Buried behind the impeachment news is a lawsuit that was filed by journalists against the Trump administration. Likely, “fake news” is on the minds of some readers, but this is also about something else – the First Amendment, and U.S.-México intelligence coordination. For most of us, the First Amendment protects everyone but most especially, journalists. But the coordination between México and the U.S. is troubling, at best.
Most of us would argue that a journalist should be free to do their job if they abide by the law. Writing, regardless of the topic, is lawful. Interviewing sources and keeping them secret is also lawful. Most of us would also agree that keeping an official list of journalists who are reporting about immigration issues is also wrong.
According to a lawsuit filed by five U.S. citizen journalists late last month, the Trump administration targeted the five journalists for reporting on the asylum seekers. The lawsuit derives from a Trump administration database of journalists that the U.S. government was tracking.
According to leaked government documents, the U.S. government was tracking the activities of the five journalists. The document titled; “Migrant Caravan FY-2019; Suspected Organizers, Coordinators, Instigators, and Media” contains a list of 59 individuals. The system is a database maintained by the International Liaison Unit (ILU) which is a Border Patrol program that “fosters local partnership, trust, and mutual understanding” between the border patrol and the Mexican government.
This database appears to be managed by the San Diego Sector, Foreign Operations Branch.
According to the lawsuit filed on November 20, it argues that five individuals, working as journalists, were improperly detained by U.S. immigration officials when returning to the U.S. The five are U.S. citizens. The suit argues that the journalists “were each impermissibly compelled to disclose information about their journalism work” while returning to the U.S. The suit argues that the “questioning was unrelated to any valid immigration or customs purposes.”
The suit adds that the questioning by U.S. officials was “aimed at uncovering” their “sources of information”. The plaintiffs argue that the questioning was “unconstitutional”.
The lawsuit will take time to go through the legal system.
What readers should note is that the Trump administration and Mexican officials coordinated together to gather intelligence about the asylum caravans surging the border.
One of the exhibits included in the lawsuit includes a screenshot of the government database that includes a logo bearing the U.S. and Mexican flags with “ILU-OASISS-OMEGA”. The lawsuit states that “ILU” means “International Liaison Unit” and that “OASISS” means “Operation Against Smugglers Initiative on Safety and Security”.
The lawsuit details how one of the individuals, Bing Guan, a U.S. citizen, was approached by Mexican authorities on the Mexican side of the Tijuana border. Guan was ordered to produce documentation, at which point the Mexican authorities photographed it.
Subsequently Guan was detained and questioned by U.S. immigration officials as he attempted to cross back into the U.S. Eight months later, Guan was informed by Mexican passport control in Tijuana that an alert had been placed on his U.S. passport.
Another plaintiff, Go Nakamura, also a U.S. citizen described a similar encounter with Mexican officials on the Tijuana border who took a picture of his identification after they demanded it. Unlike the report by Guan, Nakamura stated in the lawsuit that Mexican officials forced him to sign a document acknowledging that a “migratory alert” had been placed on his passport.
Another journalist, Mark Abramson related a similar story of his U.S. passport being photographed by Mexican authorities in Tijuana. Kitra Cahana also related a similar ordeal by both U.S. and Mexican officials. Both Abramson and Cahana were interviewed by U.S. officials while returning to the U.S.
In the case of Cahana, she was detained in Mexico City where an official told her that it was the Americans that were responsible for her detention. Cahana’s telephone was also confiscated by the Mexican officials.
Mexican officials refused to allow Kitra Cahana to enter México and was escorted to a flight back to Detroit, where U.S, officials questioned her about her activities. About a month later, Cahana was again denied entry into México by Mexican officials through the Guatemalan/Mexican border.
The lawsuit documents that a close relationship between U.S. and Mexican officials that are using journalists to gather intelligence on the migrant caravans.