Chilling is an understatement. The U.S. government, in the name of border security and in tandem with the Mexican government, created and kept dossiers — what NBC 7 in San Diego, which broke the story, called a “secret database” — on a group of 59 journalists, advocates, activists and an attorney who met with members of a migrant caravan that came to Tijuana late last year. U.S. Customs and Border Protection singled out many in the group for lengthy extra questioning when trying to cross the border and denied at least two journalists entry.

What was the justification? The documents obtained by NBC 7 showed that the U.S.-Mexico International Liaison Unit considered those it gathered information on to be “suspected organizers, coordinators, instigators and media.” The Customs and Border Protection agency told NBC News that all 59 were present during a violent incident at the border in November and that journalists were tracked to learn more about what started the violence.

If there is no evidence these individuals “instigated” criminal activity, hassling them at the border, keeping them from entering Mexico and placing alerts on their passports is official harassment. The ACLU and a number of journalism advocacy organizations are right to be outraged. It is against federal law to abet those who try to enter the U.S. without authorization, but federal law protects journalists covering a news event from official impediment.

NBC 7’s anonymous U.S. Homeland Security source acted as a whistle-blower, saying, “We’re not an intelligence agency. We can’t create dossiers on people, and they’re creating dossiers. This is an abuse of the border search authority.”

Agreed. U.S. officials must end and answer for this abuse of power, and Congress must investigate.

The San Diego Union-Tribune

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