Photography Probable Cause for Suspicion of Terrorist Activity

Discussion in 'Street and Documentary' started by chad_hahn, Aug 1, 2008.

  1. I was listening to Democracy Now today and they were talking about video taping protests. One of the speakers said that after 9/11 the L.A.
    police department gave guidelines of activities, criminal and not that the officers should take as precursors of terrorist activity. One of those
    activities was photography and videotaping. The L.A.P.D. passed these guidelines on to other police departments around the country.

    Even though photography is not illegal, police are told to consider photography a suspect endeavor.

  2. Did the guidelines say that photography and videography by themselves were possible indicators, or that photography and videography near sensitive sites or of unusual subjects (e.g. close up of ECM equipment on El Al jet) was a possible indicator? If the former, the person who wrote the guideline is encouraging busy police to create unnecessary conflict. I still perceive that a lot of the current conflict stems from uneducated private security, and less from the police themselves. In any case, the ultimate determination of whether specific conduct constitutes probable cause is determined by the court, not the police, but of course by then the police have already arrested you.
  3. From what I gathered listening to the show it was photography itself that was suspicious activity. The show did deal with videotaping protests to
    document overzealous police actions. But I think the L.A.P.D. guidelines were something totally separate.

  4. Democracy Now is a radical left program. Enough said already.
  5. I guess Autistic kids are just spoiled brats since that was said on a right wing program.

  6. Individuals who carry on long conversations on pay or cellular telephones.
    Individuals drawing pictures or taking notes in an area not normally of interest to a tourist or showing unusual interest in or photographing security cameras, guard locations, or watching security reaction drills and procedures.
    It does look like it mostly concerned with photographing police, but then of course that is exactly what people do at demonstrations.
  7. "I guess Autistic kids are just spoiled brats since that was said on a right wing program."

    Correction: first, this was said on a radical right wing program and therefor should be met with skepticism; second, this was not said at all; if you had heard or read the whole discussion, you would have known.
  8. For those of us who like to watch or listen to something before commenting on it, here are links to the two photography related stories in the program.
    Their guest was from, an organization that connects people who have video with people who need it-- as they describe in this segment of the program where they show what appears to have been a bicycle rider knocked to the ground last week by a NYPD officer. That officer then allegedly filed a false arrest report. A bystander caught the whole thing on video.

    The next segment was a discussion about Fusion Centers. About 35 or 40 minutes into the program, Mike German, a former FBI special agent and terrorism analyst, said:

    ...the Los Angeles Police Department issued an order compelling their officers to report criminal and non-criminal suspicious behavior that can be indicative of terrorism, and they listed sixty-five behaviors. And Erin mentioned some of them, but one warning I’ll put out there, because of the early part of this story, one of the precursor behaviors to terrorism that’s identified in the order is taking video. And we put in our report a couple of instances where people taking video were stopped by police officers simply for taking pictures or video. And in some cases, particularly where they’re taking photographs or video of police, it actually resulted in arrests. So, you know, when you’re out there with your video camera, a police officer reading this report may say that’s a precursor behavior to terrorism and, you know, get involved in what you’re doing.

    That was just part of it. The rest of the Fusion Center story is pretty scary.
    Take a look at the story, Frans, and see if what's happening out there is in sync with your values.

    I know I'm not going to be looking at this guy the same again.

  9. According to the New York Daily News:
    WOR radio talk show host Michael Savage, who makes a good living being outrageous, found himself in the middle of a new firestorm Monday after he branded most autistic children fakers who just need tougher parenting. "In 99% of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they're silent?" Savage said last week in remarks that lit up the Internet over the weekend. "They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz.'
    NY Daily News
    Looks like he did say basically what I said.
    Damon, thanks for posting that. I didn't even try to look for a Democracy Now transcript. I didn't think it would be up. The Fusion Centers did sound pretty scary. I think even the right wingers would be against that with their talk of the posse comitatus act. Or was that just in the 90s? Chad
  10. grow a beard and wear a kaftan next time you go out and you'll get your photo taken for free
  11. In response to, "One of those activities was photography and videotaping.", does this include the LAPD or any police or law
    enforcement officer? Why do they think others' photographing is suspect but not themselves? And all those surveillence
    cameras? Somehow their paradigm is skewed and blind, both about photographers and about civil rights.
  12. As someone who occasionally photographs in LA's Union Station and the subway system, I was told by both MTA
    and security at the Union Station that photography is allowed. I carry a copy of the email stating this from MTA. This
    was last year so unless things have changed, LAPD are making up their own laws. Besides, the subways are
    monitored by sheriff's both in uniform as well as plain clothes. I have yet to questioned but I figure sooner or later it
    will happen. Perhaps this is why I'm shooting there less (although I'm shooting my last two Delta 3200 rolls today).
  13. I might add to that this whole terrorist nonsense can easily be handled by closing off our northern and southern borders and regulating who comes into the US. Every other country in the world does this, it's time for the US to do as well otherwise the deaths on 9/11 will stand for nothing.
  14. Maybe if you strapped on a bomb vest and handgun, it wouldn't be the photography the police were worried about. Camouflage couldn't hurt either. JR
  15. "I might add to that this whole terrorist nonsense can easily be handled by closing off our northern and southern borders and
    regulating who comes into the US. Every other country in the world does this, it's time for the US to do as well otherwise the
    deaths on 9/11 will stand for nothing."

    The 9/11 hijackers were here on student visas.

  16. This is the problem. Instead of using a surgical scalpel our authorities use a baseball bat. Unfortunately some people knowledge of how a totalitarian system operates is limited to moviies like "Clockwork Orange". The cynical radical left understand it and use scaremongering to advance their agenda.
    I shot many pictures in Israel where the threat of terrorism is part of everyday life and I was asked only once not to take pictures of a specific building.
  17. Being a Liberal, Conservative, Radical, Existential Atheist with no political agenda whatsoever, I find Democracy Now to be an informative alternative news source. I also listen to BBC, Deutsche Velo, NPR because the commercial news we get here in the good old US of A just bites.

    After being in Vietnam I stopped worrying about whether I was in danger. I had been in danger, so why worry. I didn't have any control over what was going to happen from moment to moment. Your life is only marginally in your hands. Live it to the fullest for it can end momentarily, and you can't do a thing about it.

    I shoot what I want, when I want. Only once has a cop asked me what I was doing. I answered him as I continued to shoot, and he left me to what I was doing. Life is too short to worry about whether you're going to step over the line. If you answer the cops civilly and honestly, there is rarely any problem. If someone tells you to stop shooting a particular subject, ask why without attitude. Don't argue! There may be a good reason.

    The cynical radical left or right use exactly the same tactics of scaremongering. They are after all just opposite sides of the same coin. There is no right or wrong, black or white, good or evil in this discussion. It's all shades of grey. Unfortunately, there are only a few of us that have come to that realization.
  18. "Every other country in the world does this, it's time for the US to do as well otherwise the deaths on 9/11 will stand for nothing."

    Please get a clue before posting nonsense like this. Greece is overflowing with illegal immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan who are fleeing from wars in their home countries. There are illegal immigrants everywhere: Spain, England, Mexico. There always have been and there always will be. Some illegal immigrants even died in 9/11. What do they stand for in your skinny little book?

    I suggest you buy a map and look at the size of the northern and southern US borders and compare them to the borders of "every other country." Second, I suggest you stay on topic.

    As a generation of photographers, we're dealing with the peripheral effects of an ignorant, knee-jerk reaction to terrorist attacks. I wonder whether Tel-Aviv, where terrorist attacks are far more frequent, has ordered its police officers to pay special attention to suspicious picture takers
  19. >> Damon, thanks for posting that.

    My pleasure, Chad. And thank you for bringing this to our attention. I've reposted those links to a couple of other places, and I wouldn't have thought to do if it hadn't been posted here first.

    I love Amy Goodman and Democracy Now-- I watch the TV version on Link TV. They have a great team there.
  20. "this whole terrorist nonsense can easily be handled by closing off our northern and southern borders and regulating who comes into the US."

    in which case the only terrorists will be the ones with uniforms on.

    marc, why don't we round up everyone who doesnt look like you and place them in concentration camps? we'll use their forced slave labor to rebuild america! we can be great again!

    and franz, i sure hope you enjoy watching fox news. just think, if the cops would have arrested the guy who shot the rodney king video and destroyed his tape, the LAPD would never have had the embarassment of having to put the nice officers to trial. and we all know how that ended up...

    (getting back on topic) chad and damon, thanks for the informative post. the definition of 'suspicious activity' seems to depend on who is doing the suspecting. politics aside, this subject keeps coming up in this forum. my advice is to carry a business card identifying oneself as a photographer (a press pass is even better). that way it's easier to talk yourself out of any situation.
  21. Political correctness prevents this Eric. Middle Eastern men in their 20's which fit the profile for most terrorists are not detained at airports. Only little old ladies with knitting needles and pregnant women with bottled breast milk. Does this make you feel safer?
  22. "why don't we round up everyone who doesnt look like you..". Prime example of hysterical approach that lacks any understanding of today's terrorist ideology, instead of encouraging professional solutions. In the meantime we, the photographers and "little old ladies with knitting needles " suffer.
  23. Exactly my point Sam. Thanks.
  24. Tim McVeigh was not a Middle Eastern man in his 20's, and most people who are are from the Levant are not terrorists
    either, so ethnic profiling isn't an intelligent solution either.

    But in any case McVeigh, the 9/11 attackers and London and Madrid bombers, all had this in common, according to
    Britain's The Guardian, not one of them used photography or video surveillance of their targets. So the LAPD and other
    cops are wooly thinkers who are not acting in a manner that will deter real terrorists when they go after photographers.
  25. Oh I forgot, our other two native US terrorists Eric Robert Rudolph and Ted Kaczynski also did not use photography in
    planning their bombings.
  26. Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
    Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759
    If one knows LAPD's history then all one has To Say is "Rodney King" to understand why they view video as a threat. You have to understand the pyschology a little here. LAPD has had nothing but issues with video and photos. So they do veiw it as possible threat to their work so they will try and neutralize the issue.
    Also they are using video as a covert way monitor possible threat targets, such as people protesting or disagreeing with police and governmental policies so they view everyone elses as doing the same. So it makes sense for the to want to eliminate the threat.
  27. marc, have you forgotten you're the one who advocated for "closing off our northern and southern borders and regulating who comes into the US"? that's PC alright--if your name is John Ashcroft. and in case you missed it, i was being sarcastic in order to make a point about how ridiculous your statement is. the point was made earlier that sealing the borders wouldn't have prevented 9/11, but you chose to ignore that. you go on to say: "Middle Eastern men in their 20's which fit the profile for most terrorists are not detained at airports." fit the profile for MOST terrorists? how do you come to this conclusion? is there some sort of a master list of all terrorists everywhere you have access to which indicates the overwhelming majority of them are of middle-eastern ethnicity? actually, most middle eastern men in their 20s are peace-loving individuals, and plenty of them have been detained at airports since 9/11 due to hysteria, not sarcasm. your notion of who fits a terrorist profile is a highly-politicized one (obviously) which may have little to do with actual terrorists. i'll just give you two examples of actual terrorists who didnt fit your profile: timothy mcveigh and bruce ivins. closing the borders to immigrants, as you advocated, wouldnt have prevented the anthrax letters nor the oklahoma city bombing. interestingly, though, you hit the nail on the head when you said, "unless things have changed, LAPD are making up their own laws." that's the problem in a nutshell: in a climate where fear and hysteria outstrip common sense and facts, law enforcement are increasingly not subject to public accountability for their actions. in many other countries, photographers or other citizens dont have any expectation of civil liberties, such as freedom of expression. sam, i'm not concerned with "understanding today's terrorist ideology" which sounds like something Pat Buchanan would say. i'm more concerned with the erosion of civil liberties in the name of "homeland security" which affects photographers, little old ladies, and other non-terrorists. but it does get my dander up when people make bigoted, racist statements based more on ignorance than fact, which only fuels hysteria.
  28. I was reading today about how the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) can confiscate electronic devices entering this
    country for an indefinite amount of time for no stated reason and share the information with other agencies.

    Enter this country or return from a trip abroad and the government can seize your laptop or digital camera.

    They used to say the Terrorists hate us for our freedoms. I guess soon they won't have any reason to hate us.

  29. "Enter this country or return from a trip abroad and the government can seize your laptop or digital camera. "

    not just laptops and digicams, chad, but cell phones, mp3 players, PDAs, etc.. this is scary as it's not confined to people who fit a "terrorist" profile but could be anyone at anytime for any reason. the potential for abuse (identity theft, fraud, invasion of privacy, etc.) far outweighs the benefits. it's highly possible this policy will be challenged as unconstitutional but in the meantime, we're stuck with it.

    in the words of KRS-One, "you were put here to protect us/ but who protects us from you"?
  30. When was the last time one of you confronted your City Council or higher elected representatives about these
    kinds of things? I call and write to take them to task for trying to infringe on my rights. Sometimes I even
    change a decision by my actions. I never, ever give up my personal freedom. No one can take that away. I have to
    give it up myself by giving into unfounded fear.

    So, of what are you all afraid? Has anything happened to you or anyone you know personally that justifies your
    fear. All that is mentioned here is what you've read or heard on the radio. How valid is that for forming
    opinions? Be a street photographer without fear or go shoot weddings.

    Eric, they weren't put here to protect us. They were put here to control us if we agree to let them.
  32. it should be obvious that citizen video recordings and/or photos are a leading cause of police brutality cases being widely known and/or held up to accountability.that's why i'm skeptical of any stretching of the definition of terrorism to include innocent citizens and journalists who just happen to be shooting photos or video of cops.

    for instance, here's a link to a recent assault in nyc caught on video:

    the police clearly terrorized this poor individual, yet without this video, it's unlikely there would have been any sanctions against the officers involved.
  33. Even though photography is not illegal, police are told to consider photography a suspect endeavor.
    Some of the most striking images from the recent times (Abu Ghraib-torture images, Saddam Hussein execution, etc) came from the most oppressive/fortified of places. Technology has taken a big leap and people (not 007s) do photograph anything and everything.
  34. The point of terrorism is 'terror'. It seems that terrorists are succeeding quite well in that respect.

    I do not know of a rifht way to deal with terrorism, I do know of a wrong way. Simply forbidding individuals to photo- or
    videograph is not the way, nor is detaining their electronic equipment.

    The problem is that government will always react slowly and wrongly to new threats. Sheep that most of us citizens
    are, we just go about our business and not notice/ make our objections heard.

    We as a people deserve the government we get. I am from the Netherlands by the way. We are nowhere near as
    strict as you guys are, but I have flown to England, which is a whole different ball game.

    Taking off my shoes, that is just insane. If I were a trained martial artist I could take out everybody on the plane in a
    matter of minutes and smash the plane in a busy city. I would not need bomb shoes. So that is the problem, right
    there: government is fighting last years war.

    Not to say government shouldn't take actions. But they need to be informed, smart and to the point. Not 'knee-jerk'
    as someone above has already stated.
  35. I was stopped and written up for taking photography suspiciously in a high street in London by a couple of community support officers. I was waiting for my wife who was shopping with her sister and using the opportunity to shoot some urban architecture (ugly as hell) and interesting faces.

    I think the main reason (other than keeping up their figures for handing out pointless bits of paper) is the last photos I took before they came over was of them.
  36. Roeland, It is alright with the shoe removal but to explain why they would ask one and not the other ("we pick out every third person in the line") shows how stupid and wasteful they are.

    Duncan, Perhaps they were conscious of their figure? Walking the streets is a good exercise. :)
  37. "Tim McVeigh was not a Middle Eastern man in his 20's, and most people who are are from the Levant are not terrorists either, so ethnic profiling isn't an intelligent solution either."

    Jesus H. The guys who flew jets into the Towers were not Irish American members of Sein Fein, either. Don't be telling me that if you are looking for Al Qaeda or any other brand of Islamic extremist that it doesn't make sense to do ethnic profiling. I swear to God, some people have become so open minded that their brains have spilled out onto the sidewalk. And by the way, I was voting Democrat before Bush pissed the rest of you off.

    Now, can we get back to photography?
  38. The point is that you can't tell who the terrorists are by skin color. They said the anthrax killer was Iraqi, then when the
    American killed himself they said he did it.

    Spending all our efforts worrying about one group of people with a grudge will let all the others be free to do what they will.

  39. A couple of years ago I was pulled over by a cop after taking some pictures of an oil refinery. He said my options were to delete ALL of the images on my camera, or to give the camera to him so he could send it to the FBI for analysis. I deleted the pictures...

    There are probably 1000 people who take pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge every day. Why aren't they all arrested???
  40. The radical leftist 'Democracy Now' radio program also extensively covered the carnage in East Timor a few years ago, which was supported by the Clinton administration, when few others were talking about it. So if they're leftist, they're my kind of leftist radio program. I understand the bias of the show's producer, but still listen because I'm mature and intelligent enough to filter the truth from the Bovine Scatology. But I usually find more truth on Democracy Now than the usual pablum served up by the cable news channels.

  41. I agree, I don't often listen to the program because it makes me too mad. But I find that it is a lot more balance than the
    mainstream media's coverage of thing.

    They actually get both sides of the story and let the people on both sides speak with out getting shouted down.

    I was listening to a story about how army recruiters were strong arming teenagers into enlisting and had the army's head of
    recruitment on. He had a bunch of no comments and kept saying that the recruitment program was fine but he was getting a
    chance to speak.

    I wonder if an anti-recruitment activist would have the same chance to speak on Fox "News" or CNN.


Share This Page