Saturday, August 01, 2009

We Are Not Terrorists

According to Janet Nepolitano, I could be considered a terrorist simply because I might be taking photographs that don’t make any sense. Ask my wife, I often take photographs that don’t make any sense. What she actually said was “...somebody continually taking photographs of a piece of critical infrastructure that doesn’t make any sense…” I guess the fear mongering continues with the new administration.

I can’t even tell you how disappointed I am in this continued fear based approach to fight terrorism in a way that makes little sense. And before you let me know that it’s OK, even prudent to do so, please consider that about 200M Americans carry cell phones. A very large percentage of those people have a camera in that cell phone with a large enough resolution to provide any kind of detail needed. And let’s not forget the presence of images on the web that would provide the same information. And how about the ability to get precise coordinates of a building, bridge or “piece of critical infrastructure” from Google Earth.

The considerable waste of time associated with checking out photographers being reported by “concerned citizens” would seem to be a woefully wasted use of security resources. Is it really something that is going to prevent a terrorist attack or is it just a means to make everyone feel safer by appearing to do something, anything, to be ”vigilant?” I’ll go with the latter.

Let’s try an example. There are 222,532 results on flickr for “Brooklyn Bridge.” Out of that 200K+ images I would imagine a pretty good idea of it’s structure can be had. If I, as photographer, would park my LF camera on a tripod somewhere on it’s structure how long would it take a “concerned citizen” to question my motives, decide that what I was photographing didn’t make sense and call the appropriate authorities. Since I’m inept at using a LF camera I think there might actually be time for a cop to show up, question me, my intent and promptly remove me from the scene. Another threat stopped in the war on terror.

But if it really is someone intent on harming us and our loved ones, I can imagine the scenario going like this. The bad guy pulls out his cell phone, looks over the side and makes an image. Maybe he even pulls out a DLSR that automatically does everything and does the same thing. Twenty or so people see this, assuming that anyone is paying attention at all, and maybe one makes a call. Some period of time later the proper authority shows up. A conversation ensues, a description is given and the hunt is on for a person of unknown heritage that has taken an image of the bridge. Of course it’s unlikely that this person is ever found because this isn’t Hollywood and the image is sent to the other bad guys to determine the best way to bring harm to your loved ones and mine. A terrorist threat not stopped. At least not in this way.

Simply ridiculous. And simply a wasteful use of precious security resources and an absolute and utterly wasted effort by all involved.

But the concern is even more of an issue as we continually lose more and more of our freedoms as this ”war” continues. Over in Great Britain there is a concentrated effort to arrest anyone who would dare take a photograph. Under the The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 the British Parliament gave wide sweeping powers to the police to arrest persons exhibiting suspicious behavior with the power to confiscate property. There are widespread reports of police abuse, persons being detained under this act for photographing in a suspicious manner, film being confiscated, demands to delete images, etc., all in the name of making the British citizens safer. How long do you think it will be before a similar law is passed in the United States?

Now I’m all for due diligence, proper vigilance and the need to be wary in these trying days. But the scope of these times allow our government to legislate on fear and that’s even more scary than the terrorist themselves. Mark Twain said, “ Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it. “ I think this is as true today, possibly even more so, as when he said it in his day.

NPPA Letter to Homeland Security

Now I'm off to a place not remotely considered "critical infrastructure."

2 comments:

photo retouching services said...

That is shocking, especially when it is common knowledge that to get a good reportage shot you have to be secretive to capture the moment!

barbara bartz said...

I totally agree, this is madness.
Great blog btw!