Two reporters for The New York Times have sued the Department of Homeland Security after they were questioned at an airport as they headed to overseas assignments.
The Freedom of Information Act lawsuit was filed Wednesday in US District Court in Manhattan. Writers Mac William Bishop and Christopher Chivers said in the lawsuit that employees of the department responsible for securing US borders subjected them to questioning last May as they prepared to board an international flight.
David McCraw, vice-president and assistant general counsel for the newspaper, said in a statement that the reporters were preparing to leave New York for Turkey to report on the war in Syria at the time.
"We want to be sure that our journalists are not being targeted by DHS for special scrutiny or having their activities monitored by the government when they are engaged in reporting," he said. "DHS has failed to provide adequate responses to our FOIA requests seeking whatever information DHS employees were working from in initiating the questioning and whatever information they gathered in the questioning."
According to the lawsuit, Bishop was again questioned as he returned two weeks later.
Homeland Security spokesman Michael J. Friel said the department's Customs and Border Protection unit had no comment.
According to the lawsuit, Bishop was told by the government that Homeland Security had no records pertaining to him, a frequent international traveler who answered questions in a private room at the airport as government employees recorded the answers on a computer. The lawsuit said a similar request for documents by Chivers failed to get results, although the government last month said it was expediting the processing of his request.
According to his website, Chivers, an infantry officer in the US Marine Corps from 1988 to 1994, served in the Gulf war and performed peacekeeping duties as a company commander during the Los Angeles riots in 1992. Honorably discharged as a captain in 1994, he turned to journalism. He joined the Times in 1999, accumulating numerous awards while covering world conflicts, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he and a team from the Times in 2009 were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for a series of stories.
Bishop served in the US Marine Corps as an infantryman before working as a correspondent, producer, digital journalist and cameraman at several news outlets. He joined the Times as a video producer in 2010.
In November, The Washington Times filed papers in federal court in Maryland seeking to force the Coast Guard to return any documents and copies of records it seized from a reporter while searching her home last summer as part of a gun investigation involving her husband.