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Journalist assaulted by Border Patrol upon return to U.S. over iPhone recording

Border Patrol agent reportedly assaults U.S. citizen over iPhone recording.
Border Patrol agent reportedly assaults U.S. citizen over iPhone recording.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

On Thursday, journalist Rogier van Bakel said he was assaulted by Border Patrol agents upon his return to Maine after informing them he was recording the encounter on his iPhone.

After arriving at the Jackman, Maine, border crossing, Bakel said he was asked about his relationship to his three children, who were with him at the time. The children carry their mother's last name and look somewhat Asian, he added.

"I'm their dad," he told the agent. He was then asked the location of the childrens' mother.

"At home, I guess," he responded. The agent then asked if Bakel had written permission to travel with the children.

"I wasn't aware that I needed any such thing,” he told the agent. “Are you telling me I do?"

Instead of answering directly, Bakel said the agent directed him to pull over for a vehicle search. Bakel complied, handing the officer his driver's license in the process.

"Now please get out of the car and follow me inside," the agent said, according to his recollection. That's when things began to get dicey.

"I grab my iPhone off the dash, hit the record button, and tell him politely: 'For my protection, officer, I'm now recording what's happening,'" Bakel added. "He stays silent. I step out of the car, and without warning, he physically attacks—that is, he wrestles the phone from my hand, twisting my arm in the process. I'm stunned."

"Officer, I do not give you permission to take my phone," he told the agent. The agent responded angrily, he said.

"I don't need your permission!” he barked. “Get inside and sit on the bench. With your kids."

The agent disappeared with Bakel's phone. In the meantime, he is lectured about why recording Border Patrol officers is not allowed.

"If you upload it or share it in any way, people are going to know what kinds of questions we ask," one of the other agents reportedly told him. Bakel said the explanation made no sense to him.

"As a journalist, I can tell the world, in writing, what questions you ask," he told the agents. "In the U.S., anyone has that right. That's certainly not against the law. What's the difference between that and recording the conversation?"

"Officer safety and security," he was told after some hesitation. Bakel said the explanation struck him as "nonsense," since all the agents were wearing name tags and could be identified in writing in public. He wondered why a voice recording would be any different.

At that point, he added, his 11-year-old daughter spoke up, asking the agent why her father was being spoken to like this. Bakel said he wondered if he should have told her to "zip it."

The agent, he said, gave a one word response more fitting for a child than an agent of the federal government: "Because!"

"'Because' is not a reason," his daughter said in response. Bakel expressed pride in his daughter and let her know with a gesture that everything is all right.

The officers then demanded he delete what he recorded on his phone. The officers promised to let him go if he does, so he complied, hoping he could find a software expert to retrieve the recording if necessary.

Bakel said the officers were true to their word. After getting his phone and his passport, he was allowed to return to the United States -- minus three Canadian clementines the agents bravely confiscated.

Bakel's account is not the first report of this kind of action leveled against U.S. citizens by Border Patrol agents. As we reported Tuesday, one agent put a gun to the head of a Boy Scout taking luggage off the roof of a van.

Meanwhile, thousands of illegal immigrants continue to flood the southern border. Making matters worse, the administration is considering a plan to bring Hondurans into the country in a way that would bypass the Mexican border. Worse yet, the New York Times said, administration officials believe they can bypass Congress, and enact their plan through executive action as long as the total number of refugees coming into the country is not increased.

"Unfortunately," Infowars' Mikel Thalen wrote, "anyone entering the country in a lawful manner now faces more scrutiny than those arriving illegally. As revealed by National Border Patrol Council Vice President Shawn Moran last October, agents attempting to do their job are being ordered to ignore illegals crossing the border."

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