Secret Counterterrorism Unit Interrogated Activists, Journalists Under Trump

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A new government report reveals that the Tactical Terrorism Response Team, a little-known unit of Customs and Border Protection trained in counterterrorism, interrogated dozens of American activists and journalists at the border under Trump, reports ProPublica. According to the report, at least 51 U.S. citizens were flagged for interrogation — often based on evidence as flimsy as once having ridden in a car across the border with someone suspected of aiding the caravan.

Thirty-nine of those Americans crossed the border shortly after being flagged and were detained and interrogated. The unit was not trained in immigration issues, but were utilized by the Trump administration in response to the “caravan” of migrants headed towards the border in 2018. The federal government sent a surge of intelligence and security forces to the southern border in what it dubbed Operation Secure Line, which ultimately led to the dragnet interrogations. The report notes that citizens are only supposed to be flagged for border interrogations when they are suspected of criminal activity themselves. At least two senior officials told investigators that people could be stopped for questioning for “virtually any reason.” In response, CBP agreed to update its training to clarify that flags “should only be created for law enforcement purposes.” It did not say it would limit future interrogations to people suspected of criminal activity themselves.

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