartime playbook" scenario, this is a violation of privacy rights. Don't we have Presumption of Innocence as one of the basis of the law?


> So what's wrong with the wartime playbook? We're at war.

You're always at war.


The War on Terror is not an officially declared war through Congress. The last declared war was WWII


>so yes. keep complaining about your governments hard work to keep you safe, i'm sure the opposing forces will thank you later.

Are you suggesting blind fealty? If so, relevant.mp4: https://youtu.be/2HYIJahQKaI?t=189


I don't think he's suggesting blind fealty so much as avoidance of the opposite - blind opposition.

Good individuals (or governments) can do very bad things. And bad individuals (or governments) can do very good things. When one immediately jumps to one conclusion or another, it leaves one open to being trivially manipulated. In political jargon - being made into a useful idiot [1].

In this case it was particularly bad since it wasn't "one" but rather entire groups of people either blindly supporting or blindly opposing the caravan based on political ideology. Comments running contrary to the groupthink tended to be simply attacked instead of considered.

Are there reasons to support the investigation into the caravan? Absolutely. Are there reasons to oppose it? Absolutely. But people are increasingly becoming simple minded on political issues and will simply go full-on one way or the other. This (to borrow from a peer comment) is what is "completely incompatible with functioning democracy."

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Useful_idiot


>I don't think he's suggesting blind fealty so much as avoidance of the opposite - blind opposition.

The OC's statement came across as, "The government is doing this for you, so don't question it." To me, it didn't come across as including the facet of being pro/against the caravan in question, whatsoever, but - to the OC's credit - maybe it was there and I just missed it...


Please apply this to the case at hand. The case at hand is not about supporting or opposing the caravan, or its investigation.

It is about how journalists reporting on it are marked for special treatment at the US border. I fail to see any complex pro/con political issue there. Free press is a constitutional right for a reason.


The first critical point is to classify the caravan. This is something you have to step outside of politics for, for a minute. This caravan had already illegally broken past the border between Guatemala and Mexico. [1] There's every reason to believe they planned to attempt similar behavior at the US border. This is the definition of criminal conspiracy.

In this case it would likely have also been a politically destabilizing event in the US. You would have had far right vigilantes work to 'apprehend' the trespassing individuals which likely would spark 'anti-vigilante' action from far left individuals. Violence would have been inevitable due to the fact you have loonies on both ends meeting up with emotions flaring high. This could have been an organic action, but it could also have been driven by actors who would benefit from such instability.

In any case it would be absolutely remiss for the government to not investigate the funding, composition, and other aspects of the caravan. And on this front the journalists were/are not only witnesses but witnesses with video, photographic, and audio evidence as well as first person accounts. Like the article states, "[The investigators] said that I [journalist] was on the ground and they’re not, which I thought was really interesting.". The really important question is whether the investigation has gone from investigation to intimidation, which would be an issue.

So is the government doing their due diligence, or are they intimidating journalists? Perhaps it's even a bit of both. But I don't think this article is enough evidence to really determine one way or the other and so I think the wisest course of action would be to await further information.

[1] - https://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-mexico-m...


The classification of the caravan is itself politics. The classification of refugees as criminals is extremely political.

As is the question of why they're fleeing Honduras in the first place. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/07/crisis-of-hond...


A person walks into a store and steals a loaf of bread. Have they engaged in theft? There can be very compelling mitigating circumstances and factors that can help explain their action (perhaps their family is starving), but this does not change the fact that they have now engaged in a criminal act and should be treated as a suspect, though of course with the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

The caravan engaged in numerous criminal actions and likely conspired to engage in further criminal action at or within the US. Not investigating this would be remiss of the government, regardless of whether or not they find such actions justifiable. If we only investigated those we did not like or defended those we did, we'd have quite the broken system -- and, in fact, such systems were the norm for much of society's existence. Suffice to say such systems were not conducive to justness or fairness.


If they want photos or videos as part of an investigation, there is a legal procedure: subpoenas.

What does it have to do with putting journalists on a customs control list for special treatment when re-entering the US?


How is preventing Americans from reporting on the migrant caravan keeping us safe?


There's a lot of implicit trust in this view, it's the same type of trust people around the world have for their governments, that doesn't mean they are incorruptible or well-meaning. This entirely is for allowing the government to control information, and thus control people.


Sadly, most people are subservient to authority, propaganda, epaulets, etc.

Einstein quote on people:

>Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions that differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.

It's more than just a trust in rulers. I agree with Einstein. It's a complete subservience to them.


Im sure once an opposing government takes power and starts interrogating people who make comments like yours, you’ll be as accommodating.


people should realise that forgein powers demotivate them against their own government

But what's wrong with that? Americans have every right to be "demotivated" and seek change from the government. The government has zero authority to coerce people to support the government, or to prevent dissatisfied citizens from agitating for change through free speech.


> people should realise that forgein powers demotivate them against their own government, and now these demotivated people are the ones complaining about this kind of shit, preventing their own government from functioning normally.

Oh the poor poor US government, with its trillions of dollars in resources and monopoly on the use of lethal force, stopped dead in their tracks by their eternal nemesis, the free citizen airing their opinion.

There are places you can go where governments blame journalists and other opinionated people for all their problems. There are even a few places where the government will go further than mere coercion and intimidation and actually murder people who speak out against it.

Turkey or Saudi Arabia. Maybe North Korea or the Congo.

Perhaps those countries are more to your liking?


Safe from what?


Journalists are often harrassed when they dig into things the powerful want to leave burried.

https://sharylattkisson.com/new-update-attkisson-v-doj-and-f...

https://cpj.org/asia/china/


I feel like there's a large delta between lazy shitty journalism that is pumped out for news websites and real investigative journalism that is incredibly eye-opening and insightful.


It's like a video game, if there are obstacles in your path then you're heading in the right direction.


Who is the obstacle, the wealthy or the journalist?


If you're attempting to keep facts from becoming public knowledge you are acting against the public good.


My point is,

"It's like a video game, if there are obstacles in your path then you're heading in the right direction"

read from the perspective of a person crushing journalists implies that they are going in the "right direction", as the journalists are just obstacles they need to clear in their crusade for power/wealth.


This reminds me of the notion of "samizdat" during the cold war times, but still happening now in various countries, particularly China, Vietnam, North Korea, et al.

The people in control want zero accountability despite what they may say. Power corrupts people and once they experience it, they want more.

I know people from China, and they, to a person, say where they came from is a hideous form of life. They could say nothing. The father of this family will not return, ever. If he does, he stands to be arrested for what basically amounts to "thought crimes".

This man has explained to me so many things about the facets of life in China. From filial piety, to how Confucianiam/Legalism is the thought process of everyone in power. He was saying that the current Chinese leader is in love with the writings and legalist thought of Han Fei Zi and Shang Yang, and these two ancient philosphers inform his current thinking strategies. Even the new social credit system stems from this thinking of rewarding people for being "good" and even being a prefect for the state for additional "rewards". China is now offering bounties to people who turn in their neighbors for looking at porn. I believe the going rate for a turn in and subsequent conviction is $86k. I pray nothing like this comes to the west.


Any sources on the bounty statement?



I did election integrity activism stuff for a while. Embarrassing the powers that be, pointing out the emperor has no clothes.

Had some minor victories.

I assumed I was gonna be harassed, maybe even spend time in jail.

Not entirely sure why I was spared. Worst I got was called names by the local press, politicians.


Sharyl Attkisson, the person interviewing Jerome Corsi, author of Killing the Deep State: The Fight to Save President Trump in this interview?

https://www.c-span.org/video/?442260-1/after-words-jerome-co...

Or how about this:

"Citizens United’s David Bossie and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski argued that Washington bureaucrats are seeking to undermine the presidency of Donald Trump."

https://www.c-span.org/video/?454330-1/after-words-david-bos...

Sorry, if I find Atkisson a dubious source of information.


Are you saying that if a journalist interviews a controversial figure they lose credibility? Was there something about those interviews that made you determine she is dubious?


Watch the interviews. She does not call them out, no matter how ridiculous or unsubstantiated the claims being made are. It's utterly ridiculous.

An interviewer is supposed to push back when claims are made that contradict reality. Chris Wallace's interview with Stephen Miller for how it's done.


Thanks, I’ll check them out, apologies for not putting in an effort before commenting.

One problem I feel exists (no evidence) is that sometimes the options are fluffy interview or none at all, and the interviewer is incentivized not to dig out the truth but to get the guest. It’s a bummer. I feel like the blame lays on the guest more than the interviewer because they tend to have the power in that dynamic.


That's a good point, at least WRT After Words on C-SPAN where I believe the book author has a say in who their interviewer will be. Still, it was jarring someone would not push back on some of this crap that I see as "Bircherism."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Birch_Society


>Sorry, if I find Atkisson a dubious source of information.

Your problem with Atikisson is she interviewed people you disagree with?

Atkinson who was illegally spied on by Obama admin, has been excellent in doing real journalism. Her TED talks about fakenews and media bias are excellent.

Lara Logan, Tim Pool, Atiksson, and maybe 10 others have shown they can put their biases aside and do work. It’s a sad state of journalism right now, but even sadder that even acknowledging other people give some consumers a “dubious” impression.


I linked to the interviews, so you could watch for yourself. I don't exactly have time to re-watch, transcribe, and fact check for you, but I could probably spend some time this evening, if that interests you.

She never pushes back on any claim made, no matter how ludicrous.


>Documents obtained by NBC 7 Investigates show the U.S. government created a secret database of activists, journalists, and social media influencers tied to the migrant caravan and in some cases, placed alerts on their passports.

It sounds like only people and journalists who are covering "the caravan" are being tracked. Not that it makes it any better.

It also seems to have been started very recently, probably under the current administration.


Journalists make up a minority of those being tracked in that operation. Most of those tracked are involved in organizations that encourage and assist illegal immigration, like Pueblos Sin Fronteras and Border Angels. Founders of both of those organizations explicitly encourage illegal immigration, and have been organizing migrant caravans for some 15+ years.


Based on what I see, it looks like the US Govt is keeping tabs on those persons (journalists) who are sympathetic to the cause of of a group of people (the caravans) intending to breach the country border.

How is this intimidation? Isn't this "Keeping borders safe 101" ?

(I'm a legal temp immigrant in the US, and I have a hard time understanding why some things are news in this country).


> Based on what I see, it looks like the US Govt is keeping tabs on those persons (journalists) who are sympathetic to the cause of of a group of people (the caravans) intending to breach the country border.

The caravans are lawful asylum seekers that are only crossing at non recognized points because the administration has taken active and dubiously legal efforts to forcibly prevent them from reaching and applying for asylum at regular ports of entry, going so far as to close ports if entry and fire chemical weapons across an international border for that purpose.

Not that being sympathetic to them would be problematic even if that wasn't the case.

> I'm a legal temp immigrant in the US

No, you aren't. Immigrants are permanent. You can be a legal immigrant or a legal temporary worker or visitor, but you can't be a legal temporary immigrant.


International treaties covering asylum seekers require that they apply for asylum in the first safe country. Mexico might not be the most wonderful place, but it is considered a safe country. (the government is not genocidal) It is therefore impossible for a legitimate asylum seeker in the US to have passed through Mexico.


> Mexico might not be the most wonderful place, but it is considered a safe country. (the government is not genocidal)

Even in the parts of the country superficially under control of the central government (the parts where the cartels don't openly operate marked patrol vehicles as if they were the government), the cartels operate with virtual impunity and frequently with active, high-level cooperation by the police and military (whole specialized units of which have gone over to the other side and become cartels), including the military at least cooperating in and covering up and possibly actually carrying out mass killings on behalf of the cartels.

And this isn't just violence unrelated to the violence Central American asylum seekers are fleeing; that violence they are fleeing is in no small part due to deportation of violent criminals, often in gangs of US origin connected to international organized crime including the Mexican cartels, deported from the US, who have then extended the criminal networks of the already internationally-connected, US-origin gangs across Central America.

The idea that Mexico is a safe country for those who have a reason to flee the violence in Central America is, well, not something that can be reconciled with the nature and source of the violence in Central America and the conditions in Mexico.


Well, that isn't how the treaties define a safe country. Mexico is not trying to exterminate anybody from Central America. Mere crime, even highly organized or widespread crime, doesn't disqualify Mexico. The country is safe by the standards of the international treaties.

BTW, about this claim that people are fleeing violence... why should we take that at face value? Could they be fleeing the law? They could in fact be the cause of the violence. We have no way to conduct background checks.


> Well, that isn't how the treaties define a safe country

As the grounds for asylum or refugee status (the difference is in where you apply) in both international and US domestic law include both threats from the government and from groups the government is unwilling or unable to control, the fact that the same nongovernment and not-restrained-by-government groups one is fleeing from are operating in and not effectively constrained by the government in another country would make that country unsafe.

> BTW, about this claim that people are fleeing violence... why should we take that at face value

No, we should have a non-rubber-stamp application and review process theat evaluates evidence.

Which, newsflash, we have for asylum seekers (actually, we have two of them—the “affirmative” and “defensive” asylum processes), and that is exactly what the Administration is trying to prevent them from accessing.


The review is pretty simple. They were welcomed to apply for asylum in Mexico and refused to do so: case closed. The administration is not trying to prevent them from accessing that offer.

Clearly, it is not asylum that they seek. At best, they are shopping around for the most lucrative benefits. If they just wanted asylum, heading south would have made as much sense as heading north -- and more if Mexico is really so scary. Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia are all safe countries.

You want a review process that evaluates evidence, but how? A person shows up with a coached sob story and forged or missing identity. If it were just one person, perhaps we could have the CIA spend a few million dollars in a possibly futile effort to uncover the person's past. With so many people, that is simply not possible. What you are proposing is that we accept the word of these people, meaning that 100% of them would qualify. That is unrestricted entry.


I'm a legal temp worker / visitor then. (I thought all LTWs were temp immigrants)


> I'm a legal temp worker / visitor then. (I thought all LTWs were temp immigrants)

Some legal temp workers (e.g., H-1Bs) are not prohibited from having intent to immigrate when they acquire temp worker status (this is what the H-1B being a “dual-intent” visa means), but that's about it for overlap.


Being sympathetic isn't a crime. Also covering things as a journalist not only isn't a crime but also is protected in many forms by the Constitution. Americans are very very very touchy about possible freedom of speech and freedom of the press violations.

I'm not sure what crime these journalists are going to commit that makes us need to track them.


Curious:

So, if for some reason, there are journalists that are creating content for groups/regimes that are anti-America (lets say ISIS, Assad, Ahmedinajad or Jong Un), would that journalist never been seen with any kind of suspicion in the US?


The thing is that you really need some specific reason to be suspicious and being a journalist or activist isn't inherently suspicious.

It's not that you can't be suspicious of journalists, you just need an actual reason and there really isn't a clear one here.

Edit: People are also particularly touchy about this because suppression of activists and journalists enables more authoritarian control and human rights abuses to the point where it's a trait of every recent authoritarian government I'm aware of.


classic straw man argument. The immigrants in question are not ISIS and are not anti-america.


Isn't that the argument the Trump administration is using? that it's possible for terrorists to sneak in along with the caravan?


A journo friend of mine told me foreign journalists need special visa to enter the US. In fairness I don't think they have ever refused anyone or expelled the press over reporting but the US knows who is in the country.


> A journo friend of mine told me foreign journalists need special visa to enter the US. In fairness I don't think they have ever refused anyone or expelled the press over reporting but the US knows who is in the country.

What's the reason for the visa, though? Tracking/monitoring or because a work visa is needed? Looking at visitor visas, most employment-type activities are not eligible, including arriving as a crew-member of a ship (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-...).


Journalists going to almost every country as a journalist need a “special visa.” There is nothing new or unique about that.


"Journalist visa, which some countries require of people in that occupation when traveling for their respective news organizations. Countries that insist on this include Cuba, China, Iran, Japan, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, the United States (I-visa) and Zimbabwe."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travel_visa

Unfortunately no citation.

I didn't know most countries have a special visa for journalists. What was your source?


How do they know/enforce that? (Put a different way, if I were a journalist what would stop me entering the same way as Joe Average)


Usually when entering a country one is asked the purpose of one's visit. Saying you are there for vacation when really you are there working could be an issue.


This is some sort of collective 'memory loss' on these issues. Activists and journalists have been put under surveillance, infiltrated, harassed, put on lists and singled out at airports.[1] The harassment of keystone activists and protestors is ongoing [2], Laura Poitras harassment and surveillance is well documented [3][4], and evidence keeps popping out but there is some sort of dissonance and rationalization in play.

After the Snowden revelations this should not surprise anyone but most articles on these issues have bland assertions of 'law' disconnected from events on the ground. Contrast that with articles on China, Russia that are met with indignation and outrage for the exact same issues.

Its like using 'moderation' as a euphemism for censorship when it happens here, while continuing to shout censorship in other cases. If China or Russia did this it would be unilaterally condemned as totalitarian and oppression but because we did it there must be some 'rule of law' reason. People who care about these issues would be outraged wherever it happens. Selective outrage gives oppressive governments a pass and dilutes fundamental issues people claim to care about.

[1] https://www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech/rights-protesters/6-wa...

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/20/keystone...

[3] https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/11/government-documents-s...

[4] https://www.democracynow.org/shows/2012/4/20


Secret Sharepoint database that is funny.


This is terrible, but the headline is exaggerating: this only affects 50 people relating to a specific issue, not all journalists in the US.


Sure it only affects 50 people /now/, but this kind of a thing is really slippery slope. What's to stop the application of this process to other issues that the government would rather journalists not be looking into?


No it's not. The headline never says "all", you added that. The fact that the number is greater than 0 is a problem.


I disagree, CBP targeting people who frequently cross the border for extra scrutiny, some of whom happen to be journalists, is a far cry from "the US" tracking "journalists" in general. It is an alarmist headline


You're reading the headline wrong.


Never happened before, and here we go again


It's not only tracking but flagging them also, the government is scared for journalists digging around shady stuff.


Sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen. At a minimum.


Do you think they can appeal to a class action lawsuit here?


Crossing the border illegally is a crime and there has been violence on top of that. I don't see a problem with investigating and tracking those who are aiding and abetting.


Reporting isn't aiding, for all you know there could be some conservative journalists out there.


The article says they were marked for aiding the migrants. Obviously we don't know the details of what they were doing, but it doesn't sound like just journalism.


Al Qaeda. The database.


As a European, this is something that could very well make my government resign because it would be illegal. Like, crazy illegal.

Is this legal in the US or is the current US administration in hot water?


I am European too (French) and having "secret" database/file of journalist is happening without and outcry about it.

There is at least one journalist who has the infamous "Fiche S". This one is not illegal, but contain basically whatever the police want to put on it, which can be a stretch from reality. The deletion of the fiche was also refused [0].

Then we got at least one journalist who had, illegally this time, a file by the military [1]. Even though the file is illegal, she was refused access to it.

And then, even for basic citizen, there is police files (STIC), which can contain whatever the police wants to put on it and has been leaked several time, for example, to employer like Ikea [2]. It also happened to famous people to have their file leak [3].

Has European, we like to think we do much better than the US when it comes to abusive surveillance, but the reality is we basically kind of do the same.

[0] https://twitter.com/GaspardGlanz/status/1101150475787866112

[1] https://lesjours.fr/obsessions/vie-jours/ep47-camille-pollon...

[2] https://www.franceinter.fr/emissions/secrets-d-info/secrets-...

[3] https://www.bfmtv.com/societe/fiches-police-johnny-jamel-div...


The current administration “in hot water”? The current administration has been in hot water since before it took office. This is just the Nth example of the levels of crazy executive power unchecked by oversight can rise to.


Did the Snowden revelations end up weakening any government despite the violations against citizens? Or fast and furious? Iran-Contra? Don’t kid yourself.


Absolutely. All of those things had significant policy impacts.

It’s no coincidence that massive Russian influence campaigns that put a buffoon in the White House followed their usurpation of Snowden and Wikileaks.

Fast and furious helped cement the right wing distrust of government and gin up the crazy gun people.

Iran-Contra undermined the global strategy for dealing with terrorist incidents by refusing to negotiate. It also highlighted the continued contempt for Latin America that facilitates a lot of anti-US sentiment in the region.


You do realize the CIA was responsible for the Snowden NSA leaks (their direct adversary that has the legal authority to bulk collect data on American communication networks) because they are also implicated in massive umbrella surveillance of American and foreign communications, and not for a legal purpose.


> You do realize the CIA was responsible for the Snowden NSA leaks

You'll have to provide proof to back up that claim, otherwise there's no reason to believe it.


Americans are far more of a national security threat than foreign governments. It is far more likely that they will replace the government than it is that a foreign power would. We will only have good national security when the government is as resistant to Americans as it is to Putin.


I don’t know what you mean. Americans are the ones who should decide the government. Not sure I see that as a threat. We have mechanisms to deal with internal threats without having to impose sanctions or go to war.

If you’re talking about PACs and vested interests, we at least, if we wanted it enough, could make changes but enough people are okay with them so there is no pressure to make radical change.


Americans are the ones that are supposed to decide the government, that's why they're the biggest threat to any present government (and all future governments). On any politician's list of threats to their position Americans are at the top, and foreign governments are far behind. Unless they're a saint, securing against foreign governments is an afterthought next to securing against their constituents.

There are no term limits for parties, so the collective interests are even more anti-citizen than the individual interests.


That’s not a “threat”, that’s how representative democratic governments work in most places. A threat is an upending of the usual mechanisms.


Right, but any given mechanism (gerrymandering for example) is vastly more likely to be upended by Americans than it would be to be upended by foreign powers. From the perspective of the mechanism, Americans are the biggest threat, to the point where none of the others really matter. That's why policymakers are working so hard to undermine the public's authority.


This is probably only true in Germany.

> Is this legal in the US or is the current US administration in hot water?

Keeping immigrants in indefinite detention probably isn't legal in the US, doesn't mean it's not going to continue.

> current US administration in hot water?

The FBI is working their way through jailing senior members of the Trump campaign.


> This is probably only true in Germany.

Nope. They tried, got caught and nothing happened.

I don't know where people get the idea that Germany has no corruption issues. It does. It also regularly blocks incentives that try to get a hold of said corruption.


Really? Name a single member of the trump administration who is in jail, muchless senior. Why make stuff up?


I said "campaign" for a reason.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-47263226 : former election campaign chief Paul Manafort is the big one.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46347887 George Papadopoulos received a short prison sentence for lying to the FBI.

The following associates are convicted but not yet sentenced, presumably while they cooperate with investigators:

Rick Gates has pled guilty to conspiracy against the United States (!)

Michael Cohen has been allowed medical leave before serving his sentence: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/20/nyregion/michael-cohen-pr...

Michael Flynn (who was actually, briefly, a member of the Trump administration) has pled guilty to lying to the FBI.


Yeah I must have misread “administration.” In that case obviously you’re correct. Still, wow, they got Manafort. That’s not exactly the big time. Just some sheister lobbyist. Something about “working their way through” didn’t quite connect with my perceived reality.


Lobbyist? He was the head of the campaign and selected Mike Pence! Trump wanted Chris Christie.


Former "National Security Advisor" is pretty senior.


Is Flynn actually in jail?


He would be if he didn’t collaborate with the FBI according to the sentencing documents.


Caravans of thousands of people don't generally just organically form and find themselves able to transit thousands of miles. Even if you set aside the extensive funding required, there are some very serious logistical issues involved in this sort of thing.

The caravan had already successfully and illegally overrun the border between Mexico and Guatemala. [1] It's reasonable to believe they aimed to attempt to do the same thing at the US border. It's not easy to stop thousands of people when they keep moving forward. But if so this would be a very severe crime. Aiding a signal unlawful entry into the US is a significant felony subject to up to 10 years in prison. [2] Conspiring and facilitating the unlawful entry of thousands?

It'd be remiss of the government to not carry out an investigation and determine how the caravan formed, who it was comprised of, who was funding it, who was assisting it, who was directing it, and so forth. And in this regard on-the-ground reports from journalists offer a great deal of insight.

As for the journalists themselves, I think the most important point is one of investigation vs intimidation. Declaring yourself a journalist does not then grant immunity to investigation of your actions. If so, that would exploited by subversive interests. So the question becomes were the journalists simply being investigated or were they being intimidated?

[1] - https://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-mexico-m...

[2] - https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1327


>Aiding a signal unlawful entry into the US is a significant felony subject to up to 10 years in prison.

Upon first glance this doesn't seem true. Your link says that this punishment exists only if the alien is already convicted of an aggravated felony.


Check the referenced 1182(a)(3) [1] regarding excluded aliens. The most direct would be 1182(a)(3)(A)(ii) which prohibits the assistance of any alien whom there is sufficient reason to believe plans to engage in any unlawful activity. Unlawful entry/residence is, of course, unlawful activity. The fact that much of the caravan had already done that, by force of numbers, at the Mexico-Guatemala border while chanting things such as "One way or another, we will pass!" offers more than "reasonable ground to believe" such actions were also planned for the US and US border.

The reason the legalese is so obtuse is because it also encompasses aiding or assisting in the legal entry of an alien for whom there is "reasonable ground to believe" will engage in unlawful activity.

[1] - https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1182


The comments on this thread have broken me. I’m just not going to read comments here any more, and consume the FP via an RSS aggregator.


Is anyone surprised by these leaks? I think most people assume this is happening.


The Bush and Obama Administrations were extraordinarily aggressive in expanding US espionage action domestically. Obama was infamously aggressive in targeting the press. The notion that they'd do all of that and not begin tracking journalists in a comprehensive fashion was an improbable scenario. The first leaks by Snowden should have prompted the press to assume it. It's why so many of the major media outlets have gone to increased lengths to establish more robust communication approaches for secrecy of contact. Surely they all knew the surveillence systems had been dramatically broadened and that they'd be a key observation point for domestic intel, leaks, sources. The only thing different since the Nixon era (it really goes even further back), is the scale and efficiency at which they can do the tracking through automation; nothing ever changed about the targeting.


Is there evidence this specific tracking started under a previous administration?

Or must we first ensure that we deflect blame from the current administration, notably characterised by ongoing violent rhetoric about journalists, including a surprising effort to ignore the government sanctioned murder of a journalist by an "ally".


It's more like ensuring that we don't assume that things come into existence as soon as we personally become aware of them, then that we don't assign them completely to the current person who, since we personally dislike him, caused us to pay attention in the first place.

The US government has been caught spying on and manipulating journalists since the G.W. Bush administration, and Obama was particularly energetic.


It’s not the same but comes to mind in the discussion: “embedded reporters”. They have been around a long time, arguably including World War Two, but were taken to some pretty extreme levels in the ‘03 Gulf War. The cosy relationship is corrupting and completely unhelpful, with state control and propaganda pushed by supposedly independent journalists who are contracted to say-no-evil.

https://www.google.co.nz/amp/s/www.independent.co.uk/news/me...

https://www.google.co.nz/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/media/200...


Obama spied on Sharyl Atkinson is pretty well known.


It's not, because it never made sense. She was a nobody and the things she reported on where reported by others.

One of her allegations of hacking was a stuck delete key [1]

[1] https://www.vox.com/2014/10/31/7140247/the-right-is-convince...


You are correct about that case, but others are well-documented, specifically regarding the AP and James Rosen:

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post stated: "The Rosen affair is as flagrant an assault on civil liberties as anything done by George W. Bush’s administration, and it uses technology to silence critics in a way Richard Nixon could only have dreamed of. To treat a reporter as a criminal for doing his job — seeking out information the government doesn’t want made public — deprives Americans of the First Amendment freedom on which all other constitutional rights are based."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_articles_about_the_Depart...


It is called normalizing the behavior. When the society accepts this as the new normal, no one will care.


Yes, this actually surprised me, but I guess some people really don't mind (or just didn't think about) having to testify before Congress in order to justify their actions.


Yeah, but now we know.

People said the same things when Snowden leaked PRISM etc.


I'm not surprised to see somebody here protesting their lack of surprise. Hacker news is not a thriller. If the sensation of surprise is what you seek, then go watch a shitty horror movie with jump scares.


I'd be more surprised if they weren't. It's probably just a view on the database that tracks everyone.


Just because we aren't surprised doesn't mean we shouldn't be outraged.


There was an incidence of violence at the border. The people in this database were present at the time.

"CBP told our colleagues at NBC News that the names in the database are all people who were present during violence that broke out at the border in November. The agency also said journalists are being tracked so that the agency can learn more about what started that violence."


If they want information relevant to a crime they can ask for an interview, just like law enforcement in the interior. If they want to compel testimony they can get a subpoena or if they want to search a device they can get a warrant. The fact that they are at the border allows them to circumvent these usual checks on law enforcement.




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