Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, told reporters at the White House on Tuesday that it is “absolutely unacceptable” for his officers to stop a journalist “because they’re a journalist.” He was responding to a question, based in part, on an Oct. 3 incident between Defense One editor Ben Watson and a CBP officer at Dulles International Airport. Defense One’s report on the exchange alleged that “A U.S. passport screening official held a Defense One journalist’s passport until he received an affirmative answer to this repeated question: ‘You write propaganda, right?’” and characterized the officer’s actions as harassment.
The question in Tuesday’s briefing came from Andrew Feinberg, who said this was one of a number of such incidents involving CBP officers over the last year.
Morgan encouraged journalists, or individuals who feel “inappropriately harassed,” to report it to CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility or the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general. Internally, Morgan said his agency will “proactively” refer reports of harassment to the Office of Professional Responsibility.