Database leak shows attack on journalists

Jordan Boyer, Photo Editor

Recently NBC San Diego has obtained information on a leaked database that contains information on journalists and immigration advocates/activists inside the United States and Mexico. According to the leak, this database is run by the United States Government and in some cases placed alerts on some of the individual’s passports. These alerts have kept one attorney and at least three photojournalists from entering Mexico.

NBC has published nine photographs of the leaked database and the first photo contains a seal for the International Liaison Unit; this unit coordinates intelligence between the United States and Mexico. The rest of the photographs contain mugshots and information on 59 individuals that are journalists and immigration advocates, but NBC only revealed the identities of individuals who have given permission to publish their information. Out of the individuals revealed, there are five journalists, one advocate and the attorney mentioned above. The journalists were traveling to Mexico to cover the migrant caravan.

This is alarming to say the least, not just for the media, but also for the right of free speech we Americans cherish. The right to free speech and the freedom of the press is a constitutional right and United States officials are now revealed to be directly attacking these rights. Freelance Photojournalist Ariana Drehsler, one of the individuals flagged in the database, spoke to The Guardian about this leaked information.

“I am an observer, I am actually kind of shy, I don’t know what I could’ve done to be put on a watchlist,” Drehsler told The Guardian.

ACLU Staff Attorney Esha Bhandari, claims there was a link between the database and the Trump administration’s arrests of immigrant activists and advocates.

“It means that the debate about immigrants’ rights, about the treatment of immigrants, about the treatment of asylum seekers, is going to be suppressed or censored because the people who are speaking out with a voice that’s critical of the government are going to be singled out for harsher treatment or punished,” Bhandari said.

If there truly is a link between the Trump Administration and these documents, criminal investigation must commence. It is no secret that the Trump Administration has used aggressive force on legal and illegal immigration, but we have not seen a direct attack on journalism until now. Yes, Trump calls any news organization that is critical of his policies “fake news,” but this is a whole other issue.

On the topic of the term “fake news,” The New York Times states that President Vladimir Putin has just signed a new law that fines Russians who spread what the authorities call fake news or “blatant disrespect” for the state. This legislation grants authorities the power to block/censor websites if they fail to comply with requests to remove information the state finds inaccurate.

Obviously this is Russia and they not have the same freedoms of press and speech the United States has, but now we are observing a behind the scenes attack on the media from United States authorities. The rhetoric on what authorities call “fake news” has more than likely set the precedent for action by United States officials against American journalists.

Only time will tell of what will happen with this new leak. This can go to the Supreme Court; there can be federal indictments on officials involved with the database; who knows? Me being a journalist, I do not condone this type of behavior in any form. We have the constitutional right to report on what is happening in the world and that can go against the government’s agenda, and we must fulfill this role to uncover corruption and maintain a watchful eye over the government. The public has the right to know what is going on in the world and there is no denying it in the slightest.

Jordan Boyer is a senior history major, he can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].