U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photojournalist stopped for secondary screening at CBP preclearance in Canada

Incident Details

Date of Incident
December 28, 2017
Vancouver, Canada

Border Stop

Target Nationality
US Citizenship Status of Target
U.S. citizen
Denied Entry?
Stopped Previously?
Asked for device access?
Asked intrusive questions about work?
December 28, 2017

Photojournalist John Rudoff was stopped for secondary screening at U.S. Customs and Border Protection preclearance in Vancouver, Canada, on Dec. 28, 2017, while en route from Bangladesh.

Rudoff told the Committee to Protect Journalists that ever since he took multiple trips to Greece following the refugee crisis and traveled to Cuba, he has been stopped for secondary screening when reentering the U.S. He said the screenings happen whether he is traveling alone or with family.

Rudoff said he was traveling light in December 2017, but was carrying all of his photography gear with him. After passing through preclearance screening, Rudoff was taken aside to a waiting area to wait for his name to be called. Rudoff said he seemed to be the only U.S. citizen directed there.

When his turn came up, officers went through his bags and patted him down. Rudoff told CPJ that the pat down was not irregular, as his hip replacement sets of alarms on many airport security systems.

Rudoff said that the officer searching his bags did not go through his cellphone or laptop, which he keeps encrypted and powered down when he travels. Officers did ask him to turn his two cameras on and off, Rudoff added, but did not ask him to go through the photos and did not go through the photos themselves.

The screenings, Rudoff said, were frequent enough that he learned to plan ahead for them. “And it’s obviously targeted, but it’s so predictable that I just factor it in.”

Rudoff told CPJ that none of the CBP officers who have searched him in secondary screening have offered an explanation as to why he is so often flagged for additional searches. “I have no choice, at least so far,” Rudoff said.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker includes incidents only from 2017 forward.

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