Patriotic CBP Officer Held Journalist's Passport Hostage Until He Admitted He Wrote 'Propaganda'


If there is anything the Trumpers love, it is freeze peach. It is one of their most favoritist rights in the pretend Constitution— because it means that, legally, they cannot face any consequences, social or otherwise, for saying horrible racist and sexist things. Like, if they use a racial slur of some kind, and you say "You are a jerk and a racist," you can be sent to jail for that. It is just the pretend law.

However, when it comes to actual First Amendment rights in the actual Constitution, they are a little less enthused. Specifically the part about freedom of the press. If only we could all go back to the way things were under John Adams, where people could be sent to jail for criticizing anyone in the government who was not named Thomas Jefferson. Back when things made sense. Those Founding Fathers. They knew what was up.

This Thursday afternoon, as journalist Ben Watson was attempting to leave the Washington Dulles Airport after returning from an assignment in Denmark, a U.S. passport screening official at Customs and Border Patrol asked him what he did for a living. After Watson told the CBP officer that he was a journalist, the officer responded "So you write propaganda, right?" and then refused to give him his passport back until he ceded and told the officer that he did.

Via Defense One:

CBP officer, holding Watson's passport: "What do you do?"
Watson: "Journalism."
CBP officer: "So you write propaganda, right?"
Watson: "No."
CBP officer: "You're a journalist?"
Watson: "Yes."
CBP officer: "You write propaganda, right?"
Watson: "No. I am in journalism. Covering national security. And homeland security. And with many of the same skills I used in the U.S. Army as a public affairs officer. Some would argue that's propaganda."
CBP officer: "You're a journalist?"
Watson: "Yes."
CBP officer: "You write propaganda, right?"
Watson waited five seconds. Then: "For the purposes of expediting this conversation, yes."
CBP officer, a fourth time: "You write propaganda, right?"
Watson, again: "For the purposes of expediting this conversation, yes."
CBP officer: "Here you go."

What a true patriot!

This is, perhaps unsurprisingly, not the only time this has happened recently. A number of CBP officers, inspired by Donald Trump and his hatred of journalism as a profession, have harassed and detained journalists committing the crime of just trying to get somewhere.

Via Washington Post:

In February, CBP apologized to a BuzzFeed journalist questioned at a New York airport about his news organization's coverage of Trump and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation. A few months later, a freelancer said he was detained by CBP officials for hours at an airport in Texas.
Then, in August, British journalist James Dyer described an "unsettling experience" as he flew into California to cover a Disney event. The film and TV writer said a CBP officer at Los Angeles International Airport called him a member of the "fake news media" and asked if he had worked for CNN or MSNBC, two frequent targets of Trump's criticism.
"He aggressively told me that journalists are liars and are attacking their democracy," Dyer wrote in a viral tweet thread.
He said he was allowed to move on after explaining that he was just trying to write about Star Wars.

A spokesperson for the CBP, who refused to be identified, has since emailed Watson to say that they are investigating the incident and that the agency does not tolerate such inappropriate comments. However, judging by the fact that this is nowhere near the first time this has happened, that policy does not appear to be clear to CBP agents. Perhaps there should be an agency-wide training session, just so these agents are clear that it is not in fact their job to harass journalists just because they are mad at journalism in general for being mean to Donald Trump. How else are they supposed to know?

[Washington Post | Defense One]

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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