Trump Administration Kept Secret Database Targeting Journalists, Activists For Harassment, NBC Report Says

The Donald Trump administration has maintained a secret database tracking journalists and political activists involved with immigration issues, an NBC San Diego TV news station has learned.

Donald Trump listens in the Oval Office.
Tom Brenner / Getty Images

The Donald Trump administration has maintained a secret database tracking journalists and political activists involved with immigration issues, an NBC San Diego TV news station has learned.

A blockbuster new investigative report by reporters for San Diego, California, TV station NBC 7 has revealed that the Donald Trump administration last year targeted nearly 50 journalists, immigration activists, a lawyer, and social media influencers for harassment, keeping a secret database of information on the American citizens, as well as citizens of some foreign countries, and in some cases, placing alerts on their passports.

The individuals were all connected in some way to the migrant “caravan” that headed toward the U.S.-Mexican border late last year. As the caravan approached the port of entry at San Ysidro in San Diego County, numerous journalists and activists also show up there, to cover the story or advocate for the prospective immigrants. But for months afterward, many of those individuals “said they felt they had become targets of intense inspections and scrutiny by border officials,” according to the NBC 7 report.

NBC 7 obtained leaked documents from the database and posted them online, blurring out many of the faces of individuals who did not want their information to become public.

Greg Dawson, a vice president of NBC 7, posted on Twitter that the database included not only journalists and lawyers, but people and groups that the government labeled as “instigators.”

Trump attempted to make the so-called “caravan” of mostly Central American immigrants a central issue in the 2018 midterm elections, describing the “caravan” as an “invasion” of the United States and citing it as a primary reason for building his hoped-for “border wall,” according to a CNN report. But though immigrants continue to travel from Mexico and Central America to the United States, the caravan phenomenon has largely died out, CNN reported.

Two American photojournalists told NBC 7 that they had been singled out for interrogation by U.S. and Mexican Border authorities, and that they had the sense that “the U.S. government was monitoring them closely.” Their feelings of paranoia were justified, according to the documents obtained by the San Diego station, because “their own government had listed their names in a secret database of targets.”

The photojournalists, as well as other individuals in the database, were ultimately denied entry into Mexico City, preventing them from working.

The Homeland Security source who leaked the database documents to NBC 7 told the station that the gathering of intelligence on the people targeted for monitoring was “done under the umbrella of ‘Operation Secure Line,’ the operation designated to monitor the migrant caravan.”