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Source: Leaked Documents Show the U.S. Government Tracking Journalists and Immigration Advocates Through a...

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SEND TIPS(619) 578-0393Federal Agencies Keep Secret Database Link to this video Embed this video Replay More videos (1 of 9)This story has been updated with a new statement from Customs and Border Protection and a response from the ACLU.Documents obtained by NBC 7 Investigates show the U.S. government created a secret database of activists, journalists, and social media influencers tied to the migrant caravan and in some cases, placed alerts on their passports.At the end of 2018, roughly 5,000 immigrants from Central America made their way north through Mexico to the United States southern border. The source said the documents or screenshots show a SharePoint application that was used by agents from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations and some agents from the San Diego sector of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).The intelligence gathering efforts were done under the umbrella of “Operation Secure Line,” the operation designated to monitor the migrant caravan, according to the source. “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.” UPDATE - 4:20 p.m. Minutes after our story published and five days after a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson gave us the agency's statement above, CBP told our colleagues at NBC News that the names in the database are all people who were present during violence that broke out at the border in November. We are exploring all options in response,” Bhandari said.Senior staff attorney Mitra Ebadolahi with the ACLU of San Diego’s Border Litigation Project, called NBC 7's report the latest example of abuse of power by the CBP.“For years, the U.S. government has used the pretext of ‘border security' to trample on Americans’ constitutional rights. This most recent example is just the latest in a steady stream of CBP abuse of authority, and once again underscores the dire need for meaningful agency oversight and accountability," Ebadolahi said.Journalists Targeted for Border Inspections NBC 7 Investigates spoke with seven of the journalists listed on the database as targets for secondary screenings, including freelance photojournalist Ariana Drehsler. “They questioned me in a small room, asking me questions about the shelter, what was I seeing there, who was I working for.” “They said that I was on the ground and they’re not, which I thought was really interesting.” After about an hour, Drehsler said she was allowed to leave but agents warned her that an alert had been placed on her passport and that she would be pulled into a secondary screening again if she crossed the border. Sharing the documents with Drehsler, she told NBC 7 she was “blown away.” “I have so many questions; I have more questions than answers,” she said. Evidence of increased scrutiny of journalists at the border was detailed in an October 2018 report prepared by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ.) The report identified 37 journalists who said they found the secondary screenings by border officials “invasive,” and said 20 cases involved border agents “conducting warrantless searches of [the journalists’] electronic devices.” The journalists featured in the leaked documents said they were separated from their electronic devices and gear but had no evidence that agents had gone through their items. Cahana said she was pulled into a secondary screening where border agents asked her a list of questions about her work. “I was trying to cross into Mexico through Guatemala to continue my work covering the caravan and then I was denied again,” Cahana said.

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