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. 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…

  2. Former Federal LEO,

    Thanks for the ride… for taking me back. Great addition to the thread.

  3. 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?

  4. Former Fed,
    Great lyrics from a great folk group.
    I understand your idea, but I would not give those SOB’s the time of day.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Two words: Google Earth.

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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.

  11. 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…

  12. 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.

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