Journalist: CBP Officer Held My Passport Until I Said 'Yes'

Ben Watson says it happened at Dulles International Airport
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 5, 2019 12:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – "You write propaganda, right?" That's what a Customs and Border Protection official apparently asked a journalist while keeping a tight grip on his passport, the Washington Post reports. Ben Watson, the news editor at Defense One, says it happened during a seemingly ordinary border check Thursday at Virginia's Dulles International Airport. Watson said "No," but the exchange got tense when the CBP officer appeared unsatisfied. "With his tone, and he's looking me in the eye—I very much realized this is not a joke," says Watson. His recollection at Defense One, a national security site, has the officer asking the same question again and Watson explaining he's a journalist. It goes on:

story continues below

  • CBP officer: "You're a journalist?"
  • Watson: "Yes."
  • CBP officer: "You write propaganda, right?"
  • After five seconds, Watson: "For the purposes of expediting this conversation, yes."
  • CBP officer: "You write propaganda, right?"
  • Watson: "For the purposes of expediting this conversation, yes."
  • CBP officer: "Here you go."
With that, Watson's passport was apparently returned. The report echoes other stories told by journalists in 2019, including that of a BuzzFeed journalist questioned for hours at a New York Airport over the site's reporting of the Mueller probe. The CBP says it is investigating the latest "alleged inappropriate conduct."
(Read more Customs and Border Protection stories.)

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