Posts Tagged 'Department of Homeland Security'

DHS Officer Bans Photographer From Public Protest in Los Angeles

Last week on October 5, I decided to head to downtown Los Angeles to photograph a rally that was being held at the federal building. What was dubbed as a National Day of Action against FBI Repression ended up being a major non-event, and only about 5-10 people were there to protest the FBI’s recent raids that targeted political activists in Illinois and Minnesota.

So for a photographer hoping to capture another protest with the usual high energy associated with these kinds of events, there really wasn’t much to photograph. Plus, it started raining fifteen minutes into this tiny protest, and that was still before anyone even arrived. However, at the same time the rain started falling, a Department of Homeland Security vehicle arrived, which caused me to believe that people were going to show up—at some point—and they did.

I stuck around and burned the roll’s last few frames on the lackluster protesters that finally arrived and used the very last frame for the Homeland Security decal that was on the front fender of the DHS SUV. It seemed like an important stock image to get, seeing that DHS has been known to harass a photographer or two. I thought I could use my photo for future posts dealing with DHS harassment rather than pulling the DHS decal from the web.

Well, I should’ve known that I would be posting a video showing a DHS officer prohibiting me from returning to a protest that was being held on a public sidewalk before I even processed the roll of film I shot that day.

Duane Kerzic Suing Homeland Security

You might remember Duane Kerzic as the photographer who was detained and cited for trespassing in 2008 by Amtrak police for taking pictures inside New York’s Penn Station while participating in Amtrak’s annual photo contest, “Picture Our Train.” Kerzic was later vindicated by an undisclosed financial settlement and an appearance on “The Colbert Report,” and now he’s a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s laptop search policy at the border.

According to NPPA:

In July 2007, Kerzic was returning to the United States from a trip to Canada where he’d been photographing lighthouses and national parks for a story. He was riding his motorcycle and his laptop and camera gear were in his saddlebag when he arrived at the Customs and Border Protection inspection point at the Thousand Island border crossing. When agents asked him where he was going and then referred him to secondary screening, he was asked to wait inside a building while his motorcycle and saddlebag remained outside. Kerzic could see CBP agents going through his belongings outside, and in a few minutes a CBP agent came into the building with Kerzic’s laptop in his hands.

After looking through the photographer’s laptop for about 15 minutes, Kerzic was permitted to leave and to enter the United States.

The policy authorizes US Customs and Border Protection agents to conduct suspicionless searches on U.S. citizens’ electronic devices at international borders and then copy and distribute the devices’ contents (even after the individual is permitted entry into the United States). And that, needless to say, is deeply concerning to journalists who rely heavily on protecting their sources from disclosure and possible retribution to do their jobs.

As a First Amendment concern NPPA’s lawyer, Mickey H. Osterreicher, believes that “government officials’ unfettered ability to search journalists’ laptops and other electronic devices will have a chilling effect on their ability to gather and disseminate the news once it becomes widely known that any information they gather may be subject to search and seizure without probable cause or reasonable suspicion.”

“This will directly impact their ability to provide confidentiality to their sources,” Osterreicher said. “One can only imagine the added difficulty, if not impossibility, for journalists to conduct interviews, report on foreign relations or cover stories involving allegations of corruption when news sources believe that the information gathered abroad may be reviewed, copied and shared by agencies of the government without any of the normally guaranteed Constitutional protections.”

More important, these DHS policies not only impact journalists, but all Americans.

“Allowing government officials to look through American’s most personal materials – the things we store in our laptops, cameras, and cell phones – without reasonable suspicion is unconstitutional and inconsistent with American values, and a waste of limited resources. It doesn’t make us ‘safer’. Instead it ‘builds a bigger haystack’ and diverts resources away from proven law enforcement methods.”

The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf  of the National Press Photographers Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, New York Civil Liberties Union, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, graduate student Pascal Abidor, and Duane Kerzic as plaintiffs against Janet Napolitano, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security head, argues that Americans do not relinquish their constitutional rights when they decide to travel outside the United States, i.e., protection from unreasonable searches and seizures that are protected by the Fourth Amendment.

Source: NPPA Joins Federal Lawsuit Challenging Constitutionality of DHS Laptop Search

NPPA Comes Out Against Criminalizing Photographers

Yesterday, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) issued a press release detailing their objection to the TSA’s poster depicting a photographer as a potential terrorist:

“Photography by itself is not a suspicious activity, and is protected by the First Amendment. Unfortunately the reliance by law enforcement officers to question, detain and interfere with lawful activities by photographers under the guise of preventing terrorist activities has become a daily occurrence. The abridgement of a constitutionally protected activity because of that erroneous belief is only reinforced by your generalized statements and the depiction of photography as some sinister act.”

Source: NPPA Protests TSA Poster Depicting “Suspicious” Photographer

The United States vs. Photography

Starting this week we will begin an in depth look at how each of the 50 United States perceives photography by looking at each state’s Department of Homeland Security web page. We will start with Alabama and then move to Alaska. From there, we’ll continue alphabetically through all 50 states, compiling them in our list, “The United States vs. Photography.”

The process should take a couple of weeks to complete, and each state will be graded using our own Photography Advisory System, which is a parody system based on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Advisory System. But rather than using our system to manufacture terror and instill fear in the public, we will do the opposite, and use our system to show how paranoid our government is when it involves people taking photos in public.

We also hope that our research will help advise photographers and tourists on which states are not friendly to them. We don’t want anyone unlawfully detained, harassed or arrested for exercising their First Amendment rights within a state that will happily take your money but not respect your constitutional rights.

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