A photographer who writes a blog about airline travel was wrongfully detained after photographing TSA officials at Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Conn. last week.
Steven Frischling, who pens Flying With Fish, had just finished taking photos when he was detained by a Connecticut State Trooper who told him it was a “federal offense” to take pictures of TSA officials.
That happens to be a lie as TSA confirmed on its own blog last year.
We don’t prohibit public, passengers or press from photographing, videotaping, or filming at screening locations. You can take pictures at our checkpoints as long as you’re not interfering with the screening process or slowing things down. We also ask that you do not film or take pictures of our monitors.
However… while the TSA does not prohibit photographs at screening locations, local laws, state statutes, or local ordinances might. Your best bet is to call ahead and see what that specific airport’s policy is.
As we learned this week, some airports do have a policy of forbidding photography of security areas, including San Diego International Airport.
It is likely that these ordinances are unconstitutional, only they haven’t been challenged yet. I imagine that might happen sooner than later with all the scrutiny TSA has been enduring this month since the introduction of the x-ray vision scanners that allow them to see through your clothing.
Frischling, who had written about TSA’s policy on photography in the past, informed the trooper that he was allowed to take photos before asking the trooper if he was free to go on his merry way.
’The trooper, of course, said no. A TSA cop then joined him.
I asked the Trooper if I was being detained and I was informed that in fact I was being detained and that I was not free to leave the terminal. The Trooper informed me that he was waiting on a representative from the TSA’s Office of Law Enforcement and reiterated that I was in “big trouble.”
Moments later a plain clothes TSA agent, who I had encountered while shooting, but who never identified himself as a TSA agent, approached the Trooper. The TSA agent would not identify himself, or in what capacity he was employed by the TSA when I enquired… so I was unable to determine if he was a Supervisor in plain clothes or in fact he was from the Office of Law Enforcement.
Frischling ended up calling TSA public affairs at (571) 227-2829, which in turn called the TSA cop, informing him that photography was, in deed, allowed at TSA checkpoints.
Frishling was free to go after being detained for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in Salt Lake City, TSA officials tried to intimidate a man who had videotaped a child being strip searched into deleting his video – prompting two Congressmen into writing letters demanding to know why he was harassed.