As a journalist, I have been fortunate enough to visit and write from South Africa under apartheid, El Salvador during its Marxist insurgency, the Soviet Union under Communism, and Cuba during the endless reign of the immortal Fidel Castro. In each of these places, I was permitted — in fact, invited – to ask questions, challenge the thoughts of my hosts, and photograph what I saw.
I enjoyed slightly tighter access on the USS John C. Stennis, an American aircraft carrier, and on the Israel Defense Force’s Dov Air Base just outside Tel Aviv. I was free to question uniformed personnel and quote them, although — for security reasons — I was asked not to identify them by name, and didn’t.
In all of these spots, I was permitted to make audio recordings of my meetings and even take photographs, with a few limited restrictions on those military facilities.
Thus, I was stunned and disgusted by Obama’s below-U.S.S.R.-grade rules imposed on journalists invited to a “media tour” of the temporary shelter for illegal aliens at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. This visit, scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Central time tomorrow, is supposed to familiarize journalists with the locale at which the U.S. government is housing some 1,200 unaccompanied alien children who recently have broken into the United States. This is not a serious opportunity for journalists to learn about this place in depth and probe those detained there, as well as their hosts. Instead, this is a propaganda stunt worthy of North Korea.
Quoting directly from a July 7 invitation to this event, consider the handcuffs that Team Obama has forged for news people who bother to attend this sham field trip:
- No recording devices will be allowed
- No questions will be allowed during the tour
- No interacting with staff and children at the shelter
- We ask that your questions be provided via email or phone after the tour to Kenneth Wolfe [Deputy Director, Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Health and Human Service]
- HHS ACF [Administration for Children and Families] public affairs will provide answers to your follow up questions as quickly as possible
- We will provide photos of the facility after the tour
- There will be no on-site interviews by HHS staff before or after the tour, all inquiries go to Kenneth Wolfe
“The purpose of this 40-minute tour is to show members of the press the interior of the shelter and explain the care we provide while these children remain in our custody,” explained Jesus Garcia, special assistant to the deputy assistant secretary for external affairs, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. His invitation added: “The tour guide will detail what goes on from room to room and the services youth are provided on a daily basis.” Garcia claimed that these harsh restrictions on press freedom are necessary “In order to protect the safety and privacy of the children.”
While keeping identifiable minors out of the public eye may make sense, there is no reason to forbid journalists from taking crowd shots and wide-angle photos and footage. Americans who consider these kids the entitled recipients of U.S. largesse deserve to see such images just as much as do Americans who regard these illegal aliens as lawbreakers who should go home and apply for visas, just like anyone else.
Whatever precautions might be defensible to shield children, there is no justification whatsoever for forbidding American journalists from asking questions of the taxpayer-paid U.S. public servants who work at Fort Sill. Among many other things, journalists have every right to ask, and American citizens have every right to know:
Are these illegal-alien operations hampering readiness and morale at Fort Sill?
Are these illegal aliens carrying lice, scabies, hoof-and-mouth disease, MRSA staph infections, or even tuberculosis — as have been detected among this population in the last few weeks?
Have officials at Fort Sill seen evidence that American citizens have become infected with any of these diseases due to this illegal-alien tsunami?
According to recent news reports, some of these Central American “children” actually belong to MS-13 and other deadly youth gangs. Some lately have scrawled tell-tale, gang-related graffiti on bathroom stalls at detention centers in Arizona. Others have confessed to torture and homicide back home. Are such gang members housed at Fort Sill? If so, will they be released into the general public?
As they journeyed north, did any of these illegal aliens detect Islamic extremists, Arab terrorists, or anyone else who might have blended among them in order to cross the southern frontier and target Americans for mayhem and murder?
“The idea of no recording devices, no questions, and no interactions is not acceptable,” stated U.S. Representative Jim Bridenstine (R., Okla.). “This violates the First Amendment. This is not transparent. HHS is trying to muzzle the media and hide the human tragedy that has resulted directly from the Administration’s failure to enforce the law.” Although he is a Navy pilot and congressman who represents Fort Sill’s home state, Bridenstine was forbidden to enter the detention center when he traveled there on July 1. HHS now says it will allow Bridenstine to see the installation on July 21 and possibly as soon as July 12.
Journalists should refuse to serve as silent playthings in this degrading, Pyongyang-style “tour” of Fort Sill. If Obama and his people want to play with pawns, they should buy a chess set.