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  • A U.S. Border and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official keeps watch on the Santa Fe international crossing bridge as seen from Ciudad Juarez.

    A U.S. Border and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official keeps watch on the Santa Fe international crossing bridge as seen from Ciudad Juarez. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 March 2019

Several leaked documents reveal that CBP has been collaborating with the ILU to gather information on several journalists, activists and a U.S. attorney.

Several in-depth reports have shed light on intimidating practices experienced by journalists, lawyers and immigration activists who are dedicated to covering the migrant crisis at the southern United States border with Mexico. 

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Documents leaked Wednesday by NBC 7 link interrogations conducted by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents to the International Liaison Unit (ILU), which is an intelligence-sharing organization between the United States and Mexico. The documents revealed that CBP was collaborating with the ILU to gather information on several journalists, activists and a U.S. attorney.

The specifics of information gathered include photographs, birthdates, employment and previous run-ins with authorities.

The timeline of the documents shows that they were produced in January, one month after secondary screenings began taking place with more frequency. Many of the journalists, who recounted their experiences, recalled being separated from sensitive documents and equipment. 

The anonymous Homeland Security source expressed disdain for the operations being undertaken by the CBP, calling it an "abuse of the Border Search Authority," and emphasizing that the agency is, "a criminal investigation agency," not, "an intelligence agency."

Attorneys at ACLU agree, referring to the dossier the “most recent example… in a steady stream of CBP abuse of authority.”

Photojournalist Ariana Drehsler, who would frequently travel between her home in San Diego and Tijuana to capture shots of asylum-seekers, said her camera was taken during secondary screening. While she did not confirm whether the images were reviewed or not, she expressed discomfort by "getting stopped by these guys and doing their homework for them."

Another freelance journalist on the ILU dossier, Kitra Cahana, was questioned about her employer and contacts for her interviews with caravan-members. Cahana confirmed, with NBC 7,  that the information about her in the ILU documents is accurate and that she had been screened multiple times between December and January. The freelancer was eventually unable to continue coverage after she was denied entry to Mexico. Reasons for the denial of entry remain unspecified. 

The CPB did not refute a collaboration with the ILU program but claimed that the partnership resulted from a border wall breach in San Diego, that took place in November, and interest to gather information to determine whether "the event was orchestrated."  

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