A Customs and Border Protection division improperly—and routinely—ran journalists, congressional staffers, and other government officials through government databases to obtain their most private information, a Yahoo News report found, and none of the people responsible have been charged. The report details how a then-CBP staffer invited then-New York Times national security reporter Ali Watkins to a meeting in a bar, in which he revealed he knew about her relationship with a top Senate security employee. The staffer, Jeffrey Rambo, told Yahoo he was ordered to extensively vet every name he came across, regardless of their affiliation or potential impropriety. Even Ariana Huffington, the former head of HuffPost, was subject to the vetting. “There is no specific guidance on how to vet someone,” Rambo told investigators, according to an inspector general report. “In terms of policy and procedure, to be 100 percent frank there, there's no policy and procedure on vetting.”
Hugh Handeyside, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties National Security Project, said the collection was reminiscent of post-9/11 data collection. “When agencies give their employees access to this ocean of information, especially without training or rigorous oversight, the potential for abuse goes through the roof,” he said.