Reporter says he was harassed by customs officer who insisted he writes ‘propaganda’

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A reporter at military news website Defense One says he was harassed and accused by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent of writing “propaganda” when he attempted to reenter the United States this week.

Defense One news editor Ben Watson said in an article published Friday that the confrontation happened the previous day at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, saying a CBP officer held onto his passport while repeatedly asking him about his profession.

When Watson responded that he was a journalist, he said the the unnamed officer responded, “So you write propaganda, right?” The reporter says he responded “no,” before the officer repeated his question.{mosads}

Watson said he again responded in the negative, adding: “No. I am in journalism. Covering national security. And homeland security. And with many of the same skills I used in the U.S. Army as a public affairs officer. Some would argue that’s propaganda.”

The officer allegedly responded again, “So you write propaganda, right?”

Watson then relented, replying “yes” to expedite the conversation. The officer then reportedly handed him his passport.

The editor later told Defense One that he had never experienced a CBP officer act in such a confrontational manner before.

Watson has filed a civil rights complaint with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees CBP, according to Defense One.

“Customs and Border Protection is aware of the allegation posed by a Defense One editor about an officer’s alleged inappropriate conduct at Washington Dulles International airport and we are investigating the allegation. CBP officers take an Oath of Office, a solemn pledge that conveys great responsibility and one that should be carried out at all times with the utmost professionalism,” a CBP spokesperson told The Hill on Friday.

“We hold our employees accountable to our core values of vigilance, integrity and service to country, and do not tolerate inappropriate comments or behavior by our employees,” the official added.

A British writer for Empire Magazine reported a similar experience in July, tweeting at the time that he was questioned about whether he wrote or worked for major cable news networks including CNN and MSNBC.

“He wanted to know if I’d ever worked for CNN or MSNBC or other outlets that are ‘spreading lies to the American people.’ He aggressively told me that journalists are liars and are attacking their democracy,” writer James Dyer tweeted.

“He let me go after I said that I was just here to write about Star Wars, and would keep the fake news about that to a bare minimum,” Dyer said.

Updated at 5:05 p.m.

Tags Customs and Border Protection journalist

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