Skip Navigation
  • Home
  • Our Work
  • Research & Reports
  • Brennan Center Joins Coalition of Over 100 Organizations Opposing DHS Surveillance of Activists, Journalists, and Lawyers
Statement

Brennan Center Joins Coalition of Over 100 Organizations Opposing DHS Surveillance of Activists, Journalists, and Lawyers

The Brennan Center, along with over 100 other organizations, sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security urging it to cease any targeting of activists, journalists, and lawyers based on their First Amendment-protected expression.

Published: May 1, 2019

Today, the Bren­nan Center joined a coali­tion of over 100 organ­iz­a­tions in send­ing a letter to the U.S. Depart­ment of Home­land Secur­ity (DHS) urging it to cease any target­ing of activ­ists, journ­al­ists, or lawyers based on their First Amend­ment-protec­ted speech and asso­ci­ational activ­it­ies. The coali­tion deman­ded that DHS address alarm­ing reports of surveil­lance activ­ity by U.S. Customs and Border Protec­tion (CBP) and U.S. Immig­ra­tion and Customs Enforce­ment (ICE) that jeop­ard­izes First Amend­ment rights and access to legal coun­sel and may viol­ate the Privacy Act of 1974.

As the letter, spear­headed by the Center for Demo­cracy and Tech­no­logy, points out, ICE docu­mented and dissem­in­ated lists of “Anti-Trump” protests in New York City. In addi­tion, CBP allegedly targeted and created dossiers on activ­ists, lawyers, and journ­al­ists work­ing with and report­ing on asylum seekers at the south­ern border. First-hand accounts revealed a pattern of harass­ment includ­ing exten­ded deten­tions and inter­rog­a­tions, elec­tronic device searches at ports of entry, and denial of re-entry to Mexico.

The Bren­nan Center strongly opposes the govern­ment’s collec­tion and use of inform­a­tion reflect­ing First Amend­ment-protec­ted expres­sion, such as social media inform­a­tion, to target indi­vidu­als and as a means of “ideo­lo­gical vetting.”

“The Depart­ment of Home­land Secur­ity’s surveil­lance and harass­ment of activ­ists, journ­al­ists, and lawyers threatens the exer­cise of our funda­mental Consti­tu­tional rights,” said Rachel Levin­son-Wald­man, Senior Coun­sel to the Bren­nan Center’s Liberty and National Secur­ity Program. “The prac­tice of target­ing and monit­or­ing of indi­vidu­als on the basis of their First Amend­ment-protec­ted speech and activ­it­ies is not in line with Amer­ican values or the Depart­ment’s mission of protect­ing the coun­try.”

We are pleased that Congress is actively invest­ig­at­ing both incid­ents, and that the DHS Invest­ig­ator General has been tasked with review­ing CBP’s conduct. More must be done, however: the coali­tion has deman­ded that DHS cease imper­miss­ible target­ing, monit­or­ing, and harass­ment of activ­ists, journ­al­ists, and lawyers at the border, and disclose the policies, guidelines, and train­ing mater­i­als that govern these activ­it­ies. It is crit­ical that our govern­ment agen­cies be held account­able for their actions and live up to our coun­try’s values.

 

Coali­tion Letter to DHS Oppos­ing Surveil­lance of Activ­ists, Journ­al­ists, and Lawyers by The Bren­nan Center for Justice on Scribd