My concern is that there should be limits to how the border agents can interrogate citizens, in particular journalists, about that legitimate activity. I can accept that the agents can ask a broad array of questions. But I should have the right to refuse to answer detailed questions about my activities as a journalist without being taken into custody.

Officer Adams was trying to do his job, I’m sure. But it’s hard to accept that protecting our borders requires abandoning the First Amendment. Freedom of the press isn’t an absolute, but if it means anything, it means that, without good reason to believe a crime has been committed, the government, in particular uniformed officers, should stay out of a journalist’s business.

John Dinges is the co-founder of the investigative journalism center in Santiago, Chile. He has written three books about military dictatorships and human rights in Latin America. The most recent is The Condor Years: How Pinochet and his Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents. He is a professor of journalism at Columbia University.