NBC 7 San Diego v. United States Department of Homeland Security

NBC 7 San Diego et al v. United States Department of Homeland Security et al., No. 1:19-cv-01146 (D.D.C., filed Apr. 22, 2019)

In March 2019, NBC 7 San Diego reported that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) maintains a secret database of lawyers, journalists, and others who were covering the migrant caravan or advocating for asylum seekers. Several of those in the database reported spending hours in secondary screening, and at least three people reported being barred from crossing into Mexico.

NBC reported that CBP secretly tracks these individuals under the aegis of “Operation Secure Line,” the moniker for its efforts to deter and intimidate caravans of asylum seekers. The agency’s proffered justification for maintaining this secret database is that the people listed were somehow involved with an incident in which a large group of asylum seekers approached the border barrier, leading CBP to respond with tear gas.

The existence of this database attracted the attention of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Homeland Security, prompting a letter to DHS leadership requesting further information on the tracking of journalists and advocates.

On April 22, 2019, NBC 7 San Diego filed this lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) seeking records that reference “Operation Secure Line” and the secret database. CBP continues to deny the database sought exists. The parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment. Defendants have not yet completed their production of responsive records as of April 2022.

On December 20, 2022, the court denied in part and denied without prejudice in part Defendants’ motion for summary judgment, and granted in part and denied without prejudice in part Plaintiffs’ cross-motion. Following the court’s summary judgment order, Defendants have produced thousands of records to NBC 7.


Counsel: The Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press

Contact: Katie Townsend | (202) 795-9300 | ktownsend@rcfp.org

Press: Tom Jones, Secure Line Secrets: Documents Released Behind Border Surveillance of Journalists, Attorneys and Humanitarian Aid Workers, NBC 7 San Diego (Mar. 24, 2023, 4:12 PM), https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/investigations/secure-line-secrets-documents-released-behind-border-surveillance-of-journalists-attorneys-and-humanitarian-aid-workers/3194760/