A congressional Republican is demanding that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “immediately remove” journalists from the agency’s volunteer program at the southern border, according to a letter exclusively obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) asked its employees to volunteer for the effort, which involves helping border authorities process migrants, in an internal USAGM email the DCNF exclusively obtained.
USAGM is a taxpayer-funded agency with six news entities that produce stories in dozens of languages to the world.
“Instead of implementing a cogent and strategic plan to secure and protect our Southwest border, it is my understanding that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is now relying on the DHS Volunteer Force (DVF) to bring on other federal employees to process the unprecedented influx of migrants,” Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Committee John Katko wrote in the letter sent Thursday.
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“This includes journalists from the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) and Voice of America (VOA), who are now performing migrant processing duties at the border. This is an unprecedented and troubling move,” Katko wrote.
Border authorities are seeing record numbers of migrants crossing illegally into the country with fiscal year 2022’s migrants encounters already surpassing the previous fiscal year’s number of 1,734,686 encounters, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
“To be clear: journalists play a critical role in reporting on the crisis playing out along the Southwest border. Additionally, I acknowledge the benefits that an intra-agency detail program can provide within DHS,” Katko wrote. “However, I have concerns about recruiting volunteers from agencies outside of DHS, particularly from the USAGM and VOA, whose journalists have done extensive reporting at the U.S. border.”
In the letter, Katko raised concerns about the potential national security implications of allowing journalists access to “sensitive” processing material that could present to be a “conflict of interest” for USAGM journalists, some of whom have reported on the border. However, it is unclear whether journalists who have previously reported at the border are participating in the program.
He also mentioned several past allegations of foreign adversaries infiltrating the agency that could be problematic, including a March Washington Free Beacon report indicating VOA began “thoroughly reviewing” stories an alleged Russian spy wrote for the outlet.
“Through the DVF, journalists are given access to sensitive case files, migrant data, and the migrants themselves. Not only does this create a tremendous conflict of interest, but it is also a serious national security risk,” Katko explained.
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USAGM Director of Public Affairs Laurie Moy recently told the DCNF that applicants will be screened for any potential conflicts of interest.
“The referenced message was shared with all USAGM staff inviting all U.S. federal employees to apply. Any application received will be screened, and any potential conflict of interest will be identified,” Moy told the DCNF.