On July 30, The Washington Post and other outlets reported that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security compiled “intelligence reports” about the work of American journalists from The New York Times and the blog Lawfare after they published unclassified documents about DHS operations while covering protests in Portland, Oregon.
Gabe Rottman, director of the Technology and Press Freedom Project at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, made the following statement:
“News reporting on the Department of Homeland Security’s response to the protests in Portland and elsewhere is undoubtedly in the public’s interest, and targeting those journalists as the subject of an intelligence report is wholly unacceptable. Federal law prohibits the creation of ‘dossiers’ on journalists precisely because doing so can morph into investigations of journalists for news coverage that embarasses the government, but that the public has a right to know. DHS must take immediate steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again, and we urge it to publicly release the findings of its inquiry into this incident.”
This is the second time in less than two years that a federal agency under the Trump administration has compiled intelligence information about journalists. In March 2019, the Reporters Committee also condemned the actions of U.S. government agencies that created a list to track journalists covering immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as attorneys, activists and others who have done work at the border. That list included 10 journalists, some of whom reported having alerts placed on their passports for secondary screening, being detained and questioned about their work by border agents when trying to cross the border, and not being allowed to enter Mexico. The Reporters Committee, NBC 7 San Diego and its reporter Tom Jones have filed a federal lawsuit against four government agencies for refusing to turn over records about the secret government database, in violation of the Freedom of Information Act.
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.