DHS Interrogates NY Times Reporters At Border, Then Denies Having Any Records About Them

from the right,-sure dept

Thought it was just officials at UK airports detaining and interrogating journalists? According to a new lawsuit from two NY Times reporters, they were also pulled aside and interrogated by Homeland Security officials multiple times concerning their own reporting efforts. The two reporters, Mac William Bishop and Christopher Chivers were apparently pulled out for special interrogation at JFK.

Among other things, Plaintiffs seek records used or created by DHS employees in respect to the questioning of Plaintiffs at JFK Airport earlier this year. Plaintiffs were subject to segregated questioning by DHS employees at JFK on May 24, 2013, as they prepared to board an international flight for a work assignment as journalists. Subsequently, on June 6, 2013, Mr. Bishop was subjected to further segregated questioning by DHS employees at JFK as he returned to the United States.

Given this, the two journalists filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on records pertaining to themselves… and got back absolutely nothing. After playing hot potato with the FOIA requests between different DHS agencies, the reporters basically got back messages saying that there were no records on either.

On September 27, 2013, ICE denied the Bishop Request. ICE reported in a “final response” that the unite had conducted a search and found no responsive documents.

On October 28, 2013, Mr. Bishop appealed ICE’s denial. In his appeal letter, Mr. Bishop said it was “inconceivable that DHS has no records pertaining to [him]” as someone who is “a frequent international traveler.” He pointed out that on June 6, 2013 he had answered questions for DHS employees in a private room at JFK, and those answers were recorded on a computer.

On November 18, 2013, ICE denied Mr. Bishop’s administrative appeal, finding that the agency had done an adequate search.

As for the TSA, that unit of DHS informed Mr. Bishop by letter on July 31, 2013 that his “request was too broad in scope.” TSA required more information before processing the request.

On August 9, 2013, Mr. Bishop, through counsel, responded by letter. He restated the initial request and asserted that no legal authority supports the proposition that TSA could simply refuse to do the search.

More than two months later, on October 23, 2013, TSA told Mr. Bishop’s counsel that it could not find the August 9, 2013 letter. Counsel subsequently provided a new copy of the letter and additional information about the June 6, 2013 questioning at JFK. There has been no further response from TSA.

Remember how Eric Holder insisted that the feds weren’t going to keep intimidating journalists? Yeah, right.

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Comments on “DHS Interrogates NY Times Reporters At Border, Then Denies Having Any Records About Them”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

No see, you just have to look at it differently

Remember how Eric Holder insisted that the feds weren’t going to keep intimidating journalists? Yeah, right.

They’re just going by the government’s latest ‘logic’, where not knowing about something means it didn’t happen, so it follows that not having any records of an event means it also ‘didn’t happen’. /s

Sarcasm aside, I’m guessing that while the detaining and harassing weren’t ‘official’, and thereby recorded, it’s likely the DHS and TSA have been given ‘suggestions’ from up top to make any travel by big reporters from the papers that are covering government abuses as unpleasant as possible, just to show them what happens to those that don’t toe the line.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Better response....

They are “reporters” right, get out their camera and recorder and state that this interrogation will be recorded for the public record….

Now if they take away all tools capable of recording said “interview”, I would start asking for a lawyer or formal charges or I walk….

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Better response....

? what hole have you been hiding in the last couple decades ? ? ?
The They ™ WILL take your shit without ANY explanation, receipt, or other legal justification, PERIOD…

are you dense ? ? ?

JUST LIKE the story here the other day, about donut-eaters essentially saying “Give up your right to unreasonable search/seizure, or we will kill your dogs and FUCK YOU UP ROYALLY!”…

WHAT REAL “CHOICE” does a powerless citizen have ?
what are they going to do, call the police ? ? ?

we are so screwed…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Ed Becerra says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Better response....

There was a news program about this sort of thing this morning (Dec 11th), concerning a new phone app. Originally intended for battered women, it’s a one-tap button that sends off an prerecorded emergency message to any of several previously chosen numbers, and starts recording audio with no sign that it’s doing so. Great for trapping pushy government officials as well as abusive spouses. I expect this sort of app is going to become rather popular in some nations.

Combine that with one of those low-rez cameras disguised as a pen, and you have a perfect honey trap for TSA and other DHS types.

MikeC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Until they hit you with a patriot act charge where you can’t call a lawyer, you can tell anyone, etc… and then you end up in Gitmo … you really don’t have any recourse while you are in custody — you have to do whatever they ask until you can get free, then you can try to do something about it.

“they don’t have to let you go you know, there is not even due process anymore if they don’t want to allow it” … just saying it’s not all that easy to resist, lots of downsides.

Anonymous Coward says:

Being unable to find a record is not at all a denial that the record exists. It is possible that a record exists, but that record is not discovered during an agency search.

BTW, even if a record exists and is eventually located, it does not follow that the record must be disclosed as there are several exemptions from disclosure enumerated in the FOIA statute.

Exemption from disclosure can be raised, to my knowledge, at virtually any time during this proceeding.

V says:

As for the TSA, that unit of DHS informed Mr. Bishop by letter on July 31, 2013 that his “request was too broad in scope.” TSA required more information before processing the request

So let me get this straight, the NSA can obtain millions of call records on people who not are suspects in any crime, local law enforcement can request “tower dumps” of cell towers getting all the data available from that tower, both without a warrant, yet asking for records from the government one specific person is “too broad in scope”?

Anonymous Coward says:

All records

He asked for “all records” they have pertaining to him. Something tells me that they are in possession of some records they have absolutely no business having, and that’s why they are acting so strangely. Medical information? The output of a GPS tracker they planted on him? Metadata on his phone calls (or actual recordings of the calls)? His complete banking information?

They’re asking him to be more specific because he’s unlikely to specifically ask for whatever it is they’re worried about.

Hey, I could be wrong. But when they act like this, we are left to assume the worst.

Anonymous Coward says:

I see why

I see why he was selected out.
The poor DHS employees looked him up on the computer system and found…. nothing. How strange. Then upon a few questions Mr. Bishop claimed to be a frequent international traveler. A frequent international traveler should have some sort of files. Of course any logical person would have to follow up on this strange case. After all everyone on earth has a file with DHS.

limbodog (profile) says:

Easy to say, hard to do.

You get pulled out of line by uniformed officials. Your bags are taken away from you. You are not told why you are being put in a small room with a locked door and being interrogated. You know full well that the government abuses its power and that your civil rights are no longer guaranteed. At the very least, you expect you could be in that room for 23 hours. And you didn’t get a chance to tell *anyone* where you are or what just happened.

And you think they’re going to let you whip out a recording device and start recording? Or that you’re going anywhere anytime soon if you don’t answer questions?

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