The Associated Press (AP) wants the Brandon regime to provide answers as to why the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) used a government database for tracking international terrorists to instead spy on and investigate as many as 20 American journalists, including a Pulitzer Prize-winning AP reporter.
AP executive editor Julie Pace recently sent a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas demanding that he explain why investigative reporter Martha Mendoza’s name was run through said terrorist database and identified as a confidential informant during Donald Trump’s presidency.
“This is a flagrant example of a federal agency using its power to examine the contacts of journalists,” Pace wrote in the communique. “While the actions detailed in the inspector general’s report occurred under a previous administration, the practices were described as routine.”
All of this was discovered in a Homeland Security inspector general’s (IG) report, which was discovered in a records request made by Yahoo News. It revealed that Jeffrey Rambo, a Border Patrol agent who was on temporary duty with a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) unit in the Washington, D.C., area in 2017, accessed government travel records as part of a leak investigation involving another reporter by the name of Ali Watkins who now works for The New York Times but at the time worked for Politico.
“The inspector general began investigating Rambo after news reports revealed that he had used government resources to investigate Watkins as part of the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on leaks to reporters,” The Republic Brief reported.
CBP denies any wrongdoing in shady investigations
Documents pertaining to the IG investigation show that Rambo routinely ran the names of journalists, congressional staff and others through various government databases in order to vet them. He did this while working through a CBP unit called Counter Network Division (CND).
Rambo reportedly ordered investigators to vet anyone he made contact with as part of the CND’s mission to combat forced labor. However, there was no “specific guidance” about how to actually do this vetting.
“When a name comes across your desk you run it through every system you have access to, that’s just status quo, that’s what everyone does,” Rambo told investigators.
Before reaching out to her for her expertise in writing about forced labor, Rambo reportedly searched for Mendoza in the government’s databases. This concerns the CBP because one of the agency’s tasks is to enforce import restrictions.
Mendoza, by the way, won her second Pulitzer Prize back in 2016 while working on a team that reported on slave labor in the fishing industry in Southeast Asia. The AP characterized this incident as “the latest apparent example of an agency created in the wake of the 9/11 attacks using its vast capabilities to target American citizens.”
“We are deeply concerned about this apparent abuse of power,” the AP said in a separate statement included in the letter. “This appears to be an example of journalists being targeted for simply doing their jobs, which is a violation of the First Amendment.”
The IG’s office referred the findings of its investigation to a federal prosecutor for possible charges involving the abuse of government databases and lying to investigators. However, the Department of Justice (DoJ) refused to prosecute Rambo and two other DHS employees, according to the AP.
In a statement, CBP denied any wrongdoing and said its investigative practices are “strictly governed,” preventing illegitimate or illegal investigations from taking place.
“We do not condone the investigation of reporters in response to the exercise of First Amendment rights,” a DHS spokeswoman said. “CBP and every component agency and office in the Department will ensure their practices are consistent with our values and our highest standards.”
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