Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Smile, TSA agent. You're on candid camera....
Want To Photograph Your TSA Ordeal? Not So Fast
My wife and I arrived at the airport for our annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage Tuesday evening, and like millions of others, came face-to-face with the TSA’s upgraded security measures. I breezed through; My wife, who apparently looks far more dangerous than I do, was pulled aside for a pat-down.
Her frisker was very polite and the procedure was barely invasive, if a bit more aggressive than in the past. But while she was being systematically searched from head to toe, I pulled out my BlackBerry to take some pictures and record a souvenir of the Great Gropefest of 2010. Within seconds I was being shouted at sternly by another TSA agent, who told me that “either you stop taking pictures, or I take your camera.” When I asked him why I couldn’t take photos of my wife in a public place, he said that it was “against the rules.”
The right to photography at TSA checkpoints matters: I was mostly hoping to show my wife her ridiculous facial expressions as she received “love pats” from a stranger. Others might hope to document real TSA abuses, or point out dangerous vulnerabilities in its security measures.
And it seems that some have had it far worse than I did: Security researcher Robert Graham, of Atlanta-based Errata Security, wrote on the company’s blog Wednesday that he was detained for thirty minutes after taking pictures of the full-body scanners at a checkpoint. After having his possessions taken from him and talking to several agents, one of whom forced him to delete one photograph (seemingly at random) he was let go. He describes one piece of his conversations as follows.
TSA: Don’t you have normal operating procedures at your work?
TSA: How would you like it if somebody came to your work and disrupted your procedures? How would you like it if people took pictures of you at your work?
Me: I don’t work for the government. Government agencies need to be accountable to the public, and therefore suffer disruptions like this.
TSA: Not all parts of the government are accountable to the public, especially the TSA.
Me: Wow. No, ALL parts of the government are accountable to the people, especially the TSA. I’m not sure what type of country you think we live in.