Coalition Of Rights Activists And Journalists Wants To Know Why DHS, CBP, And ICE Are Spying On Activists And Journalists
from the can't-be-authoritarian-without-exceeding-your-authority dept
Early this March, documents obtained by NBC San Diego showed the DHS was targeting journalists. activists, and immigration lawyers for enhanced screenings and device searches by the CBP. The previously-secret database held dossiers on people suspected of doing nothing more than participating in Constitutionally-protected activity.
The DHS provided no explanation for this collection of dossiers. The CBP attempted to explain its participation in rights violations by first claiming it was necessary to secure the border. Then it said every one of the 59 journalists, lawyers, and activists in the leaked documents were “present” during “violence” that “broke out at the border” last November. That these people would be present at such an event is unsurprising, given the amount of attention being paid to our southern border and immigration in recent months. That the CPB would decide this justifies dossiers, enhanced screenings, and invasive device searches is a bit more disturbing, as it has the potential to negatively affect a number of Constitutional rights.
The Center for Democracy and Technology — along with dozens of humans rights activists and journalist entities — have sent a letter to the head of the DHS, demanding this surveillance stop immediately and that an investigation be opened to determine this effort’s origins, as well as its extent. It also demands DHS and CBP hand over all policies, guidelines, and documents detailing what information the agencies collected during this possibly-unlawful surveillance.
But there’s more to the letter than demands and expressed concerns. CDT’s letter also recounts further details that have come to light over the past couple of months, including ICE joining the unconstitutional party to engage in immigration and customs enforcement by… surveilling political protests?
In addition to CBP, ICE engaged in questionable conduct that threatens the rights of free expression and association. ICE-HSI created a spreadsheet of protests that occurred in New York City between July 21 and August 17, 2018. The list contained the names of the groups sponsoring each protest, the political goal of the protest, and the number of people who signed up on Facebook to attend the protest. One spreadsheet was labeled “Anti-Trump Protests.” ICE’s surveillance activity does not appear to be predicated upon any suspected violation of a law ICE enforces.
While we do not see evidence that ICE created records with personally identifying information, it is unambiguous that ICE documented First Amendment-protected activity, which may violate the Privacy Act of 1974 and warrants further investigation. To the extent ICE is monitoring and creating records of First Amendment-protected activity of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, and to the extent such records are not pertinent to and within the scope of its authorized law enforcement activity, such conduct is in violation of the Privacy Act.
The DHS and its subsidiaries are keeping the homeland secure by using Constitutional rights as a doormat. There’s nothing about this surveillance and targeting that even remotely suggests the end result will be a safer America. There can be little doubt these activities are being engaged in almost solely for the purpose of dissuading journalists from covering border activities, immigrants from finding good legal representation, and activists of all sorts from expressing their displeasure with the government.
The answers these entities are seeking probably won’t arrive any time soon. Most likely, it will take pressure from Congress, along with a number of FOIA lawsuits, to make this information public. The current administration seemingly has no problem with the collateral damage its border-focused directives are creating. And with zero pressure to fall in line with the Constitution coming from up top, it’s likely these abuses will continue unabated for immediate future.