Photography as terrorism in Los Angeles

Journalist and filmmaker Paul Detrick has a very important documentary out about the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s harassment of photographers. The video includes an interview with award-winning street photographer Shawn Nee whose video of his arrest by anti-terrorism officers went viral last year. Now, you are probably wondering, “oh hey, the guy got roughed up a bit no big deal” but it is actually worse than that. In the video, Nee is threatened by the officers that his name will be submitted to the FBI. It turns out, the officer followed through with his threat: Nee’s name was in fact submitted to a Department of Homeland Security as a potential terrorist threat.

Last week, my chapter of Young Americans for Liberty hosted Detrick to screen a preview of his documentary and he brought with him hundreds of these “suspicious activity reports.” These reports were of normal photographers whose hobbies are reported as potential terrorism by the sheriff’s department. You can access the redacted files here. As you read through the reports, you get a sense that they are just nabbing every photographer committing the crime of photography. Reasonable people’s intuitions would be that something as mundane as taking a photograph of a turnstile does not seem to call for an arrest.

But what does it mean? Is it merely inconvenient? As it turns out, it goes beyond the momentary inconvenience. Your information–name, age, everything–is permanently submitted to a national terrorism database shared by 14,200 police agencies in 46 states and 74 fusion centers across the country.

It is pretty chilling.

More on Detrick’s report at ReasonTV.

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