Seattle Weekly photographer Steven Miller was just trying to take a photo of attorney Larry Hildes for a cover story on government spying when he got into a little trouble with the FBI. Despite being on a public sidewalk, Seattle’s FBI Building was serving as the backdrop, and that is really discouraged.
At first, security came out and told them not to shoot the building. Miller described their conversation:
He asked if we knew who was in the building. I answered, ‘The FBI and Washington Fusion Center.’ He asked what I had against the Washington Fusion Center. I declined to answer. He asked my name. I declined to answer that as well.”
Then an FBI agent appeared to get to the bottom of the situation. Miller said:
He asked for my ID repeatedly. I declined and we kept on shooting. He asked for my ID again. I said he didn’t have a right to it. He insisted he had a right to ask for my ID. I noted that I had a right to refuse. He said it again, and I told him I had a right to tell him to go jump in Elliott Bay, and pointed out the location for him.
Then there were three more FBI agents on the scene. I mean, of course. This was a four-agent incident. Miller says it got so stressful that he and Hildes left voluntarily.
When asked for comment, an FBI spokesperson said:
“We request people not take pictures. It’s a voluntary thing. People have the right to do so, but we do like to ask why as part of our security concerns.” As for the ID check. “I guess they wanted to know who they were.”
The thing that really bothers me about incidents like this is the self-important hysteria that goes along with it. It always make me wonder if law enforcement really don’t have anything better to do, or are they really dumb enough not to be able to distinguish between terrorists casing the place and a legitimate, or harmless, photographer?
And I’m not calling FBI agents dumb because I don’t think that can be the case, but I am honestly confused. Because government officials going after citizens doing legal activities does more toward eroding the fundamental tenets of American democracy than these outside forces we’re repeatedly told are trying to destroy our way of life are.
Article from Seattle Weekly