FBI encounter.

Started Mar 20, 2009 | Discussions
NLA
NLA
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FBI encounter.
Mar 20, 2009

Well...my D300 and I were encountered by the FBI, a little earlier this morning.

I had taken my wife downtown to handle some business, and was parked on the street in wait for her. I almost always have my camera with me, and just started snapping away at a building construction going up (I was just playing around with different exposure settings). I also shot a few 'straight ahead' shots of the street that I was on, because there was an interesting perspective of the building lineup on the respective sides of the street. I had then put the camera away, and began perusing a magazine, when three gentlemen approached the curb side of my vehicle. One of them introduced himself, as he stuck his ID through the passenger window, and asked what my business was. He explained that I had been captured, on camera, taking pictures of their buildings. I explained that I wasn't aware of that, and told them that I was just a serious amateur photographer who was only trying to get a better handle on exposures. They pointed out that one of the buildings I was shooting in the direction of, was their main building. It was only after he mentioned this that I was able to see - on better inspection - their FBI logo on said building. Now, this building was better than a half-block away, and their logo was almost totally obstructed by some trees.

I also didn't know that the building under construction (closer to me, and on the opposite side of the street) was to be their new building. However, there was nothing to designate what the building was to be for; nothing, at least, that was observable from my vantage point. I was asked what pictures I had on the camera, and I told them that there were none - as I had deleted them all before putting my camera away. They apparently didn't believe me, and asked if they could see for themselves. I let them see that none were there, and they questioned why I had deleted them. I explained again that I was just shooting to better my exposure talents, and that I really wasn't trying to grab anything to keep.

They weren't nasty, or anything like that, but really warmed up to me after they determined that I posed no threat. Initially, there was great concern over why an 'amateur' would have such a professional grade camera (yes...that is what one of the agents said). But that same agent began to speak to me about HIS camera - which was a Canon 40D - and of how he would have gotten the Nikon D300 if he could have afforded it.

All in all, though, I learned a valuable lesson. We photographers have to be VERY careful about WHERE we are shooting. I harbor no ill feelings against the FBI, about that, for they were just doing their job. But I will do all I can to insure that I do not present myself to such a position again :> ).
--
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Nathan

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Mario Giannini
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Re: FBI encounter.
In reply to NLA, Mar 20, 2009

NLA wrote:

All in all, though, I learned a valuable lesson. We photographers
have to be VERY careful about WHERE we are shooting. I harbor no ill
feelings against the FBI, about that, for they were just doing their
job.

First, good for you for no ill feeling. That's like a breath of fresh air around here.

Second, imagine how careful the FBI agents need to be, as their line of work involves an entirely different type of shooting.

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Boris
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Re: FBI encounter.
In reply to NLA, Mar 20, 2009

I have been hassled by the FBI, Treasury Agents, Police, Park Rangers and Security Guards numerous times with no mayor mishap....and I shoot where it is legally to shoot. No lesson to be earned other than it comes with the territory.
Boris
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Mario Giannini
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Re: FBI encounter.
In reply to Boris, Mar 20, 2009

Boris wrote:

No lesson to be earned other than it comes with the territory.

I think that's the lesson he was pointing out

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MikeInIndy
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Re: FBI encounter.
In reply to NLA, Mar 20, 2009

Certainly a different world we live in today even from 10 years ago. Pre 9-11-01 I had blue prints for a local small time secret service office. I think our company had to fill out an affidavit or whatever that we wouldn't let the plans out of our care, but none the less they would have been easy enough to duplicate. Even back then though I was rather surprised how easily we got access to the plans to do our work. I think most times as long as you have a legitimate explanation and can conduct yourself decently they're just "doing their job" and will leave you alone without any real hassle. I'm sure if you came across wrong or they had a bad day you could have found yourself out a camera for a few days or worse, good thing to keep in mind these days.
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willett58
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Re: FBI encounter.
In reply to Mario Giannini, Mar 20, 2009

NLA

On behalf of myself, I must ask you to surrender your camera to me immediately - please email me immediately so I can give you the address to my Security Office for inspection of confiscation.
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JimPearce
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Happy to live in a police state...
In reply to Mario Giannini, Mar 20, 2009

is a breath of fresh air?
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dh steffi
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Re: FBI encounter.
In reply to NLA, Mar 20, 2009

Very nice example of the FBI doing a good job and you having the right attitude. Friendly answers and the even warmed up to you. That is how the public should interact with those who protect us. Well done.
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NLA
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Re: FBI encounter.
In reply to MikeInIndy, Mar 20, 2009

MikeInIndy wrote:

I'm sure if you came across wrong or they had a bad day you could have
found yourself out a camera for a few days or worse, good thing to
keep in mind these days.
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-Mike

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Hi Mike.

That...was indeed my primary concern. I don't worship my camera, but I can say that I love it VERY, VERY much. I would have been truly out-of-sorts, had they taken my camera from me. At the very least, I had expected them to request temporary possession of my CF card; for the purpose of satisfying themselves of any questionable photos being made irretrievable. But, again, all ended very well - and I am so very thankful of that.

Blessings,
Nathan

http://www.nlalston.zenfolio.com

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RWilliam
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Re: FBI encounter.
In reply to dh steffi, Mar 20, 2009

Anyone care to guess what percentage of photographers in America are taking pictures as undercover terorists? What percentage of pictures taken in America today are being used to plot to destroy buildings? The percentage would be so low you couldn't count that miniscule!

Do you look like a terrorist or does you car look like a terrorist vehicle? Simply they had no probable cause to harass you. You were not breaking the law.

The justification offered that it is okay to bother you because of past 911 or other terror events is ridiculous. That kind of nonsense allowed the past administration to devalue our rule of law under justification of threat (just like you received today). 3 FBI agents on-top of your lawlessness like stink on rye, imagine how well they could really be doing if they were as effective with real violent crime? Unfortunately terrorists do things covertly and we free American photographers pay for it by a paranoid government, intrusion, harrassment and loss of rule of law. Freedom of taking pictures is a God-Given law and should never be violated by simple ignorant humans under the disguise of protection.

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KHous
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Re: FBI encounter.
In reply to RWilliam, Mar 20, 2009

RWilliam wrote:

Anyone care to guess what percentage of photographers in America are
taking pictures as undercover terorists? What percentage of pictures
taken in America today are being used to plot to destroy buildings?
The percentage would be so low you couldn't count that miniscule!

Do you look like a terrorist or does you car look like a terrorist
vehicle? Simply they had no probable cause to harass you. You were
not breaking the law.

The justification offered that it is okay to bother you because of
past 911 or other terror events is ridiculous. That kind of nonsense
allowed the past administration to devalue our rule of law under
justification of threat (just like you received today). 3 FBI agents
on-top of your lawlessness like stink on rye, imagine how well they
could really be doing if they were as effective with real violent
crime? Unfortunately terrorists do things covertly and we free
American photographers pay for it by a paranoid government,
intrusion, harrassment and loss of rule of law. Freedom of taking
pictures is a God-Given law and should never be violated by simple
ignorant humans under the disguise of protection.

Those who are not breaking the law have nothing to fear from its enforcement. I'd much rather have my questionable actions be correctly identified as innocent than have the illicit ones of my enemy go unnoticed or worse, unquestioned by an emasculated law enforcement culture whose wings were clipped by liberal social progressives whose fears of "jack-booted thugs" trump common sense preservation of law and order.

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roblarosa
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The real lesson is
In reply to NLA, Mar 20, 2009

Never show anyone sh*t without a warrant.

It's fine that they question you, they're just doing their jobs and rightly so. But asking you to prove you removed the photos? I don't think so. You were under no obligation to do so. Even law enforcement officials need to follow the law.

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Shutterbugin
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Re: FBI encounter.
In reply to RWilliam, Mar 20, 2009

blah blah blah.

I see no problem in the fact that FBI agents question a person shooting photographs of their HQ, and future HQ under construction.

They didn't harass the OP. They politely questioned him. Then they started shooting the breeze about camera models.

I don't care what anyone says about the doomsday post 911 world, the loss of personal freedoms, blah blah blah. If you are in a car photographing a law inforcement building - you will be approached and questioned. Big deal. If YOU were the guy they questioned, would you have cooperated, or would you have started spewing what you wrote below?

RWilliam wrote:

Anyone care to guess what percentage of photographers in America are
taking pictures as undercover terorists? What percentage of pictures
taken in America today are being used to plot to destroy buildings?
The percentage would be so low you couldn't count that miniscule!

Do you look like a terrorist or does you car look like a terrorist
vehicle? Simply they had no probable cause to harass you. You were
not breaking the law.

The justification offered that it is okay to bother you because of
past 911 or other terror events is ridiculous. That kind of nonsense
allowed the past administration to devalue our rule of law under
justification of threat (just like you received today). 3 FBI agents
on-top of your lawlessness like stink on rye, imagine how well they
could really be doing if they were as effective with real violent
crime? Unfortunately terrorists do things covertly and we free
American photographers pay for it by a paranoid government,
intrusion, harrassment and loss of rule of law. Freedom of taking
pictures is a God-Given law and should never be violated by simple
ignorant humans under the disguise of protection.

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'87.6% of all statistics are made up on the spot'

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Shutterbugin
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Re: The real lesson is
In reply to roblarosa, Mar 20, 2009

Yeah right. You don't need a warrant in this case. In this case they had probable cause to look at his pictures. They questioned him because he was in a car photographing FBI HQ. If he would not have cooperated, or looked nervous, or acted weird they would have hauled him in, downloaded every shot ever taken from his CF card, and he would have had a really bad day. Instead he cooperated, answered their questions, then they started BSing about camera models.

If you think the FBI needs a warrant to question someone in this situation, then you are very wrong.

roblarosa wrote:

Never show anyone sh*t without a warrant.

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'87.6% of all statistics are made up on the spot'

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MikeInIndy
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Re: FBI encounter.
In reply to Shutterbugin, Mar 20, 2009

Shutterbugin wrote:

If YOU were the guy they questioned, would you
have cooperated, or would you have started spewing what you wrote
below?

If he had we wouldn't ever know about it. I don't think they have the internets in Guantanamo.
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DSulley
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Re: FBI encounter.
In reply to RWilliam, Mar 20, 2009

Hmmmm,

I guess I didn't see/read where he thought/wrote he was being Harassed. Sounds like your interpretation of his encounter.

Had you been outside my house taking pictures of it, I'd probably ask you why.

If you were outside my business, one of our Security Officers would likely ask you why as well.

In neither case would you be harassed unless you started spouting that Big Brother stuff

Paranoia is not good for you, it leads to imagining that anyone asking a question is oppressing you..........

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GPSMapNut
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Re: The real lesson is
In reply to Shutterbugin, Mar 20, 2009

They were doing their job - that's fine.
OP was co-operating - that's fine.
When things are done in pleasant manner, they don't even spoil the day.

I'm just not sure about one thing; is there a law tat prohibits one from taking photographs of federal buildings? Because if there isn't, than the only "probable cause" would be that the OP was doing what he was legally entitled to do and anything more than asking him some questions in friendly manner would be a harassment.

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Shutterbugin
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Re: The real lesson is
In reply to GPSMapNut, Mar 20, 2009

Im not sure what city the OP was in - but here in DC - you will be questioned if you go around snapping photos of FBI buildings, and other federal building. I guess DC does have just a bit more security around ALL buildings lately than say in Houston, etc...

GPSMapNut wrote:

They were doing their job - that's fine.
OP was co-operating - that's fine.
When things are done in pleasant manner, they don't even spoil the day.

I'm just not sure about one thing; is there a law tat prohibits one
from taking photographs of federal buildings? Because if there
isn't, than the only "probable cause" would be that the OP was doing
what he was legally entitled to do and anything more than asking him
some questions in friendly manner would be a harassment.

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Andrew Kalinowski
Photography: http://www.FotoCanada.ca
Maps: http://www.CanadianMaps.ca
GPS hobby: http://www.GPSNuts.com Recreational

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'87.6% of all statistics are made up on the spot'

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NLA
NLA
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Re: FBI encounter.
In reply to DSulley, Mar 20, 2009

DSulley wrote:

Hmmmm,
I guess I didn't see/read where he thought/wrote he was being
Harassed.

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Thanks, DSulley.

The true fact of the matter is that I absolutely was NOT harassed, and I apologize for my posting having given rise to (it seems) some wrong interpretations. Discontentment, anger, or feelings of being unjustly questioned about my actions, were not colors of my posting. My aim was solely to share something that had taken place with me, this morning, and to mention about how we should be careful of where we pull out our cameras.

Those gentlemen were - in no way - mean, nasty, or harassing to me. Yes...a little stiff, at first. But once they realized that I was just an innocent photographer, with his camera, the whole situation changed. And apologetic? Those three guys issued an apology (a few times) for their questionings, and let me know that they really weren't trying to hardball me. It was just that - under the climate of conditions, in this country today - photographing such installations was not permitted.

You know, people might have very different opinions & feelings on such as I have shared. I put no one down, on their different perspectives, because of not knowing what might have happened to make that person adopt the feeling, opinion, or belief that he - or she - might hold.

I, however, am very thankful to those men & women who have slighted their families - and who are making numerous other sacrifices - for the purpose of doing their part to make this country a better & safer place in which to live.

Blessings,
Nathan

http://www.nlalston.zenfolio.com

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roger ring
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Re: FBI encounter.
In reply to DSulley, Mar 20, 2009

I'm not sure what the problem is. If you assume a you have 'right' to take photographs then by all means take them. If in so doing you are seen as presenting a possible security threat, then you are going to be picked up and checked out. That's how life is.
--
Roger

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