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Brian's Photo Blog — Article 285
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American Photographers Beware! (part 1)
Monday 23 September 2013   —   Category: Miscellaneous
Over the weekend I ran across a short but troubling article entitled Is the U.S. government tracking photographers? In it there were some links to related materials.

One document is a PDF of “suspicious activity reports” recorded by government agencies in central California over the past five years (download here). A fair number of these “suspicious activities” were photography-related.

A report last Thursday on NPR entitled ACLU Posts Fed-Collected 'Suspicious' Activity Reports Online features Los Angeles freelance photographer Hal Bergman and how he has been hassled by the FBI more than once over his photography.

In order to prepare and protect yourself as you legally take photographs in public places, you might want to consider investing in the Legal Handbook for Photographers: The Rights and Liabilities of Making Images by lawyer Bert P. Krages II.

At the very least, you should download the free PDF created by Mr. Krages called The Photographer’s Right, which is a flyer explaining your rights when stopped or confronted for photography. You can keep it in your camera bag, and even make copies to hand out to those who are hassling you over your legitimate right to photograph.

Next, there is a story recounted by a photographer who was visited by the FBI for taking a photo of a coastal area with a power plant in the background. After being hassled on the spot by the Port Authority, a month later the FBI dropped by his parents' house looking for him (full story here).

All of these accounts go to show that the terrorist have already won, because the government is in so much terror that they feel like they have to keep an eye on every photographer out there, just in case one of them really is a terrorist. And in the process, our cherished freedoms and civil liberties are trampled. As we move deeper and deeper into a police state, the level of paranoia amongst the government as well as the general population rises higher and higher.


I found this out a few years ago right in my own peaceful, all-American neighborhood. We had just moved to our new house near the edge of town. One time on my daily neighborhood walk I noticed that Marys Peak — the highest point in the Oregon Coast Range — was clearly visible. Standing next to a farmer’s fence near the sidewalk, I proceeded to take a few shots, zoomed all the way in so I could make the distant mountain as large as possible in the resulting photos.

Right as I was taking the photos, the farmer drives up and demands to know why I’m photographing his sheep! I told him that I wasn’t taking pictures of his sheep, but of Marys Peak in the background. He didn’t seem to believe my answer, but apparently he didn’t want to make a big deal, for he left without any further comment. Sheesh! Sheep! Did he imagine I was a sheep rustler scoping out his flock? Or a terrorist who was going to highjack his sheep and blow them up?

Well, as you can see from the next photo, I did eventually get around to taking pictures of his sheep. So there!

It seems like I have picked some dangerous hobbies. I have already written on my Your Islamic Future Web site about the threat of government prosecution of bloggers criticising Islam — see American Bloggers Beware! (part 1) and American Bloggers Beware! (part 2).

Last week I wrote about some leading Islamic experts saying that photography is unlawful and a sin — see The Un-Islamic Art of Photography. And now in today’s article we see that the American government is starting to agree. Sheesh! Maybe I’ll have to give up both blogging and photography, and pour my time and effort into a safer hobby — like raising sheep!

For my follow-up articles, see:
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 285
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Brian's Photo Blog — Article 285
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