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Check your press freedoms at the (US) border

July 2, 2009

John Dinges, a Columbia University journalism school professor and a veteran of Latin America (saving you the string of awards he’s won), headed back to his old stomping ground recently. Visiting Venezuela and Chile was no problem. It’s the coming home that got him:

After examining his passport, he said, the CBP [customs and border protection] agent asked him, “What were you doing on this trip?”
Returning Americans are routinely asked such general questions.
“I told him I was a journalist,” Dinges said, “conducting journalistic business in Chile and Venezuela.”
But that did not satisfy the agent, whose name tag identified him as “Adams,” Dinges said.
He said the agent demanded to know “exactly” where he went and whom he met with.
“I told him I was not comfortable answering those kinds of questions,” said Dinges, who has written three books on Latin America.
But the agent was adamant.
“He said, ‘This is the United States, and I can ask you anything I want,'” Dinges recounted.
The agent said, “You have to answer, for me to assess your status.”
When Dinges again objected, saying, “I feel protected under the Constitution,” the officer told him, “If you don’t want to talk, we can go to the back room, and you can discuss this with my supervisor.”

Read the story at the CQ Politics blog and find out what Dinges didn’t say (but should have?).

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