U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

CNN producer detained in Atlanta airport

Incident Details

Date of Incident
January 29, 2017
Atlanta, Georgia
Case number
Case Status
Type of case

Border Stop

Target Nationality
US Citizenship Status of Target
U.S. permanent resident (green card)
Denied Entry?
Stopped Previously?
Asked for device access?
Asked intrusive questions about work?
Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images

A traveler arriving from overseas is fingerprinted while his paperwork is checked by a border patrol official at the passport control line in Newark International Airport Aug. 24, 2009 in Newark, New Jersey.

— Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images
August 11, 2017 - Update

CNN producer’s lawsuit dismissed following changes to executive order

CNN producer Mohammed Tawfeeq’s lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection was dismissed on Aug. 11, 2017.

According to the lawsuit, reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, Tawfeeq was returning to the United States on Jan. 29 after completing an assignment for CNN in northern Iraq. When he passed through primary inspection a CBP officer informed him that he could be refused entry under then-President Donald Trump’s recently-signed executive order restricting the entry of citizens from certain Middle Eastern and African countries.

“That CBP official scanned his passport and green card, asked him why he was in Iraq for such a long period of time, asked whether his trip to Iraq was for business or to visit family, and asked what he did for a living,” the lawsuit says. “He was then sent to secondary inspection.”

After a 30-minute wait and additional questioning, officers allowed Tawfeeq to enter the U.S. but did not provide him an explanation for their decision or documents relating to his entry, nor did they stamp his passport.

Tawfeeq filed his lawsuit the following day, on Jan. 30, challenging the legality of the executive order and concern of future harm. District Court Judge Timothy Batten granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss on Aug. 11, ruling that Tawfeeq’s claims were rendered moot by the revised executive order issued in March.

January 29, 2017

Mohammed Tawfeeq, a CNN editor and producer, was detained Sunday at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and subjected to secondary screening while returning from an assignment on Jan. 29, 2017.

Tawfeeq, an Iraqi who is a legal permanent resident of the U.S., has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the president's executive order was used to unlawfully detain him, reports said.

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