Leaked memo ordered U.S. border officials to question travellers with links to Iran: lawyer

 An apparent US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) memo sent anonymously to a Canadian immigration lawyer purports to show instructions to border officers to interrogate travelers with ‘links’ to Iran.

The memo was obtained by Canada’s CBC News after it was dropped off at the office of lawyer Len Saunders in a blank envelope by an anonymous source on Wednesday.

The missive orders border agents to “conduct vetting” on people between the ages of 20 and 58 with links to Iran and Lebanon, whether they were born there or traveled there for other reasons, CBC reported.

It seems to have come into effect in the immediate wake of the US assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani earlier in January, which caused tensions between Washington and Tehran to flare.

The memo, if it is authentic, lends credibility to recent complaints made by Iranian-born Canadians and Americans who said they were held and questioned for long periods when attempting to cross the border at Blaine, Washington.

CBP previously denied reports that around 200 travelers of Iranian descent were detained on January 4 and 5, a day after Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike. The border agency had told CBC that delays were due to staffing problems on a busy weekend and did not comment on the validity of the document. A former CBP officer said it appeared to be legitimate, however.

Saunders told the outlet he believed the “smoking gun” memo was sent to him since he had been outspoken on the treatment of Iranian-born travellers at the US-Canada border.

The alleged instructions also stated that any persons of “any other nationality” who had traveled to Iran or Lebanon should be interrogated, as well as Lebanese citizens and Palestinians who traveled to or from Israel and Jordan.

A spokesperson for CBP told the channel that Iran was a “capable adversary” and some travelers could therefore be chosen for additional screening based on their activities and associations. He said border officers do not discriminate based on “religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation” — but clarified that  “nationalities are not ethnicities.”

Saunders said the memo was a “slippery slope” and the US government “needs to be held accountable.”

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