Press release

Leaked Documents Reveal United States Customs and Border Protection Kept Troubling Surveillance

New investigations reveal the US government kept a secret database of journalists, advocates, and human rights lawyers tied to the migrant caravan approaching the US-Mexico border. 


In response to media reports that the US Customs and Border Protection agency created a secret database of activists, journalists, and human rights lawyers, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“The reported Customs and Border Protection list of journalists, lawyers, and advocates working at the US-Mexican border who should be stopped for questioning is alarming,” said Michael Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “It is especially disconcerting to hear that the agency has created profiles containing personal information about these individuals, like the kind of car they drive or the names of their family members.”

“In our recent report, Freedom in the World, we highlight abusive surveillance of journalists, human rights lawyers, and civil society activists by repressive governments around the globe. The report noted that Mexico, which is rated ‘Partly Free,’ was shaken in 2017 by revelations of extensive state surveillance aimed at journalists and civil society activists who threatened to expose government corruption and other wrongdoing.”

“We call on the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General to investigate and Congress to conduct oversight on whether CBP was operating appropriately within its mandate when collecting this information,” said Abramowitz.


On March 6, NBC station KNSD-TV reported that Customs and Border Protection compiled a list of journalists, lawyers, and activists who are to be stopped at the US southern border for questioning as part of a “national security investigation.” In some cases, NBC reports, Customs and Border Protection had compiled profiles on the individuals with help of intelligence from Mexican officials.

Mexico is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2019 and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2018. The United States is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2019 and Free in Freedom on the Net 2018