Dear Photographers: The Government Is Watching You
How would you feel if you were taking photos of some train tracks and suddenly found your name on a list formed by the government of people acting suspiciously? What about photos of planes taking off and landing, sea ports or industrial buildings? NPR reported today that such a list exists and I’ll post some shots of it below. If your name shows up on this list be ready to have the FBI knock on your door or give you a call as one photographer in LA experienced.
Hal Bergman loves shooting all things industrial in and around Los Angeles. Unfortunately throughout his shoots he has also been stopped on numerous occasions by police officers asking about his activity. Often the officers will hear his explanation, see some of his photos and let him be on his way. But on more than one occasion his name has been reported to the Nationwide Suspicious Activity list which is an initiative started by the Justice Department. As a result, at one point two FBI agents showed up at his door to investigate the situation and another he received a phone call from the FBI asking questions like, ‘Do you hold any ill will toward the United States of America?’
Is this list limiting our ability to take the photographs we wish? Are our freedoms of being able to create art even while we are on public property being taken from us?
Here are some screen shots from the database of suspicious activity that has been reported in the past.
Here is a screenshot from the Los Angeles Regional Intelligence Center.
If you would like to check out more suspicious activity reported to a list collected out in California you can find it here in this PDF.
Lastly, here are a few photos I grabbed while out driving around practicing a few years ago. Thankfully, as far as I know, I have not been placed on the suspicious activity list. Have you?