The ACLU writes that there’s a 100-mile-thick buffer around the borders of the US called “The Constitution-Free Zone,” in which electronic devices (e.g. laptops and cameras) can be searched and seized without suspicion. Wired writes that a man’s laptop was seized in this zone in 2010 and returned 11 days later:
At an Amtrak inspection point, Pascal Abidor showed his U.S. passport to a federal agent. He was ordered to move to the cafe car, where they removed his laptop from his luggage and “ordered Mr. Abidor to enter his password,” according to the lawsuit.
Agents asked him about pictures they found on his laptop, which included Hamas and Hezbollah rallies. He explained that he was earning a doctoral degree at a Canadian university on the topic of the modern history of Shiites in Lebanon.
The Long Beach Police Department’s hunt for photos with “no apparent esthetic value” quickly became national news last week. Here’s a news segment in which Alyona Minkovski of RT speaks out against the erosion of photographers’ rights in the United States:
I understand that the Department of Homeland Security has a job to do, but we can’t just automatically assume that any photographer out there is a terrorist. At this rate I’m pretty sure that all the hipsters in LA will be locked up in no time.
Hopefully the publicity that these stories receive will make it easier for photo-enthusiasts to shoot in public without being harassed.
On November 9th, 2009, Software programmer Antonio Musumeci was filming the arrest of a protestor outside a federal courthouse in NYC when he himself was arrested. His main camera was confiscated, but he recorded the entire encounter on a second camera (the resulting video is above). In April 2010, the New York Civil Liberties Union sued the government on Musumeci’s behalf, and yesterday it was was announced that a settlement had been reached, with the government recognizing the public’s right to photograph and film in public spaces outside federal buildings. Read more…