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DOT response to the ACLU regarding photo harassment | by erin m
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DOT response to the ACLU regarding photo harassment

This letter is in response to this one, sent three months ago from the ACLU to the U.S. Department of Transportation in response to a series of incidents in which DOT guards harassed photographers. The ACLU demanded that the DOT lawyers explain the guards' actions, and after several prodding reminders over the course of the summer, the lawyers finally replied with this letter.


The DOT response also included a 2004 letter from the Department of Homeland Security regarding photography and federal buildings. I've not seen this policy posted online before, but it's the most recent official guidance any federal security force has regarding photography. Anyone would do well to print it out and put it in their bag next to the Krages document. I've pasted it in the first comment below.


And it's unbelievably lame.


First, in response to the DOT's letter:


The guards were very clear in my interactions with them that there were no circumstances under which they would allow me to photograph the building. I'm a bit disturbed and annoyed that their response to the ACLU failed to directly address the systematic actions of the guards; they seemed to think my incident was unique, when we've established that it's a patten of harassment. (And they lose MAJOR points for their assumption that the complaining photographer is a man.)


I'm asking other photographers to approach the area again to see if the response from the DOT guards is any different. It's my understanding from their response to the ACLU that no re-training is to be expected. It took three months for the DOT to respond at all, and I think it's pretty clear they don't take the harassment of photographers by their ill-trained guards all that seriously.


And as for the DHS security bulletin:


They claim that a "widely known reconnaissance activity of criminal and terrorist organizations has been to gather photographic information about prospective targets." Before my congressional testimony last year, I did a fair amount of research on recent major terrorist attacks around the world, and in NONE of them was there evidence that the terrorists had bothered with photographic reconnaissance. Why would they when such evidence is widely available via Google maps and other public sources online? It's a frustrating point that anti-photography officials have been arguing for years, despite there being little to no proof of its validity.


[to keep everything in one place, I'm putting all three pages in the same post. Feel free to flickr mail me if you want the full pages]


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Taken on August 31, 2009