Reporter flagged for additional screening when leaving the U.S., questioned about work

September 30, 2017

A reporter — who asked that his name not be used for fear of reprisal — was flagged for secondary screening in New York City while traveling to Istanbul, Turkey, on Sept. 30, 2017.

The reporter, who is a U.S. citizen, told the Committee to Protect Journalists that he was taken aside by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer while departing from JFK International Airport.

After asking the routine questions about addresses and contact information, the reporter said the CBP officer asked about his work. The questioning included what topics the reporter covers and whether he uses the messaging applications WhatsApp or Viber. The reporter also told CPJ that the officer asked him to sign a paper documenting how much currency he was traveling with.

During the questioning, the reporter asked the CBP officer his name. The reporter said the question seemed to make the officer very uncomfortable, and the officer tried to backpedal to avoid disclosing it. The reporter insisted and the officer eventually gave his name.

Citing his frustration with being stopped despite belonging to CBP’s Trusted Travelers Programs, which are designed to expedite security, the reporter told CPJ that after this incident he filed a Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act request. He received a response within six weeks that showed that he had been targeted for additional screening but not why.

In addition to having Global Entry, the reporter said, he now also carries a printed copy of his FOIA when he travels.

“It’s clear to me that these interrogations really depend on the officer, what questions they ask,” the reporter told CPJ.

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

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