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Author Topic: I'm a photographer, not a terrorist  (Read 22114 times)
Pete_G
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« Reply #20 on: December 15, 2009, 05:26:47 PM »
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Well the problem is really twofold. The first issue is the question of how much control the state has over the life of the individual. There's little effect a small (or even massive) demo in Trafalgar Square will have over this. The other question is related to the ignorance of the police over the extent of their powers in this matter, in most of the recent stories the police have acted against the meaning of the law; in this area demonstrations have more chance of changing things a little.

The first issue is one of the most important we have to face, but it's a political argument and as such would have no place on this forum I think.
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« Reply #21 on: December 16, 2009, 08:32:13 AM »
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Allowing everyone completely free and unfettered access to photograph anything they want is (despite protestations to the contrary by the uninformed) a significant security issue. It's easier to understand this if you have military experience, especially experience dealing with an enemy that doesn't wear a uniform and has no pretentions of honor or fairness or any notion of leaving innocent civilians out of things. To really understand this, you need to think like a terrorist.

Let's say you want to attack the Statue Of Liberty. The resources you have available to carry out the attack are 1 SUV, a small boat, 10 kilos of c-4, 5 men willing to die for their 72 virgins, 8 AK-47 rifles + 4000 rounds of ammunition, 3 9mm pistols + 2000 rounds of ammunition, 5 Kevlar vests, 2 RPGs, and 10 fragmentation grenades. What kind of attack might you be able to carry out with a reasonable chance of success (success being defined as maximum damage to the statue and maximum civilian casualties)? To answer these questions, you need to do a thorough reconnaissance of your intended target. Getting detailed photographs of the structural supports of the statue is critical to determine whether the explosives would be enough to topple/destroy the statue, but even more important is photos of the access to the structural supports (doors, passageways, etc), the physical security measures (type of door, type of lock), and other protective measures, such as photos of the guards, especially if you can determine what weapons the guards are carrying and duplicate their uniforms from the photos. Knowing the weapons carried by the guards is important--if you know that your vests are capable of stopping bullets from the guards' guns, that means you can plan for much more head-on confrontations with the guards than if you know your vests will not stop their bullets. Knowing the type of doors and locks between you and the target will tell you how much time you will need to breach the doors and reach the target, and whether you will need to allocate some of your explosives to breach the doors instead of blowing the statue itself.

Yes, you could probably find a structural drawing of the Statue online that would be sufficiently detailed to accurately calculate how much of a given explosive you'd need to collapse it, and where you'd need to place the charges for maximum effect. But that drawing isn't going to tell you what security measures are currently in place (where are surveillance cameras? how many guards are there? how alert are they? what is their response time? how secure is their base of operation? what kind of doors/locks are between best access point and target?, etc, etc.), or how long you'll need to fight off the guards while the charges are placed, or the best way to utilize the crowd of visitors as human shields to delay the guards' response. You could use Google Earth to figure out the best route from your base to the statue to launch your attack, but that isn't going to tell you the patrol routes of the Coast Guard assets in the area, or how quickly the guards at the Statue might coordinate with the Coast Guard if they saw a suspicious boat coming in. For the kind of data that an attacker really needs to be successful, there is no substitute for in-person reconnaissance done by someone who knows what kinds of things to look for that might spell the difference between success and failure. Photographs are an important part of such reconnaissance, no question.

That said, there is a shortage of common sense regarding police response to and treatment of photographers. The focus of a common tourist is going to be different than that of a terrorist, both in what is photographed and how. A tourist is going to generally go for the "postcard" type shots, while a terrorist is going to focus more on things like storm drain grates, doors and locks, security camera locations, security personnel and their equipment, etc. A smart terrorist is going to try to behave as much like a tourist as possible, but a trained observer should be able to tell the difference, especially if the photos taken are examined. The kneejerk law enforcement response is to simply ban photography altogether, but a smarter alternative would be to allow photography even in potentially sensitive areas, and observe the photographers. If you see someone a little too fixated on photographing security cameras or door locks or security personnel or other things directly related to planning a successful attack, you have an opportunity to disrupt a potential attack in the planning stages you would have missed if photography was banned altogether. And the majority of tourists can go on about their business without intrusive restrictions on normal tourist behaviors.
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chex
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« Reply #22 on: December 16, 2009, 09:16:59 AM »
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While everything you say may be true (or not) the point is that the police and the idiot 'community support officers' aren't following the law when it comes to dealing with photographers, and resort to intimidating people that do know their rights, threatening them with arrest, detaining them for hours at a time etc. Unless the law is changed to allow this they have no right to treat people this way.
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john beardsworth
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« Reply #23 on: December 16, 2009, 09:21:34 AM »
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Here's a videod example of how it works... Italian student taking pictures, stands up to a semi-cop, ends up getting arrested, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/dec/15/i...-arrest-filming .
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #24 on: December 16, 2009, 09:57:14 AM »
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Quote from: chex
While everything you say may be true (or not) the point is that the police and the idiot 'community support officers' aren't following the law when it comes to dealing with photographers, and resort to intimidating people that do know their rights, threatening them with arrest, detaining them for hours at a time etc. Unless the law is changed to allow this they have no right to treat people this way.

Which is why I noted the "shortage of common sense" that seems to be prevalent in the law enforcement community. Not only are they harassing people who have no need to be harassed on questionable legal grounds, they are throwing away opportunities to discover Real Terrorists™ who would probably jump at the opportunity to hang themselves if given sufficient rope and the opportunity to use it...
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« Reply #25 on: December 16, 2009, 10:56:29 AM »
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Jonathan, I agree with much of what you said, but I question the overriding significance of photography in the terrorists' planning. It's quite possible to do all that without photographs; it's just harder and it takes longer. If someone's going to blow up the Statue, they're going to blow it up unless our law enforcement people stop them -- photographs or no photographs. The biggest problem is PC political interference with law enforcement, making it a lot more difficult for them to do their jobs.

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...a smarter alternative would be to allow photography even in potentially sensitive areas, and observe the photographers.

Unfortunately you can't do that because our "civil rights" people will call it "profiling," which is exactly what it is, and exactly what we should be doing in sensitive areas and especially in our airports. Instead we do the shoe thing. The problem is that law enforcement agencies are political and must show that they're "doing something," even if it's the wrong thing, like having people take off their shoes.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #26 on: December 16, 2009, 12:19:03 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
Jonathan, I agree with much of what you said, but I question the overriding significance of photography in the terrorists' planning. It's quite possible to do all that without photographs; it's just harder and it takes longer. If someone's going to blow up the Statue, they're going to blow it up unless our law enforcement people stop them -- photographs or no photographs. The biggest problem is PC political interference with law enforcement, making it a lot more difficult for them to do their jobs.

You can get much of the information without photography, but it is much more difficult and time consuming, and the process is more prone to errors of omission.

Quote
Unfortunately you can't do that because our "civil rights" people will call it "profiling," which is exactly what it is, and exactly what we should be doing in sensitive areas and especially in our airports. Instead we do the shoe thing. The problem is that law enforcement agencies are political and must show that they're "doing something," even if it's the wrong thing, like having people take off their shoes.

Which is simply another form of PC interference in the functioning of law enforcement. One of the biggest problems is that Political Correctness confuses issues of race vs culture, and assigns racial motivation to cultural phenomena. For example, if black people get arrested at a higher rate than whites in a given jurisdiction, the implicit assumption is that the police in that jurisdiction are racist bigots unless they can prove otherwise. While there have been incidents of actual racism, what is far more common is that black people are simply committing more crimes per capita than the whites.

This is not a racial thing, it is a cultural phenomenon. Before the civil rights movement, (say the 1940s) teen pregnancy and crime rates among blacks were significantly lower than among whites. Now it's the other way around--teen pregnancy and crime rates are far higher among blacks than whites. There are many reasons why this has happened, but race is not one of them. If you look at country music as being some kind of reflection of "white culture" and rap/hip-hop music as a reflection of "black culture", the reasons for the disparity become pretty clear. Country music has a lot of songs about cheating, but the majority depict it as a negative, hurtful thing ("Before He Cheats" by Carrie Underwood comes to mind). You can find many country songs that glorify traditional family life and being a decent, law-abiding citizen: "Front Porch Lookin' In" by Lonestar, "He Didn't Have To Be" by Brad Paisley, and many others. In contrast, rap/hip-hop songs generally glorify "thug life", dysfunctional criminal behavior, and promiscuous sex regardless of whether it happens within a relationship. To me, it is no surprise that the culture that spawned "Cop Killer" gets arrested at a higher rate than the one that spawned "Small Town USA", regardless of the skin color that predominates within those cultures.

But of course the professional race-baiters like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson built their careers on accusing others of racism, and there's not nearly as much money in promoting the notion of having morals and decency and finding more productive things to do than selling crack on the street corner. It's far easier to blame others for your problems.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #27 on: December 16, 2009, 02:36:11 PM »
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Quote from: Jonathan Wienke
You can get much of the information without photography, but it is much more difficult and time consuming, and the process is more prone to errors of omission...
Couldn't the same be said for:

Quote
... 1 SUV, a small boat, 10 kilos of c-4, 5 men willing to die for their 72 virgins, 8 AK-47 rifles + 4000 rounds of ammunition, 3 9mm pistols + 2000 rounds of ammunition, 5 Kevlar vests, 2 RPGs, and 10 fragmentation grenades.
You could eliminate every one item on the list, or even several (except c-4, one man, and 72 virgins, I guess), and the attack will still be possible, though "much more difficult and time consuming".

And yet the police does not stop every SUV or boat driver to ask why he is driving around the Statue of Liberty. Heck, they do not always do that even for people carrying guns openly (in jurisdictions that allow that) and even in the presence of the president of the United States:

[attachment=18705:art.obama.gun.pool.jpg]

Here is what the police did do at the anti-Obama protest in Phoenix, Arizona, where the above picture was taken in August 2009 (emphases mine):

Quote
... authorities monitored about a dozen people carrying weapons while peacefully demonstrating.

... So despite the man's proximity to the president, there were no charges or arrests to be made. ... officers explained the law to some people who were upset about the presence of weapons at the protest.
But hey... try to photograph a building in public view and you might end up harassed, threatened with a black-hole disappearance (aka anti-terrorism act), thrown to the ground, handcuffed, in jail (if only for a couple of hours), fined for "disturbance of piece", etc. (from the experience of an Italian art student in London, linked in one of the posts here).

I guess it is a high time for a new amendment to the Constitution: the right to carry cameras.  
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #28 on: December 16, 2009, 02:42:32 PM »
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Quote from: Jonathan Wienke
... One of the biggest problems is that Political Correctness confuses issues of race vs culture, and assigns racial motivation to cultural phenomena... This is not a racial thing, it is a cultural phenomenon...
Hallelujah, brother! (in agreement)
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ckimmerle
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« Reply #29 on: December 16, 2009, 04:26:14 PM »
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Quote from: Jonathan Wienke
Allowing everyone completely free and unfettered access to photograph anything they want is (despite protestations to the contrary by the uninformed) a significant security issue.

The problem with that line of reasoning is that it can be used to control almost every aspect of our lives. Replace "photograph" with "internet" or "cell phone" or "public access" and it's equally valid. Where do we draw the line? The reality is that, in the modern western world, photography is not only unavoidable, it is inevitable. We live in a visual world. Cameras are a part of our everyday life. If people don't have a camera, they have a phone or MP3 player with one attached.

More importantly, restricting photography will not stop the determined now matter how strict the enforcement. If not done overtly, as in the manner of the general public, it will be done covertly. It simply cannot be completely stopped and until law enforcement realizes that we're going to continue to have problems.

And no, I do not agree that being a veteran makes one more insightful on such issues. If anything, it has the opposite effect. And to answer the next question, yes, I am.

Chuck
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« Reply #30 on: December 16, 2009, 05:55:33 PM »
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Quote from: Jonathan Wienke
Allowing everyone completely free and unfettered access to photograph anything they want is (despite protestations to the contrary by the uninformed) a significant security issue. It's easier to understand this if you have military experience, especially experience dealing with an enemy that doesn't wear a uniform and has no pretentions of honor or fairness or any notion of leaving innocent civilians out of things. To really understand this, you need to think like a terrorist.

Let's say you want to attack the Statue Of Liberty. The resources you have available to carry out the attack are 1 SUV, a small boat, 10 kilos of c-4, 5 men willing to die for their 72 virgins, 8 AK-47 rifles + 4000 rounds of ammunition, 3 9mm pistols + 2000 rounds of ammunition, 5 Kevlar vests, 2 RPGs, and 10 fragmentation grenades. What kind of attack might you be able to carry out with a reasonable chance of success (success being defined as maximum damage to the statue and maximum civilian casualties)? To answer these questions, you need to do a thorough reconnaissance of your intended target. Getting detailed photographs of the structural supports of the statue is critical to determine whether the explosives would be enough to topple/destroy the statue, but even more important is photos of the access to the structural supports (doors, passageways, etc), the physical security measures (type of door, type of lock), and other protective measures, such as photos of the guards, especially if you can determine what weapons the guards are carrying and duplicate their uniforms from the photos. Knowing the weapons carried by the guards is important--if you know that your vests are capable of stopping bullets from the guards' guns, that means you can plan for much more head-on confrontations with the guards than if you know your vests will not stop their bullets. Knowing the type of doors and locks between you and the target will tell you how much time you will need to breach the doors and reach the target, and whether you will need to allocate some of your explosives to breach the doors instead of blowing the statue itself.

Yes, you could probably find a structural drawing of the Statue online that would be sufficiently detailed to accurately calculate how much of a given explosive you'd need to collapse it, and where you'd need to place the charges for maximum effect. But that drawing isn't going to tell you what security measures are currently in place (where are surveillance cameras? how many guards are there? how alert are they? what is their response time? how secure is their base of operation? what kind of doors/locks are between best access point and target?, etc, etc.), or how long you'll need to fight off the guards while the charges are placed, or the best way to utilize the crowd of visitors as human shields to delay the guards' response. You could use Google Earth to figure out the best route from your base to the statue to launch your attack, but that isn't going to tell you the patrol routes of the Coast Guard assets in the area, or how quickly the guards at the Statue might coordinate with the Coast Guard if they saw a suspicious boat coming in. For the kind of data that an attacker really needs to be successful, there is no substitute for in-person reconnaissance done by someone who knows what kinds of things to look for that might spell the difference between success and failure. Photographs are an important part of such reconnaissance, no question.

That said, there is a shortage of common sense regarding police response to and treatment of photographers. The focus of a common tourist is going to be different than that of a terrorist, both in what is photographed and how. A tourist is going to generally go for the "postcard" type shots, while a terrorist is going to focus more on things like storm drain grates, doors and locks, security camera locations, security personnel and their equipment, etc. A smart terrorist is going to try to behave as much like a tourist as possible, but a trained observer should be able to tell the difference, especially if the photos taken are examined. The kneejerk law enforcement response is to simply ban photography altogether, but a smarter alternative would be to allow photography even in potentially sensitive areas, and observe the photographers. If you see someone a little too fixated on photographing security cameras or door locks or security personnel or other things directly related to planning a successful attack, you have an opportunity to disrupt a potential attack in the planning stages you would have missed if photography was banned altogether. And the majority of tourists can go on about their business without intrusive restrictions on normal tourist behaviors.

I can only hope that terrorists think so stupid.  As terrorist I would for example start getting fighters as security guards and there are much much better and easier targets.  I wouldn't be surprised if this is already happening.  (BTW. It's even a difficult scenario imho.)


BTW. Like a lot of photographers I don't do that much "postcard" type shots.

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Misirlou
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« Reply #31 on: December 16, 2009, 09:59:06 PM »
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Quote from: alain
I can only hope that terrorists think so stupid.  As terrorist I would for example start getting fighters as security guards and there are much much better and easier targets.  I wouldn't be surprised if this is already happening.  (BTW. It's even a difficult scenario imho.)


BTW. Like a lot of photographers I don't do that much "postcard" type shots.

Well, having dealt with these bastards face to face, as Jonathan has, I can say emphatically that many of them are really quite apallingly ignorant. I can't go into great detail here, but I can tell you many of us who are veterans of recent conflicts are very gratified that certain cultures consider aiming a weapon with the sights to be "unmanly," relative to simply spraying lead from the hip. You would be shocked at the stupid things some of them do.

I once made aquaintance with a former Khmer Rouge intelligence officer (not a "terrrorist" by any means, but this example is still instructive). His favorite dish was something called "marijuana chicken." One packed a chicken full of canabis, then covered it with hot coals, and buried it for a day or so. Said to be quite tasty, though I'll never personally partake. He told me that he would never be able to visit the US, because the US security services tested the blood of every person who entered the country, and would imprison anyone with THC in their blood for life. And he had been one of the better "educated" men in his unit...

Now, there are plenty of other devils out there who are far more worldy and aware. But if most them weren't as idiotic as they are, we'd have a much more serious problem on our hands. Or, maybe they wouldn't be terrorist in the first place, if they weren't so ignorant and indoctrinated.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #32 on: December 17, 2009, 01:35:28 AM »
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Quote from: Misirlou
... But if most them weren't as idiotic as they are, we'd have a much more serious problem on our hands. Or, maybe they wouldn't be terrorist in the first place, if they weren't so ignorant and indoctrinated.
Ah, the beauty of ignorant arrogance!

From the Times article "Most Domestic 'Jihadists' Are Educated, Well-Off":

"Historically, the idea that terrorists come from [poor and quasi-literate] backgrounds is a complete myth," says Bruce Hoffman, a counterterrorism expert at Georgetown University. "They are much more likely to be well-educated and come from middle-class and wealthy families."

The whole article here: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,...1947703,00.html

Not to mention that most of the 9/11 terrorists were also well-educated, and that Bin Laden himself comes from one of the wealthiest Saudi families.

It is never a good idea to underestimate your opponents.
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« Reply #33 on: December 17, 2009, 04:04:26 AM »
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There is no argument against the inevitability of some terrorist success; there is no reason to stack the odds in their favour.

Leaving terrorists aside for the moment, has anyone considered the potential damge that Google maps produced by drives down the street can do? I am able to find my old house in Scotland, find my son's new place, look into the gardens and surrounding properties. What better service can commerce possibly offer the men in the stripped T-shirts with the Lone Ranger eye-decoration and the swag bag in the back of the van? Harry H. Whatever, you couldn't offer a better reconnaissance service, attack routes, escape routes, lookout points... for free or even for money! Who needs a camera on that level of crime?

Rob C
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #34 on: December 17, 2009, 06:24:16 AM »
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Quote from: slobodan56
Ah, the beauty of ignorant arrogance!

From the Times article "Most Domestic 'Jihadists' Are Educated, Well-Off":

"Historically, the idea that terrorists come from [poor and quasi-literate] backgrounds is a complete myth," says Bruce Hoffman, a counterterrorism expert at Georgetown University. "They are much more likely to be well-educated and come from middle-class and wealthy families."

The whole article here: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,...1947703,00.html

Not to mention that most of the 9/11 terrorists were also well-educated, and that Bin Laden himself comes from one of the wealthiest Saudi families.

While that may be true of jihadi elite/leadership, my experience is that many of the low-level foot soldiers have yet to discover why soap was invented...when detainees were brought to the aid station for treatment, one could generally tell they were in the area by the smell before they entered.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #35 on: December 17, 2009, 06:26:45 AM »
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Quote from: alain
BTW. Like a lot of photographers I don't do that much "postcard" type shots.

If you visited the Statue of Liberty, would you spend most of your time photographing the guards, the security cameras, door locks, and things like that?
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #36 on: December 17, 2009, 06:36:20 AM »
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Quote from: alain
As terrorist I would for example start getting fighters as security guards and there are much much better and easier targets.  I wouldn't be surprised if this is already happening.  (BTW. It's even a difficult scenario imho.)

This is an area of concern, which is why there are background checks that you need to go through to be law enforcement or security, especially at the federal level. To get through the vetting process you'd have to be a "sleeper" agent--someone with a clean background and criminal record, and no traceable connections to any terrorist group. I've been through this process, and trust me, it is VERY thorough.
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« Reply #37 on: December 17, 2009, 07:20:44 AM »
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After reading many of the discussions on this topic (especially on the dpreview forums that have a tendency to become vitriolic), I can't  help wondering if much of the discussion is a red herring. That is, when a bad cop does something stupid to a photographer, is it just historical coincidence that they invoke "terrorists", that is, is it just a lame excuse for the bad job they're doing?

An example of what I mean is one I read about recently (sorry, no link, can't remember where but it might have been "photo.net"), about a wedding photographer who was stopped and had her camera confiscated (temporarily) by an over-zealous officer (possibly off-duty at the time), because she wasn't sufficiently subservient to his questions. I mean, the wedding party was right there, she was taking pics of them, and said as much to the officer, so really, how much of a terrorist threat can she be, but things escalated because he didn't like her tone. The subsequent forum discussion and legal repercussions (I believe she filed a complaint) covered the usual ground that these discussions do, terrorists, real or imagined threats, tough job the cops do, blah, blah, cliché after cliché. I would say that the issue there was not terrorism, it was a cop with a god complex and a (possibly) impolite photographer being interrupted in the middle of a high pressure job. Thirty years ago, that same officer might have done something similar, but used a different excuse. The current in vogue excuse is the war on terror.

My sincere hope is that the people who are actually in charge of tracking the crazies are a couple of cuts above the occasional rogue bully we read about in forums who likes to push photographers around for no good reason. In the long run, that is the sad part. Stories of pointless law enforcement of this type does not make the rest of us feel good about who is protecting us. You would think that the forces in question would be happy to find out who these guys are and weed them out, but the tendency for any organization is to circle the wagons, and law enforcement is no exception, it's human nature to protect your own.
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« Reply #38 on: December 17, 2009, 07:41:28 AM »
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Quote from: Robert Roaldi
After reading many of the discussions on this topic (especially on the dpreview forums that have a tendency to become vitriolic), I can't  help wondering if much of the discussion is a red herring. That is, when a bad cop does something stupid to a photographer, is it just historical coincidence that they invoke "terrorists", that is, is it just a lame excuse for the bad job they're doing?

Not really - that doesn't explain the rise in the amount of such Keystone Cop-isms. Having lived in London throughout the period of IRA and now Islamist terrorism, the harassment is significantly more likely. However, you are right to point to the accidental or coincidental - after all, busybodies can now look at the digital images you've taken, can play the child protection card more than in the past, and companies are more into managing their image rights. But right now what is winding people up is the specific abuse of anti-terrorism laws, often by half-baked cops and security goons,  to prevent us doing what we've always done.

Quote from: Robert Roaldi
An example of what I mean is one I read about recently (sorry, no link, can't remember where but it might have been "photo.net"), about a wedding photographer who was stopped and had her camera confiscated (temporarily) by an over-zealous officer (possibly off-duty at the time), because she wasn't sufficiently subservient to his questions. I mean, the wedding party was right there, she was taking pics of them, and said as much to the officer, so really, how much of a terrorist threat can she be, but things escalated because he didn't like her tone. The subsequent forum discussion and legal repercussions (I believe she filed a complaint) covered the usual ground that these discussions do, terrorists, real or imagined threats, tough job the cops do, blah, blah, cliché after cliché. I would say that the issue there was not terrorism, it was a cop with a god complex and a (possibly) impolite photographer being interrupted in the middle of a high pressure job. Thirty years ago, that same officer might have done something similar, but used a different excuse. The current in vogue excuse is the war on terror.

My sincere hope is that the people who are actually in charge of tracking the crazies are a couple of cuts above the occasional rogue bully we read about in forums who likes to push photographers around for no good reason. In the long run, that is the sad part. Stories of pointless law enforcement of this type does not make the rest of us feel good about who is protecting us. You would think that the forces in question would be happy to find out who these guys are and weed them out, but the tendency for any organization is to circle the wagons, and law enforcement is no exception, it's human nature to protect your own.
The wedding photographer may be this one http://www.bindmans.com/index.php?id=672 . The hotel is on the edge of a district of financial skyscrapers.

"Stories of pointless law enforcement of this type does not make the rest of us feel good about who is protecting us." - you hit the nail right on the head. Every minute they waste hassling a simple photographer, is a minute they can't spend protecting us from terrorists, child abusers, rapists, muggers, bankers....

John
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« Reply #39 on: December 17, 2009, 07:57:24 AM »
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Thanks John, that's exactly the story I had read, but couldn't remember where I'd seen it.
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