Journalists Sue Government After Military Security Seizes Cameras And Deletes Photos Of Publicly-Visible Structures
from the abusive-powers-gorging-on-self-induced-paranoia dept
Photography is the new “driving while black.” Not that the original “driving while black” has actually vanished, what with New York City making “walking while black” the equivalent of reasonable suspicion, but now people of all races, even those normally somewhat immune to harassment, can join in on the “fun” of low-level oppression.
Two members of the Toledo (OH) Blade found themselves being screwed with by military security while taking photographs of stuff in plain sight. (via Poynter)
Mr. Linkhorn and Ms. Fraser were in Lima covering a Ford Motor Co. news conference at the automaker’s plant there. Afterward, they went to shoot photos of businesses in the area for future use, including the tank plant, which is also known as the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center.
The reporters were at the entry portions of the plant, in an area where no fence or gate restricted access, according to the complaint. They did not pass a guard hut, which is about 30 feet from Buckeye Road.
The Lima, OH tank plant is well known and has been photographed before. The company makes no secret about what it manufactures, having placed this right in front of its plant.
But because all things, even photography of visible structures, inevitably lead to terrorism, security at the Lima plant decided to step in and stop the two Blade employees from gathering any more “intel.”
Blade reporter Tyrel Linkhorn and photographer Jetta Fraser were detained March 28 by military security outside the plant and had cameras confiscated and pictures deleted.
This alone would step outside the boundaries set by the Constitution, but the security officers went even further, harassing the photographer by making various comments about her (perceived) lack of femininity, including referring to her using masculine pronouns and offering to “go under her bra.”
Now, because those in charge of “protecting” the plant from photography of visible “assets” were unable to restrain themselves, a long list of names linked to the military contractor have been named in a civil rights lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims Ms. Fraser and Mr. Linkhorn’s First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights were deprived, as were their rights under the First Amendment Privacy Protection Act.
“At all material times, Plaintiffs Fraser and Linkhorn were present in places that were open to the public and in which Plaintiffs had a lawful right to be,” the lawsuit states. “At all material times, Plaintiffs Fraser and Linkhorn were engaged in fully lawful and constitutionally protected conduct, observing and photographing subjects that were and are open to public view and that Plaintiffs had full legal and constitutional rights to observe and photograph.”
As is noted in the lawsuit, everything photographed could be seen from a public road. You can see satellite photography of the plant via Google Maps, not to mention closer looks via Street View. None of this has been redacted by government request. Details on buildings, including interior structures, are listed in a 1984 “Historic American Engineering Record” produced and made public by the contractor itself. Much of what’s contained is now outdated, but what’s included in this public report was current as of 1980, four years prior to its release.
An image search for “Lima Army Tank Plant” brings up a host of current photos, many of which show the inside of the building, something that would be vastly more sensitive than anything obtained by a photographer located outside the boundaries of the plant itself.
Despite all of this info being readily available, plant security allegedly named the following as the impetus for its seizure of the camera and deletion of photos.
Ms. Fraser said that an officer told her that taking pictures of the plant’s power supply that is visible from the street raised the “suspicion of terrorism.”
Much like the DHS and its useless Fusion Centers, everyone in the military-industrial complex (along with the intelligence community in general) is buying into the lie that photographing visible structures is “terrorism.” If these publicly-viewable buildings pose so much of a threat simply by being observed, maybe security officers should stop harassing photographers and throw a few tarps over the sensitive structures or something.