Photographers have had it hard ever since 9/11 – everywhere they go they’re being harassed, having their cameras confiscated, being told they can’t take photos here or there (often after the fact)… and frankly, it’s all just nonsense. It’s clear-cut paranoia – bordering on paranoid schizophrenia, actually. And this is our society which is paranoid, not just the individuals anymore.
It’s actually illegal in many places now to take photos of certain buildings in major cities – because they are “federal” buildings or “potential terrorist targets” or some other such nonsense. Yet it is perfectly OK to sit somewhere and just look at the buildings, building up a mental picture of them in your mind – or maybe even to sit and sketch the building. But take a photo? Nope. In fact in many places you’re likely to get arrested for doing that (and don’t think for a moment that the buildings have signs saying “no photos” so you know not to take one!).
What really concerns me is how Orwellian this all sounds. Let me give you some quotes from the article:
“We’re not talking about snooping or profiling,” Luttrell said. “The best thing the average citizen can do is to be on the lookout. Report situations to us and let us sift through them.”
Uhhh… actually, you are talking about snooping and profiling. Profile #1: people with big cameras could be terrorists and should be watched. And what “situations” are people supposed to report, anyway? Do we really want our law enforcement swamped with overwhelming reports of “I saw a funny-looking guy?” Seriously, is that something we want police following up on? If they did, they’d never get around to solving real crime – they’d spend all their time following ordinary people.
“Every arrest ticket written in 24 hours by each of those agencies will be reviewed to see if any of those people, even those with minor traffic charges, might have any connection to any possible terrorist activity lurking in the region,” Shular said.
In other words, police are going to be digging through your entire life every time you get stopped for a tail light out, or for speeding, or for anything, really. Your whole life is under scrutiny now for the most minor offenses. How much of a step is it from only snooping when you get stopped for minor offenses to just snooping on your life all the time?
In the meantime, officials are asking the public to report any suspicious activity to the sheriff’s office.
I absolutely hate statements like this. What, exactly, defines “suspicious” in this context?? I challenge anyone to come up with a satisfactory definition of “suspicious.” I assert that it’s not possible – what constitutes “suspicious” in one context could be perfectly normal in another. And of course the definition varies from person to person.
Never mind that when you start asking the public to call in “suspicious” activity, you open yourself up to lots and lots of vindictive reports. Have an argument with someone? Call them in as being suspicious. You guarantee that they’ll be grabbed by federal agents in black masks at 2am and kept in confinement for a week or so while they check him/her out.
Hmmm… does that sort of activity sound familiar to anyone?
“We may get information that doesn’t pan out to be true at all,” Shular said. “But that one bit of information that someone calls in could make all the difference.”
No, it won’t. Take a probability class here people. The probability is just too low. Sure, the potential gains are high, but like anything else in life, this is a trade-off. You’re trading people’s privacy and personal lives for a very, very, very, very small probability of possibly, maybe, potentially catching someone doing something bad.
It’s just not worth it.