We have been following cases of police detaining or arresting people who either photograph them or photograph public scenes in this country and other countries like England. The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) has been repeated criticized for stopping citizens engaged in entirely lawful photography. The latest such victim is Christopher Fussell who kept the camera running (below) during the confrontation where officers displayed a complete lack of knowledge of the existing laws — and rights of citizens.
In the Youtube postings below, Fussell shows the confrontation at the Baltimore Cultural Light Rail Station.
Here are some highlights:
Fussell: “It is my understanding that I am free to take pictures as long as it’s not for commercial purposes but for personal use.”
Officer: “Not on state property, not without proper authorization.”
Fussell: “From who?”
Officer: “Nobody’s allowed to take pictures.”
. . .
Officer: “Listen, listen to what I’m saying. The Patriot Act says that critical infrastructure, trains, train stations, all those things require certain oversight to take pictures, whether you say they are for personal use or whatever, that’s your story,” the officer said.
Fussell: “So why don’t you have any signs posted to say I cannot take pictures?”
The MTA admits that the officers were wrong but only says it will consider new training efforts and not any discipline. The problem is that civil libertarians have long charged that this is an effort to create a chilling effect by continually questioning citizens. The officers on the video below say that citizens should expect to be questioned whenever they photograph a train station. What is most striking is how irrational it is. A true terrorist could conceal such cameras, use existing photographs, or satellite images, including Google Earth.