Video: Maryland Transit Authority Detains Man For Taking Pictures of Train Station

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?”

Good question.

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.

Source: CBS

Jonathan Turley

34 thoughts on “Video: Maryland Transit Authority Detains Man For Taking Pictures of Train Station

  1. Sigh. When are our public officials going to wake up to the reality that it is impossible to prevent terrorists from photographing areas open to the public? Not in an age when miniaturized cameras can be concealed in a hat or a pair of eyeglasses. All these no-photo policies accomplish is harassment of innocent citizens and wasting of law enforcement resources.

    (Different story with nuclear plants, but civilians aren’t supposed to be able to get onto those facilities, and the potential casualties from an attack number in the millions.)

    Give these MTA cops a little credit, though. They’re stuck with having to enforce an irrational policy that seems to have been poorly explained to them. True, they interrogated Fussell but the video indicates they stayed mostly polite and actually reasoned with Fussell over the policy. (You can hear them defending it – “Don’t you understand what happened on 9/11?”) They didn’t arrest him or beat him up – sad we have to fear that from police officers, but that stuff does happen…

  2. This is crazy. For one thing, no “terrorist” or “spy” is going to be taking pictures with a full size video or still camera. It is too easy to use a cell phone or smart phone and conceal what you are doing. A couple of our family members have smart phones and I never know whether I am being photographed or if they are playing video games. The police would not either. One wonders if a news crew interviewing a news source would have been hassled by this officer.

    As has been pointed out here before, some citizens have been arrested for taking pictures of police misconduct, alleging they were “interfering” with the police, even though the pictures were being taken from a distance. In one case, the photographer had a miniature camera on his motorcycle helmet and did not turn it off when an off-duty officer in civilian clothes pulled a gun on him.

    Some people have been detained for taking tourist photos of streets and buildings in cities. There has to be better training and supervision, but I am not going to hold my breath.

  3. Glenn Greenwald has quoted two Senators who said the govt. has a secret interpretation of the Patriot Act, which they are not allowed to reveal as it is classified. These senators also said people would be very disturbed if they knew the parameters of that secret interpretation.

    Color me disturbed by the patriot act as is. But suppose these police state actions are exactly what the govt. authorizes in its secret memos? Clearly, people were very upset when Bush had his multiple secret “interpretations” in force as “law”. Where is the upset about Obama’s secret “laws”. When people acquiesce to injustice they only encourage more injustice. Illegality doesn’t have a party as excuse to ignore it. A govt. which tramples on our civil liberties is dangerous–period.

  4. This article is very well written: “Published on Thursday, June 2, 2011 by Black Agenda Report
    The Obama Surveillance State
    by Margaret Kimberley

    “The state security apparatus which came into being during the Bush administration is now supported just as strongly, if not more so, under president Barack Obama. There has been no let up, no change in course for a system which becomes stronger with each passing day and which faces almost no political opposition.

    The Obama justice department recently asserted that it can withhold classified information from a federal judge. Federal judges have security clearances and are permitted to see classified information in cases brought before them. The Obama justice department says that only the executive branch has the power to determine what information courts ought to have. The government attorney asserted, “There is no right for the plaintiff to give the court classified information at all.” The federal judge was so stunned that she described herself as “literally speechless” over the government claim that she ought to be kept in the dark.

    The case in question is a remnant of the worst abuses brought about by the Bush administration, involving the kidnapping and rendition of Muslim cleric Abu Omar in Milan, Italy in 2003. A former CIA operative with State Department cover is now suing the federal government because it did not protect her right to diplomatic immunity. That operative was found guilty in absentia in an Italian court and faces arrest should she ever travel to Europe again. Now the Obama administration is once again protecting the Bush abuses which its supporters thought would now be long gone.

    This is not the only instance of the current justice department moving forward with Bush administration prosecutions. Thomas Drake is a former employee of the National Security Administration now charged with violating the Espionage Act. He faces 35 years in prison, having been accused of giving documents to a reporter. Candidate Obama said he would protect the rights of whistle blowers, but now as president he tries to send them to jail. The Obama administration has brought five Espionage Act prosecutions to court, more than all other past administrations combined.

    Not content to defend Bush era abuses, and send whistle blowers to jail, Obama and Congress have extended the Patriot Act, without changes, yet again. Two Democratic members of the intelligence committee, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, were not only among those who voted no, but they also exposed how the act is being interpreted in a new and dangerous way by the administration. The Obama justice department has decided to interpret the act in a way which it will not reveal to the public. In other words, the government has a secret way of determining what is and isn’t legal but will not share that secret with congress or with the people. Orwell and Kafka would find new sources of inspiration with this president.

    Now that Osama bin Laden is dead we are told that his death proves the need to continue doing away with civil liberties. When George W. Bush was president, I and many others often used the word fascism to describe the growth of government powers and the diminution of our rights. Now that those very same assertions of executive power are being made by Barack Obama, should we not continue to raise the same concerns?

    The sad fact is that the surveillance state has strong bi-partisan support and it is likely to only expand. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were the impetus for the Patriot Act and wars of aggression, but events which ought to signal a return to normalcy never do. The death of Osama bin Laden was supposed to make us safer. That is what we have been told for nearly ten years.

    Now that he is dead we are told that his death proves the need to continue doing away with civil liberties. We are told that we still have to fight endless wars and that we can’t ever get our rights back. Attorney General Eric Holder summed it all up for us. “Now more than ever, we need access to the crucial authorities in the Patriot Act.” Perhaps we were better off when bin Laden was still alive.

    Conservative Bill Kristol hit the nail on the head when he called Barack Obama a “born again neo-con.” Kristol had reason for this high praise after the president sought out his advice before telling the world that he intended to make war against Libya. The right wing who Democrats use to keep unqualified support in their ranks are now getting off-line access to the man we are told must be protected from them. Of course that doesn’t make any sense, and neither do efforts to come to Obama’s defense on civil liberties or on any other issues either.”
    © 2011 Black Agenda Report

  5. “A govt. which tramples on our civil liberties is dangerous-period.” -Jill

    ..and trampling it is. In ways big and small. Who will have the courage to tell the truth? That’s the question.

    This is not small potatoes — this is about egregious civil-rights violations. This is about “activities” that should not, under any circumstances, be permitted. Either Obama knows. Or he doesn’t. And I’m not sure which is worse.

  6. Fascism is on the march. Our dictator for another day is on the move. If he cannot murder you (the best option for despots but carries a tad too much bad press what with 24/7 news coverage) he will prefer to ruin your life with an arrest record for doing things a citizen ought to have the right to do.

    There is a reason why the fascist totalitarians in D.C. give material support to terrorists by letting them enter the country through immigration and letting them visit the USA. That reason is to grind your face into the dirt and salute the thug who did it to you. (Pay for it too).

    So are we still letting Muslims become citizens these days?

    Truth be told, the US GOVERNMENT NEEDS THE TERRORISTS here in the USA in order to give cover for the totalitarian police state it wishes to establish. You cannot overthrow the Constitution if the American people are free. That won’t do. How will Obama expand the US government’s best jobs program (the totalitarian security and surveillance state) unless he can persuade you that bad guys other than his supremely vile self are after you?

    Kid after kid that I run into these days is going into “forensics” or planning to work for the DHS or security. These are middle class kids by the way. That is what this has come down to: masters degrees in brown-shirt thuggery. They’ve already swallowed the kool aid. They are prepping to swallow you and me with diploma in hand and big grins on their faces.

    Obama needs you to wet yourself so he can stomp his jackboot on your neck. He enjoys the suffering of others. He wants to get in your face. He wants to do what mass murdering governments of the past have done: pit one segment of society against another by call one side the “enemy”. When a government official does that: look out. A madman is in charge.

    Why do you think Obama is pushing mass transit down the states throats anyway? No one but welfare bums and rich people who won’t travel on them want it. Middle class Americans have always cherished the freedom they enjoyed with their automobiles. That won’t do either. Besides how will the perverts in the government get to sexually molest you whenever they want if you are shut up in your own car? And how will the government control where you go unless it can track you with modes of transport they force on you and control?

    Democrats had two full years to reinstate liberty and freedom. They failed completely. Not only that, they escalated their assaults on them. The only party with anyone talking about liberty (just barely) is the GOP. And that would be through Ron Paul. And the GOP is desperately trying to get rid of him. Not even that loon Kucinich is a lover of liberty (like Dr. Paul). He loathes it and is caught accidentally defending it only in when it is done in the manner that an unwound clock can ever be the correct: by undirected consequences driven by mindless order.

    If you are not interested in a president (Ron Paul) who can veto liberty robbing legislation you are simply not interested in living free.

    Be sure to read the good doctor’s latest article on the American dictatorship at Anti War online.

  7. Remember General Honoré, the man charged with bringing order to New Orleans after Katrina? (the guy who always said “over” when he finished speaking)

    As the troops were rolling in, General Honoré was standing on a New Orleans street corner being interviewed by CNN. He interrupted the interview, walked into the middle of the street and started yelling at the soldiers in one of the convoy trucks, “Lower your weapons, lower your weapons … this is not a war zone … these are citizens … lower your god damn weapons now!”

    He didn’t tell them to put down their weapons, simply to lower them so as not to further threaten the citizens.

    That’s an order that should be shouted at all law enforcement and governmental agencies … LOWER YOUR GOD DAMN WEAPONS … WE ARE CITIZENS!

  8. That’s an order that should be shouted at all law enforcement and governmental agencies … LOWER YOUR GOD DAMN WEAPONS … WE ARE CITIZENS! -Blouise

    Well said, Blouise, the whole of it. I’m not a bumper-stick kind o’ gal, but that would be a good one.

    Thanks for recounting that story, Blouise… and thanks, too, for the positive thoughts, relating to your comment on another thread yesterday…


    Summary: “This piece argues that the United States has become a “post-legal society” regarding the state of national security, and that intelligence employees often operate “above the law.” The author includes a section on national security whistleblowers, a group of people he states still “remain in the ‘legal’ crosshairs,” detailing the severe retaliation by the Bush and Obama administrations against such whistleblowers as Thomas Drake, Jeffrey Sterling, and Bradley Manning. -Government Accountability Project

    Key Quote: “If, however, you happen to be an NSA employee who feels that the agency has overstepped the bounds of legality in its dealings with Americans, that it is moving in Orwellian directions, and that it should be exposed, and if you offer even unclassified information to a newspaper reporter, as was the case with Thomas Drake, be afraid, be very afraid. You may be prosecuted by the Bush and then Obama Justice Departments, and threatened with 35 years in prison under the Espionage Act (not for “espionage,” but for having divulged the most minor of low-grade state secrets in a world in which, increasingly, everything having to do with the state is becoming a secret).”

  10. anon nurse,

    It would be impossible for Obama, “not to know”. It was the WH who briefed the Senators. We are in really bad shape here.

  11. Buddha,

    Yes, I’m aware of some of the “persecution” activities… It’s ugly business…, but thanks for the link. Unbelievably ugly business…

    War is Peace. 1984 has come a little late…

  12. Jill on June 2, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    anon nurse,

    It would be impossible for Obama, “not to know”. It was the WH who briefed the Senators. We are in really bad shape here.



    I suppose that, on some level, I don’t want to believe that he would know and let it continue. Those old blinders that one dons from time to time…

    Regarding, “We are in really bad shape here.”

    Yes, we are.

  13. anon nurse,

    I understand. It is so scary and so appalling that I think it is very difficult to wrap our minds around just how extensive the corruption is.

  14. Jill on June 2, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    anon nurse,

    I understand. It is so scary and so appalling that I think it is very difficult to wrap our minds around just how extensive the corruption is.



    I think that you’re probably aware, given some of my comments that go back well over a year now, that I’m personally caught up in this… It wears a person down.

    You’re correct — it’s terrifying and unbelievably “appalling.” And the corruption is deeper and more pervasive than I ever could have imagined…

  15. I have a friend that was vacationing in Allende’s Chile. He saw a beautiful ornate building & took a couple of pictures. Two men showed up at his hotel room later that day & dragged him in shackles back to that building, it was a local police building. He was held for three days, worked over a bit, forced to stay awake while they demanded to know why he was taking pictures of the police station. At some point they decided he was just a stupid tourist so they let him go minus a very expensive camera and all his film, exposed or otherwise.

    Yeah, like that.

  16. As an architect who works on public transit projects, I have the distinct pleasure of going out a few times a year to take notes on and photograph public transit facilities….

    I haven’t been hassled yet, but I expect I will eventually. I currently don’t bother to request a “special letter” or similar from the agency explaining what I’m doing. We’ll see how the inevitable goes…

  17. The Maryland ACLU has thorough coverage of it at this link, including this detailed letter to the MTA.  

    Despite past claims to do better, they haven’t changed their ways & they’re not likely to do so this time either.  Lawsuits & judicially imposed consent decrees are the only way to get their sincere attention.

  18. The next picture takin’ man may never return…


    The Kingston Trio

    SPOKEN: These are the times that try men’s souls. In the course of our nation’s history the people of Boston have rallied bravely whenever the rights of men have been threatened. Today, a new crisis has arisen. The Metropolitan Transit Authority, better known as the MTA, is attempting to levy a burdensome tax
    on the population in the form of a subway fare increase. Citizens, hear me out! This could happen to you!!

    Well, let me tell you of the story of a man named Charlie
    On a tragic and fateful day
    He put ten cents in his pocket, kissed his wife and family
    Went to ride on the MTA

    Well did he ever return, no he never returned
    And his fate is still unlearned (what a pity)
    He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston
    He’s the man who never returned

    Charlie handed in his dime at the Kendall Square station
    And he changed for Jamaica Plain
    When he got there, the conductor told him one more nickel
    Charlie couldn’t get off of that train.

    But did he ever return, no he never returned
    And his fate is still unlearned (poor old Charlie)
    He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston
    He’s the man who never returned

    Now all night long Charlie rides through the station
    Crying what will become of me?
    How can I afford to see my sister in Chelsea?
    Or my cousin in Roxbury?

  19. Maybe photographers ought to hire the legal eagles at the Westboro Baptist Church. They make a living suing everyone in sight that hassles them or touches one of them.

    Go to YouTube and search “photographer hassled.” A lot of them are of private security guards giving photographers in the street a hard time for doing things like taking pictures of buildings. The more offensive the behavior of the building owner, the more aggressive the guards. Oil companies and some of the big financial institutions really dislike their buildings photographed. They send private security guards out on public sidewalks to order photographers to stop taking pictures of the building.

  20. Two words: Google Earth.

    When technology changes faster than laws can be written, the laws will always be several mutations behind.

  21. I’m from Baltimore, so this doesn’t surprise me. Most trains have a sign on them telling people to ALERT AUTHORITIES if they see someone photographing stations or train equipment.

  22. Sigh.

    Personally I think this guy is a hero.

    And I also have to offer some props to the MTA officers, wrong as they were, for at least keeping it polite and making an attempt to explain what they considered the issue was. I kept waiting for the patience bubble to burst.

  23. how many pictures of the world trade center and the pentagon did the 16 saudi, 2 uae, 1 lebanese, and 1 egyptian take before hijacking the four aircraft and flying them into the buildings? or of the airport or the aircraft used?

    do they have proof of any terrorist photographing their target before attacking?

  24. It’s actually very illegal to take pictures or record on MTA subways in New York City. Or so I’ve heard. Now I want to find the actual law…

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