Posts Tagged 'anti-terrorism measures'

“Suspicious” Photography A Renewed Concern?

Uh-oh. According to this article, Bin Laden’s death means everyone is on high alert for terrorist activity and, naturally, photographers.

Since the attacks, law enforcement officials have identified about 16 potential terrorist behaviors, such as taking photos of “high-value” terrorist targets. The tips, known as “suspicious activity” reports, are vetted by counterterrorism experts who are trained to know the difference between “tourism and terrorism” behaviors, officials said.

But as anyone who values civil liberties knows, the mandate at the top doesn’t always translate perfectly to the streets. Despite the article reporting that the tip gatherers are more interested in trends, police and security officers hear “people taking photos” and will often enforce the rule indiscriminately.

… Michael German, a former FBI agent who now advises the American Civil Liberties Union, said the program gives officers such wide discretion that innocent people are being questioned and even arrested based on behaviors that are not illegal.

“Innocent people” like one T.S. Bye, who took a photo of the Federal Reserve’s seal with his camera phone last week in downtown Minneapolis. The StarTribune reports that he was confronted by a security guard, questioned and asked to delete his photos, which he did (although the phone backs up all photos immediately). When asked for comment, a Fed spokeswoman told the paper this:

Our Law Enforcement staff asked what he was doing. He informed us he was taking photos of the Bank seal. Initially, our Law Enforcement officer told him that he was in a secure area and that we would prefer that he delete the photos. When the second Law Enforcement officer arrived on the scene, he informed this individual that he did not have to delete the photos and all we really needed him to do was move his vehicle to an appropriate parking space. The individual then drove away.

And we all know how many plots have started with a photo of a government seal….

Source: McClatchy News and StarTribune

Regular People Still Paying With Anti-Terror Methods

Photo by Joe Architect

More criminalization of photography underway: Las Vegas is the latest place to implement the hysteria-inducing anti-terror campaign, “See Something Say Something.” Eight area billboards will ask for the public’s help in identifying suspicious activity. 

What does that look like, according to the Las Vegas Sun?

It could be a car parked in a suspicious spot, a person taking unusual photos of a building’s infrastructure or even snippets of an overheard conversation that raise concern.

And on the other side of the country, the Washington Post is reporting that authorities have now implemented random bag searches in Washington, DC-area Metro stations. As someone who regularly uses this dilapidated system, I can tell you if the people doing the searching are anywhere near as incompetent as those who run and operate it, “terrorists” don’t have anything to worry about.

(Thanks to MP)

“Stop and Search” Fails As An Anti-Terror Method

The data from the Home Office is in, and it turns out not one person was arrested in connection with terrorism in the UK as a result of “stop and search” powers allowed under section 44 of the Terrorism Act. Wait — surely that photographer police harassed in front of a skyscraper, or on the subway, or in a mall was up to no good…? Really? Not one?

Really. We’re talking about 101,248 stops over the past year.

Which only bolsters what civil liberties advocates have long been saying — that these measures employed by often fearful and hamstrung governments do more to strip our rights than keep us safe.

Source: BBC

Making the Case for Cameras

Photo by threecee

Along with the rest of the right-thinking world, Popular Mechanics believes in photographers’ rights. In an essay on the magazine’s web site, author and law professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds calls law enforcement’s suspicion of cameras “misguided,” claiming cameras make us safer, not the other way around. Citing the Times Square car bomb incident where law enforcement officials sought out private cameras and footage that might yield clues in the case, this guy says photography enhances public safety.

He says:

…it’s a problem that stems as much from cluelessness at the bottom of the chain of command as from heavy-handedness at the top. The officers who crack down on photographers no doubt believe they are protecting public safety. But evidence that photography might be useful to terrorists is slim.


…we need better education among security guards and law enforcement.

But that’s not all:

With the proliferation of cameras in just about every device we carry, digital photography has become too ubiquitous to stop. Let’s have a truce in the war on photography and set our sights on the real bad guys.

To read the whole article, go to Popular Mechanics

Video of Police/BP Harassing Photographer

Last week we  posted on freelance photographer Lance Rosenfield’s run-in with law enforcement/BP Gestapo while on assignment for ProPublica and PBS Frontline.

The Galveston County Daily News has now published dashboard cam video of the encounter where you can see the officer phoning in Rosenfield’s details to the local FBI, or “frickin’ Homeland Security guy,” noting that he was in the public right of way and basically doing nothing wrong. When Rosenfield objects to his personal information being given to BP’s private security force, he’s told that they are “a certain type of law enforcement.”

Officer Kreitemeyer admits he’s just “going through the motions.” Meanwhile, the first amendment dies a slow death.

As ProPublia’s Stephen Engelberg reports in this piece, The Galveston County Daily News’ has tried unsucessfully to press the police to name the law that allows them to review photos. Associate Editor Mike Smith: 

“Nobody can point to a law of the United States of America or the State of Texas that allows police to do this. This is an assumed power that the police have taken on themselves based on this amorphous notion that the demands of the security state allow this and if you’re a good citizen, you shouldn’t make a fuss.”

See more videos at ProPublica

DHS, Police & BP Detain Photographer at Refinery

Refineries are typically dicey places for photography — even from public vantage points — because oil companies evidently are above the law and the government typically backs them up on that. Add BP and the biggest oil spill in US history to the mix, and well, you can imagine what ensues.

On Friday, Lance Rosenfield, a photographer working on a piece jointly produced by PBS Frontline and ProPublica, was harassed and detained by a Homeland Security officer, two police officers and a security guard at a BP refinery in Texas City, TX. After Rosenfield took a photo of a Texas City road sign, he was followed and surrounded at a gas station where the trio told him they had a right to look at his photos — even if they were shot on public property — and if he didn’t comply he would be taken in. After giving them his vital stats (which are no doubt now filed away on some terrorist watchlist), Rosenfield was released and no charges were filed.

From ProPublica‘s editor in chief: 

We certainly appreciate the need to secure the nation’s refineries. But we’re deeply troubled by BP’s conduct here, especially when they knew we were working on deadline on critical stories about this very facility. And we see no reason why, if law enforcement needed to review the unpublished photographs, that should have included sharing them with a representative of a private company. 

BP maintains it followed “industry practice that is required by federal law.” I would like to see this federal law challenged in court because I have a feeling taking photos of  a public street is a constitutionally protected activity.
See all of Rosenfield’s Texas City photos here.
Article from ProPublica and The Intel Hub

British Police: “We don’t have to have a law”

British police have been told they shouldn’t harass professional or amateur photographers because – get this – it’s not an illegal activity, but those orders sometimes have a hard time reaching the rank and file. Or maybe it just becomes a lot more difficult if certain officers don’t have to follow things like “laws.”

On Saturday, freelance photographer Jules Mattsson, 16, was shooting an Armed Forces Day parade in Romford in London when he was harassed by officers who told him, among other things, that taking photos of children…and military…and police are all illegal.

How could that be? Where are those laws on the books? That’s what Mattsson thought, and when he tried in vain to assert his rights, he was told: “We don’t have to have a law.”

But Mattsson wasn’t your average pushover, so the officers resorted to stuff like telling him he was “in the way” and an “agitator” and a “threat under the terrorism act.”

The confrontation is priceless in its illustration of the hapless and ill-informed police officer who wants to throw his weight around just because he can. You can read a transcript on the Libertarian Party Members’ Blog here.

Article from The Independent and Jules Mattsson

Watch Out, Ottawa

Photo by Transit Scope

In another example of security theater — measures that make the public feel like their government is working to keep them safe but are largely ineffectual — the transit authority for greater Gatineau and Ottawa in Canada have instituted a security initiative where riders are asked to be on alert for suspicious activity. Among the suspicious things to look out for:

An individual taking photos or pictures in a location that has no particular interest, drawing maps or sketches, taking notes or wandering in the same location for an unusually long time;

The problem with this directive of course is that who is determine what has “no particular interest”? I might find subway tracks extremely interesting to photograph, but a fellow passenger thinks they’re not of interest and reports me to the authorities. Problems ensue.

And if you want to the sketch the subway? Well, just forget about it…especially if you are prone to pacing.

Article from Boing Boing

Still No Photog Rights in London

The Gherkin Photo by FromTheNorth

It seems the photographers’ rights situation in London (or lack thereof) has reached a boiling point. After years of egregious harassment and the ensuing complaints, the Metropolitan Police finally released guidelines in early December that said in effect their officers should lay off photographers shooting in public. The next week, renowned architectural photographer Grant Smith was stopped and searched for taking photos of Sir Christopher Wren’s Christ Church in City of London, the financial district.

So, Guardian reporter Paul Lewis decided to do some investigating of his own. Armed with a hidden camera, he went to photograph the Gherkin, a skyscraper and major landmark also in the financial district, and within two minutes, he was approached by a security guard. At one point they actually used the words “hostile reconnaissance.”

Five security guards and police officers later, and two photographers in the vicinity also stopped during the incident (one from the Guardian who was working with Lewis), and nothing was resolved. City of London police defended their actions in a statement that basically said under section 44 of the Terrorism Act they have every right to do this.

Watch the video here.

Article via the Guardian

BBC Photographer Doubling as Terrorist?

Photo by bjoerncologne

BBC staff photographer Jeff Overs was taking photos of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral at sunset this past week when he was stopped under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act and questioned as a possible terrorist threat. For taking photos. Of a major architectural attraction. Sadly, the officer told Overs she’d been stopping people all day and he was the first to complain.

Just one more reason to be thankful we live in right-thinking democracies that value our rights…and allow us to take photos. Of major architectural attractions.

See Overs’ reaction to the harassment on The Andrew Marr Show here, where, among other things, he describes this new attitude as “all a bit Eastern Bloc, isn’t it?”

Articles via Boing Boing and  BBC

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