US Federal Government Keeping Tabs on Photojournalists Using Secret Database


“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they’re not after you” became a little bit more real for some journalists today as reports hit the web that the US government is allegedly keeping a database on journalists and photographers.

photo by randy colas
Photo by Randy Colas

The leak comes courtesy of a database ominously called the “San Diego Sector Foreign Operations Branch: Migrant Caravan FY-2019, Suspected Organizers, Coordinators, Instigators and Media” that apparently tracks people involved in the migrant caravan that is at the center of a national emergency declaration controversy in the US.

PetaPixel says the source is somebody anonymous that works within the US Department of Homeland Security. The website writes that among the people in the database were, “50 journalists, social media influencers, and activists tied to the caravan that made international headlines in late 2018. And in some cases, alerts were placed on the people’s passports.”

Another source cited by PetaPixel, NBC7 in San Diego, adds: “I]n the months that followed, journalists who covered the caravan, as well as those who offered assistance to caravan members, said they felt they had become targets of intense inspections and scrutiny by border officials…One photojournalist said she was pulled into secondary inspections three times and asked questions about who she saw and photographed in Tijuana shelters. Another photojournalist said she spent 13 hours detained by Mexican authorities when she tried to cross the border into Mexico City. Eventually, she was denied entry into Mexico and sent back to the U.S. These American photojournalists and attorneys said they suspected the U.S. government was monitoring them closely but until now, they couldn’t prove it.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection responded to the controversy with the following statement: “CBP and our law enforcement partners evaluate these incidents, follow all leads garnered from information collected, conduct interviews and investigations, in preparation for, and often to prevent future incidents that could cause further harm to the public, our agents, and our economy.”

Freelance photographers included in the database have had some trouble related to travel as Kitra Cahana details to NBC7.

It’s not easy being a journalist anywhere in the world and, as this shows, it’s not even that easy in a country with a constitution guaranteeing the freedom of the press.

About Author

Kehl is our staff photography news writer since 2017 and has over a decade of experience in online media and publishing and you can get to know him better here and follow him on Insta.

I am pretty sure all of this came from NBC 7 doing an extensive investigation. I doubt Peta Pixel did more than what you are doing here, grabbing other people’s work and trying to make money off of it.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Kehl – I don’t have access to all the media outlets in America (who – apart from the CIA or the FBI – does?). Seems to me it’s yet another step towards the destruction of democracy in America. Hmmm

And some citizen-journalist-photographers are keeping tabs on the US government; they have surveilance; we have sousveillance.

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