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The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media
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Old September 14th, 2003, 10:56 AM   #1
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Live in America and own a camera - read this

This article is on Photo.net but should be on interest to everyone, especially Americans, here.
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Old September 14th, 2003, 11:28 AM   #2
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Not to get into a political debate, but I think most of this is a bunch of cr*p mixed with a little smoke and mirrors. Funny I don't recall authorities finding tons of photographs and video tape of the WTC or White House or Pentagon when they were able to locate where these people stayed previously. I do recall them finding sketches, diagrams and notes. Should we be suspect of anyone that's carrying a pen? What about cell phones? I'm sure they used them. Could we not then pull everyone over that's driving around talking on their cell phone? I mean they could be terrorists plotting out their escape route while reporting it back to base. It's getting out of hand and is becoming stupid.

And the feds will always have the upper hand, because if anyone speaks up they quickly use the "Oh but we are just trying to protect you" phrase which will calm the masses until the next incident. If all this was genuine then so be it, but it hardly seems that way.
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Old September 14th, 2003, 12:12 PM   #3
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After reading the story, it would seem to me that if he had responed to the initial verbal attempts to contact him, none of this may have happened. I'm sure the guards didn't intentionally transpose numbers in his SSN to have an excuse to hold him longer. Sure, they could have been more cooperative but he set the tone by ignoring them in the first place. Post 9/11, there are places that we need to be more cognizant of what we're doing, taking pictures included. There is no question that security has been heighten at a number of potential targets and what used to be OK may not be anymore. I had a similar experience at the Pentagon. About 6 months after the attack, I was in a public area across from the Pentegon taking still photos on a digital camera. I was approached by 3 Army Soldiers in camies. I answered thier questions, showed the photos I had taken and was asked not to shoot pics of the new security installations around the perimeter (which I had not noticed till they pointed them out). No problem, they were doing thier job and I appreciate that they are. Bottom line, the world is changing. In situations like this, how confrontational you are has a direct impact on how you'll be treated. Hearing one side of this guys story is just that, one side. I wouldn't jump to any conclusions without more of the facts.
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Old September 14th, 2003, 12:30 PM   #4
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It also, unfortunately, depends greatly on what you look like. Rob, I'm betting if it had been me (of Pakistani descent) taking those pictures, I would've lost my camera and been treated much more poorly. Regardless of how polite I would have been.
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Old September 14th, 2003, 12:39 PM   #5
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This is an unfortunate circumstance for the photographer but understandable as a rude surprise. I think there is now a new 'common sense' in America where the zone of what is permissable and not has increased into people's public lives. In other authoritarian countries photographing anywhere near a public installation is understood to be a big no no.

I pulled up at the gate of my International airport recently, jumped out and hoisted my XL1S onto my shoulder to catch a regional airliner taking off. Only after I put it down did I reflect on how that might have looked like to a security official monitoring the perimeter. In Iraq, of course, a cameraman was shot and killed because U.S. soldiers thought he was wielding an RPG launcher. On reflection it surprised me that I wasn't questioned.

The reporter doesn't mention his ethnicity but it sounds like he was not Muslim otherwise his experience would have been even more harrowing.

This article is about two Muslim clerics who chose September 11th to fly down into the U.S. When they stopped to make a connection they were detained for 16 hours and given the option to 'withdraw their decision to enter the U.S.' or to stay and be interviewed over the course of 2-3 months by security officials

Probably not a smart decision to fly down on that day but still upsetting that their names and ethnicities would be sufficient enough to be treated in that way. On the other side, you can see a security official thinking they just caught al Qaeda, not wanting to leave any stone unturned just in case.
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Old September 14th, 2003, 12:47 PM   #6
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Know your rights, don't let anyone violate them, have a lawyer and keep his/her cell phone number with you in case something like this happens.

It's easy for me to say because I wasn't there, but I would have told them to either arrest me or f-off right on the sidewalk.

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Old September 15th, 2003, 04:17 PM   #7
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We (news media) were covering police divers looking for a murder weapon in a stream at the edge of Pearl Harbor.

Navy command insisted we shoot just the stream and nothing else.

Of course, just 200 yards away were boatloads of visitors headed toward the Arizona Memorial. Most had cameras, and they were pointing every which way.

And, historically speaking, the observers that tracked ship movements prior to WW II did it from a tea house in the hills overlooking the area.

What has me worried is that enforcement officials wil waste a great deal of time and energy giving legitimate media members heavy scrutiny. Meanwhile someone else is free to gather intelligence with carefully hidden digital cameras and goes undetected.

I recently spoke to Coast Guard security people about one of our photographers who photographed a fuel storage tank. The photographer was interested in the shadows cast by the stairs. A security guard decided to report him -- but got the description totally screwed up. Wrong shirt. Wrong physical characteristics. The only thing he got right was the license plate. And he didn't buy the photographer's explanation because he didn't see anything interesting about the shadows. So there are people out there hired to maintain security and have little or no observational skills and no working knowledge of how to handle a potential threat!

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Old September 15th, 2003, 04:54 PM   #8
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Problem is that the gov't upper-ups want results because they want to have an answer for everything, for the media and us citizens. This prompts action of any sort, asinine or otherwise, just to say 'we are doing something'.

It's just like the CAPS II thing they were trying to pass at the airport, allowing some arbitrary and unproven system to, based on your identification, scour its shady database looking for anything that may show you as a risk, including purchase histories, library books you borrowed, and credit histories.

The problem? The system could easily be circumvented by a fake ID. As we all remember from high-school, fake IDs are not that hard to come by.

Who suffers? The legitimate folks who are providing their real ID who may suddenly be tagged as undesirable because they bought a copy of Anarchist's Cookbook back in college.
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Old September 15th, 2003, 10:36 PM   #9
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One of the things that bugged me about the article is the fact that the guy just didn't think. Here, there are always questions about if it's OK to shoot this, getting releases for that. This shows that people are thinking but as proved by the article not everyone. There was another post on Photo.net about a guy shooting street shots in San Franscisco's Chinatown. One of the subjects got angry, demanded the film and then a potentially dangerous situation was created. This seems to be happening more and more lately as we seem to have the attitude of "I'm not just a happy snapper, I'm a serious photographer/videographer so I have the right to shoot what I want". This is true in many respects but we must remember the tense situation, especially there in the US, and the fact that everyone else has their rights as well. If the guy shooting near the Federal building had thought first and asked security if it was OK to shoot then he may have saved himself some trouble, as to the guy in Chinatown. A camera doesn't give us the right to shoot what ever we want, we should still have respect for our subjects rights, a little curtisy, and common sense. We need to think a little more before raising our cameras and just blasting away.
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Old September 15th, 2003, 10:53 PM   #10
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Got to disagree with your there Adrian, partially at least.
I agree with you that you shouldn't take your camera and stick it in someone's face without asking. However, the guy was perfectly within his rights, and to have to get permission ahead of time to excercise your rights seems to defeat the purpose of having them.
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Old September 15th, 2003, 11:15 PM   #11
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I think I read that post, in the people/street photography forum. If a child is involved, I think I would ask a parent. I personally haven't taken many street shots. As I'm still trying to get my "shoot from the hip" style down ;-) But for me there have been and would be times where I don't want to stop someone and ask because that's taking away from the very thing that caught my attention and want to capture. But then there are certainly other times where a character really strikes you and you want that connection. So I personally don't see it as a clear cut and dry way, this is assuming of course we're talking about public property.

My oldest brother is one of those "train watchers". He loves them and recently got a video camera to tape them. He definitely isn't alone while watching/videotaping as I've heard this is quite popular. People can't even do that anymore, the last two times he's gone where people usually go. He's been told he'll have his camera confiscated and taken to jail if he doesn't leave and stop taping.

I'm sorry but things are, in my opinion, turning worse. I think with all the media coverage of the recent events, people are trying to be heroes and get their 15 minutes instead of just doing their job. And when that happens, common sense on their part goes out the window. But who knows for sure about this incident, maybe the guy really took off quickly and raised suspicion, maybe he ran? Something has to give though and I sure hope it isn't our right to enjoy ourselves how we see fit within the law.
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Old September 15th, 2003, 11:43 PM   #12
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I can understand security people getting upset if we're within a facility and shooting without permission. But if it's in plain view from a public street, then there's no reason to confront any photographer much less arrest him. Doesn't matter if it's a professional or amateur. As long as the person isn't a traffic hazard or being a public nuisance, he's free to come and go unmolested. This is part of living in what we consider to be a free society. If we allow society to turn totally paranoid and restrict simple freedoms -- then the terrorists win.

Besides, espionage experts are trained to take photos without calling attention to themselves. Some security people may disagree, but the point is that if an operative doing surveillance attracts undue attention, then his cover is blown and the whole game is put at risk. Surveillance is done quietly and the person doing it is supposed to blend with the surroundings.

Also, an expert observer may not need to take photos. They'll have trained themselves to take lots of mental notes and memorize key details. Then sketch them out later.

And the person you least suspect might be the one who proves the most significant. An example: a homeless person is shuffling aimlessly around with a cart full of plastic bags and junk. He's constantly mumbling to himself and occasionally raising his voice as though in an argument with an invisible friend. He does it every day. After a month, this "homeless person" now has a month's worth of surveillance video taken from a camera hidden within his cart, complete with voice notes. But would anyone have thought to check to see if this foul-smelling nutcase is doing something other than drifting without purpose? And even if they did, he could claim that he's working for the CIA and simply be laughed at.

But I digress. On the few occasions I've been questioned, I'm polite but firm. I carry the proper credentials and explain what I'm doing. Being confrontational is stupid. Anyone is more or less free to videotape just about anything in public view. But when it comes to broadcasting that material, then it's an entirely different matter.

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Old September 16th, 2003, 04:22 AM   #13
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Dylan,

yeah, the guy was perfectly within his rights, but, if he had taken into account the tense times and his location and mentioned to the security guys he was just taking photos of the sculpture then he could has saved himself some grief. My main point is to think more before we shoot. We concentrate on so many aspects of getting good shots that sometimes we forget about the enviroment outside of our shot and what effect we may produce.
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Old September 16th, 2003, 11:24 AM   #14
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Last christmas I was vacationing in D.C with my folks. We were staying at the hotel washington which is next to the treasury building, and our room had a clear view of the roof of the white house. I was always curious about the supposed antiaircraft batteries on the roof..so I trained my gl2 and its 20x zoom on the roof to check it out.(there appear to be nothing like that up there , but there were a couple of big black duffle bags that could probably hold a shoulder launched weapon, along with a couple of paramilitary looking guys).

I was filming from the back of the room, as I really didn't want to invite the attention that the fellow related in his story. However later, around sunset, I poked my head out the window to take a look at the washington monument, and seeing a great shot, got out my still camera to snap a few...very obviously hanging out the window to get the shot....Knock, knock, knock

At the door was a trident of security...the secret service, DC police and hotel detective... They were very polite, asked if they could search the room for weapons...let me know that while I hadn't done anything wrong...that they'd return if they saw me doing it again...not in a threatening manner at all, just that they have to be careful...a fact that I agree with, and I had a great story to tell all the friends back home. Later on I saw the DC cop on the street. I let him know that I was headed to the white house, in case he wanted to call it in....he did :).

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Old September 16th, 2003, 11:37 AM   #15
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<<I let him know that I was headed to the white house, in case he wanted to call it in....he did :)>>

Barry...is that a punchline? Or did he really call it in with you standing right there?
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