U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

BuzzFeed News reporter aggressively questioned about reporting at passport checkpoint

Incident Details

Date of Incident
February 3, 2019
Location
New York, New York

Border Stop

Border Point
JFK
Stopped at border?
Yes
Target Nationality
US Citizenship Status of Target
U.S. permanent resident (green card)
Denied Entry?
No
Stopped Previously?
No
Asked for device access?
No
Asked to display social media?
No
Asked for social media passwords?
No
Asked intrusive questions about work?
Yes
Were devices searched or seized?
No
REUTERS/Brendan McDermod

BuzzFeed's company headquarters in New York (file).

— REUTERS/Brendan McDermod
February 3, 2019

A Customs and Border Protection agent aggressively questioned Australian BuzzFeed News reporter David Mack about his work at a passport checkpoint in New York City on Feb. 3, 2019. Days later, a CBP official apologized for the “inappropriate remarks made to him.”

Mack arrived at JFK airport from the United Kingdom, where he was renewing his U.S. work visa. According to BuzzFeed, Mack said the CBP agent at passport control saw BuzzFeed listed as his employer on his visa, and began to ask him questions.

That evening, Mack tweeted a thread about the incident:

The line of aggressive questioning focused mostly on BuzzFeed’s reporting on Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's connections with Russia, and in particular, a Jan. 17 article about Attorney Michael Cohen.

BuzzFeed reported that CBP Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs, Andrew Meehan, apologized to Mack directly in a telephone call on Feb. 5, and stated that “The officer’s comments do not reflect CBP’s commitment to integrity and professionalism of its workforce. In response to this incident, CBP immediately reviewed the event and has initiated the appropriate personnel inquiry and action."

Mack did not respond to request for comment, but according to BuzzFeed, Mack was grateful for the apology.

BuzzFeed News spokesperson Matt Mittenthal said: "We appreciate the government's prompt response and apology for this unfortunate incident... Customs agents do not get to weaponize their political opinions against residents legally entering the United States."

— The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]