Arab-American Journalist Put Through ‘Psychological Torture’ By Federal Officials

By Sameer Rao Nov 25, 2015

Kim Badawi, a Paris-born American photojournalist of Arab descent, recently took to Twitter to describe an episode of "psychological torture" by Homeland Security officials at a Miami airport. 

In a series of November 22 tweets, which you can see below, Badawi described a 10-hour detainment in Miami. He claims he was harassed because of his work in the Middle East. 


Badawi elaborated on his detainment and tweets in an interview with Buzzfeed. He explained that he was flying from Rio de Janeiro to Texas with his Brazilian partner. He said that during a Miami stopover, Homeland Security officials invited him into a large waiting room where he was the only person with an American passport:

“I was the only one with a blue passport in the room,” said Badawi, referring to the color of a U.S. passport. His parents — who are also U.S. citizens — registered him as American at birth in Paris.

Badawi, who had been covering Syrian refugees in Brazil, said officials interrogated him about work as a Middle East correspondent for CNN and the Wall Street Journal. He claimed that the Homeland Security officials combed through his entire media presence and opinions. He also said he wasn’t allowed to use his cellphone to contact his partner about his whereabouts: 

According to Badawi, the interrogation also focused on his travels to the Middle East. He said that after officials went through his passport they asked him, “Why do you have so many Arabic stamps in your passports?”

Badawi said he explained that he had worked as a Middle East correspondent for several news outlets such as the Wall Street Journal and CNN. He said he was repeatedly asked to verify the specific dates and locations of his travels.

“It was blatant, that nothing I was asked could not have been verified online or by publication date,” Badawi said.

After three to four hours, Badawi said he asked the officers if he could inform his partner that they were going to miss their connecting flight but was refused the use of his cellphone.

“I thought to myself, ‘are they allowed to do this? What are my rights exactly?’” When he asked an officer if he should call his lawyer he was told that he was not under arrest but being detained for investigation, Badawi said.

The Department of Homeland Security directed Buzzfeed’s request for comment to a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson in Miami, who said in a statement that, “Everyone is subject to CBP inspection when they arrive in the U.S.”

(H/t Buzzfeed