The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) has joined a coalition of over 100 organizations in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) urging it to cease reported targeting of activists, journalists and lawyers based on their First Amendment-protected speech and associational activities. The coalition demanded that DHS address alarming reports of surveillance activity by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that jeopardizes First Amendment rights and access to legal counsel, and may violate the Privacy Act of 1974.
ICE documented and disseminated lists of “Anti-Trump” protests in New York City. In addition, CBP allegedly targeted and created dossiers on activists, lawyers, and journalists working with and reporting on asylum seekers. First-hand accounts revealed a pattern of harassment including extended detentions and interrogations, electronic device searches at ports of entry, and denial of re-entry to Mexico.
Our democracy depends on an independent press to offer critical coverage of issues of public interest, including the workings of government agencies. The First Amendment provides broad protection for activism and protest, to prevent the government from unlawfully silencing its critics. A dangerous line is crossed when levers of power, including surveillance and privacy violations, are mobilized to intimidate and silence.
NCAC is deeply concerned that such surveillance activities will have a broad chilling effect on the right to protest and the crucial work of journalists, who have been repeatedly targeted in recent years.
The coalition demands that DHS cease impermissible targeting, monitoring, and harassment of activists, journalists, and lawyers at the border, and disclose the policies, guidelines, and training materials that govern these activities.
We are pleased that Congress is actively investigating both incidents, and that the DHS Investigator General has been tasked with reviewing CBP’s conduct. We join their efforts to ensure that our government agencies are held accountable for their actions.
Read the full letter to DHS below.