New York Times Op-Ed Suggests ‘Pressuring’ Border Agents by Publicizing Their Identities

July 1, 2019 Updated: July 1, 2019

The New York Times has published an op-ed suggesting the identities of U.S. border agents be “publicized” if they have participated in separating children from their families in the course of their duties.

The author specifically claimed that she was not making a case for “doxxing”—which is usually defined as the publication of private information for the sake of revenge or punishment.

Many commentators and publications nonetheless characterized her article as precisely a call for doxxing of border agents.

She called for the actions of individual agents to be spread among their community in as a “pressure” and “consequence” of carrying out their duties.

“The identities of the individual Customs and Border Protection agents who are physically separating children from their families and staffing the detention centers are not undiscoverable,” wrote Dr. Kate Cronin-Furman, a lecturer in human rights at a London university in the opinion piece published in The Times on June 29.

“Immigration lawyers have agent names; journalists reporting at the border have names, photos, and even videos. These agents’ actions should be publicized, particularly in their home communities.”

Publicizing the names alone of government officials is not a crime, and releasing the personal details of private individuals is not against the law in itself. However, it is illegal to publicize private information of government agents.

Cronin-Furman claims that the treatment of migrants at the border meets the definition of a “mass atrocity.”

A Border Patrol Official looks out into the distant areas around Sunland Park, New Mexico, on Oct. 4, 2016. (John Moore/Getty Images)

She framed the border guards as “foot soldiers” carrying out the ideological beliefs of their superiors as middlemen, motivated solely by a paycheck, and more susceptible to pressure than their political masters.

“The fastest way to stop it is to make sure everyone who is responsible faces consequences,” she concluded.

The op-ed claimed not to be making an “argument for doxxing” but aimed at creating “pressure” from “audiences whose opinion they care about.”

“The knowledge, for instance, that when you go to church on Sunday, your entire congregation will have seen you on TV ripping a child out of her father’s arms is a serious social cost to bear. The desire to avoid this kind of social shame may be enough to persuade some agents to quit and may hinder the recruitment of replacements,” she wrote.

Doxxing, a relatively recent term spawned by the age of the internet, is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a slang word meaning “to publicly identify or publish private information about [someone] especially as a form of punishment or revenge.”

immigration and customs
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent detains a convicted criminal alien in Los Angeles, Calif., on Oct. 14, 2015. (John Moore/Getty Images)

According to some law firms, in the case of a private individual, doxxing in itself may not break the law—although it may constitute other crimes such as harassment in some situations.

However, it is an offense to publish private information about a government official, including home address, phone number, or personal email, punishable by up to five years in jail.

Doxxing has been used by far-left groups such as Antifa to try to silence those who they label as Nazis or “far right.”

Earlier this year, Antifa allies and neo-communists exposed the private information of 1,600 ICE agents, according to the American Spectator. It followed the publication of a list of names and photographs by a leftist professor.

Some have argued that doxxing should be considered an act of terrorism because it aims not only to create pressure but also to intimidate the victim.

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