Posts Tagged 'ACLU'

“Suspicious Activity Reporting,” And We All Lose

In an op-ed column today, the ACLU’s Michael German takes on “Suspicious Activity Reporting” (SAR) programs employed by the government in an effort to identify criminals and terrorists. The only problem? When the criteria of so-called suspicious activity is so broad as to include people taking photographs, jotting down notes, wearing hooded sweatshirts, etc., it essentially criminializes everyday, legal activities and makes all of our lives not just more uncomfortable, but less free. Moreover, as German notes, there is no evidence that “these programs have identified a single terrorist plot.”

A program that violates American values and fails to keep us safe is a lose-lose proposition. Law enforcement already has the authority it needs to fight crime and terrorism without sacrificing the rights of those it seeks to protect.

Incidentally, German is a former FBI special agent and intelligence expert.

Read the column here.

Settlement Ends Harassment at Federal Buildings (We Hope)

Who wants to shoot some pics in front of a federal building? Because now the government has acknowledged, through a settlement with the New York Civil Liberties Union, that you are allowed to do just that. Funny, you say, I thought that was already my right? Well, it’s not that simple. The NYCLU sued the government on behalf of photographer Antonio Musumeci, who was arrested in November 2009 after recording a protest at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal Courthouse in Manhattan.

“Not only will this settlement end harassment of photographers outside federal courthouses, it will free people to photograph and film outside of all federal buildings,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, lead counsel in the case. “The regulation at issue in this case applies to all federal buildings, not only courthouses, so this settlement should extend to photography near all federal buildings nationwide.”

Sounds like a whole lot of government employees are going to have to be retrained.

Source: NYCLU

Filming Chicago Police OK, Audio Not

NPR did a piece this morning on Chicago artist Chris Drew, who’s made it his mission to make sure the First Amendment works. What started as an act of civil disobedience — Drew is a crusader for free speech and wanted to test laws regarding where artists can sell their work — turned into a felony charge for illegal eavesdropping. It turns out he had recorded his arrest and in Illinois it’s illegal to record conversations without consent of all parties.

The Chicago police union claims, if you can believe this, that recordings like these could inhibit officers from doing their jobs. Or…if they do their jobs professionally and competently, if they happen to be recorded, an audio recording would make absolutely. No. Difference.

“The general theme that drifts through these cases is very clear,” [Illinois ACLU lawyer Harvey] Grossman says. “Law enforcement, in these instances, is rebelling and is refusing to allow public scrutiny of their behavior. And they are using the eavesdropping statute as a weapon against civilians.”

On August 18, the Illinois ACLU filed a federal lawsuit challenging this law.

Story from NPR

ACLU to DOT: Why Harass Photographers?

Photo by spiggycat

In April we posted on the consistent and regular harassment photographers, including families and tourists, have experienced outside the Department of Transportation headquarters in Washington, DC, and now the ACLU is getting involved. Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the National Capital Area chapter of the ACLU, wrote a letter to the DOT’s acting general counsel requesting explanation of what seems to be their no photography policy on the public streets surrounding the building. As Spitzer writes: “We are not aware of any law that imposes such a rule, and we do not believe DOT has the authority to impose such a rule.” See the whole letter here.

Flickr via Thomas Hawk’s Digital Connection

Discarted on Digital Village Saturday – KPFK

0331a012 Photo by discarted

Our own discarted will be on Digital Village, the KPFK (90.7FM) show about new technolgy, this Saturday morning at 10 am. He and Peter Bibring of the ACLU will be talking about harassment of photographers and photographers’ rights.

If you’re not in Southern California, you can stream it live on or find the archives here.

The ACLU Needs Your Help

Photo by discarted

We were contacted by a staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California, and apparently they are looking into the harassment of photographers by law enforcement, specifically “incidents involving LAPD or other local agencies detaining or arresting people solely for photographing, seizing cameras, or ordering people to delete pictures.” If you’ve had an unpleasant experience with law enforcement in the LA area, please email us and we will give you his contact information.

The ACLU is a staunch defender of individuals’ rights and the First Amendment, and it could mean good things for photographers if they took this on.

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