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Whistleblower exposes government surveillance of journalists and immigration activists

Journalists say it confirms their fears after increased interrogation during border crossings.


Alex Dalbey


Posted on Mar 7, 2019   Updated on May 20, 2021, 5:35 pm CDT

An anonymous whistleblower from the Department of Homeland Security leaked documents to NBC 7 San Diego that reveal that the government was surveilling journalists, activists, and attorneys who were involved with the migrant caravan last fall.

According to NBC 7, the documents includes seven American and three non-American journalists, an American attorney, and 47 other people from the U.S. and other countries who were listed as organizers, instigators and “unknown.” According to the anonymous source, this surveillance and intelligence gathering happened under the purview of “Operation Secure Line,” the operation to monitor the migrant caravan.

The individuals listed were not only flagged for additional screenings but had whole dossiers created about them. NBC 7 provided one of the people listed, Nicole Ramos, the refugee director and attorney for the migrant law center Al Otro Lado, with her dossier, and she confirmed it included specific personal details about her life, including the car she drives and her travel history.

“The document appears to prove what we have assumed for some time,” said Ramos to NBC 7, “which is that we are on a law enforcement list designed to retaliate against human rights defenders who work with asylum seekers.”

Freelance photojournalist Ariana Drehsler is also in the documents, and told NBC 7 that she’d crossed the border dozens of times, and was always “transparent about what I was doing.” However, in late December she was pulled into a secondary inspection where the border agents asked her about what she was seeing and who she was working for. She was given a secondary inspection two more times by the same agents in less than a weeks time. She said she was “blown away” after being shown the documents about her.

ACLU attorney Esha Bhandari said they are exploring all options of how to respond to the leaked documents. “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,” said Bhandari.


H/T NBC 7 San Diego

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*First Published: Mar 7, 2019, 12:27 pm CST