In early December, Yahoo News reported on Operation Whistle Pig, a leaked investigation into Senate staffer James Wolfe and Politico reporter Ali Watkins, who were dating at the time. The investigation was conducted by members of the CBP’s Counter Network Division to determine whether Wolfe provided classified intel to Watkins and other journalists.
Following the report by Yahoo News, the CBP has launched a review of the Counter Network Division. According to Yahoo News, the secretive division “uses some of the country’s most sensitive databases to investigate the travel and financial records and personal connections of journalists, members of Congress and other Americans not suspected of any crimes.”
A DHS Inspector General investigation determined that about 20 national security reporters were targeted by the Counter Network Division. The investigation into Watkins and Wolfe was launched by Jeffrey Rambo.
After the two year investigation, Rambo, a colleague Charles Ratliff, and his supervisor Dan White were referred for potential criminal charges, including misuse of government resources. However, prosecutors did not charge them because there were no policies governing their work.
The division regularly investigated potential contacts such as journalists in a process they called vetting. A subject undergoing vetting was run through several databases, including terrorism watch lists. The division “vetted” journalists “to determine personal connections,” Dan White told investigators.
Charles Ratliff, Rambo’s colleague, used the databases and resources available to the division to create what investigators called a phone tree of contacts, by “mapping out connections between people to identify a hidden network.” His work was used to monitor terrorists, but was also used to target Americans, including journalists, Congressional members, and their staffers.
“When Congressional “Staffers” schedule flights, the numbers they use get captured and analyzed by CBP,” Rambo’s supervisor, White, told investigators. He added that Ratliff “does this all the time – inappropriate contacts between people.”
According to Yahoo News, Ratliff compiled such reports on members of Congress with alleged connections to individuals in the
Terrorist Screening Database. The reports were also used to identify the confidential sources of reporters.
Other reporters that were targeted included AP’s Martha Mendoza, for reporting on forced labor, and Huffington Post’s founder Arianna Huffington.
“There is no specific guidance on how to vet someone,” Rambo later told investigators. “In terms of policy and procedure, to be 100 percent frank there, there’s no policy and procedure on vetting.”
An unnamed source told Yahoo News that new procedures and trainings have been put in place to ensure that the division is not violating the First and Fourth Amendments.
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Meanwhile, Congressional oversight committees have begun probing the activities of the division.
Chairs of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and House Homeland Security Committee Reps. Carolyn Maloney and
Benny Thompson wrote to the DHS requesting the investigation report. Chair of the Senate Finance Committee Sen. Ron Wyden also wrote to the DHS requesting the report. None of them have received a copy.
In a statement, the DHS said that its secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “is deeply committed to ensuring the protection of First Amendment rights and has promulgated policies that reflect this priority.”
“We do not condone the investigation of reporters in response to the exercise of First Amendment rights,” the statement continued. “CBP and every component agency and office in the Department will ensure their practices are consistent with our values and our highest standards.”
Will America-First News Outlets Make it to 2023?
Things are looking grim for conservative and populist news sites.
There’s something happening behind the scenes at several popular conservative news outlets. 2021 was bad, but 2022 is proving to be disastrous for news sites that aren’t “playing ball” with the corporate media narrative. It’s being said that advertisers are cracking down, forcing some of the biggest ad networks like Google and Yahoo to pull their inventory from conservative outlets. This has had two major effects. First, it has cooled most conservative outlets from discussing “taboo” topics like Pandemic Panic Theater, voter fraud, or The Great Reset. Second, it has isolated those ad networks that aren’t playing ball.
Certain topics are anathema for most ad networks. Speaking out against vaccines or vaccine mandates is a certain path to being demonetized. Highlighting voter fraud in the 2020 and future elections is another instant advertising death penalty. Throw in truthful stories about climate change hysteria, Critical Race Theory, and the border crisis and it’s easy to understand how difficult it is for America-First news outlets to spread the facts, share conservative opinions, and still pay the bills.
Without naming names, I have been told of several news outlets who have been forced to either consolidate with larger organizations or who have backed down on covering certain topics out of fear of being “canceled” by the ad networks. I get it. This is a business for many of us and it’s not very profitable. Those of us who do this for a living are often barely squeaking by, so loss of additional revenue can often mean being forced to make cuts. That means not being able to cover the topics properly. Its a Catch-22: Tell the truth and lose the money necessary to keep telling the truth, or avoid the truth and make enough money to survive. Those who have chosen survival simply aren’t able to spread the truth properly.
We will never avoid the truth. The Lord will provide if it is His will. Our job is simply to share the facts, spread the Gospel, and educate as many Americans as possible while exposing the forces of evil.
To those who have the means, we ask that you please donate. We have options available now, but there is no telling when those options will cancel us. We have our GivingFuel page. There have been many who have been canceled by PayPal, but for now it’s still an option. Your generosity is what keeps these sites running and allows us to get the truth to the masses. We’ve had great success in growing but we know we can do more with your assistance.
Thank you, and God Bless!
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