Yearly archives: 2011

December 29th, 2011

TSA Calls Cops On Me For Video Recording Checkpoint In D.C. 0

By Carlos Miller

The first Transportation Security Administration screener I encountered at Ronald Reagan National Airport on my return flight to Miami from Washington D.C. Wednesday told me he would not let me board if I did not stop video recording.

I told him that TSA policy allows me to record the checkpoints, but he wasn’t buying it.

He called a supervisor, who told me the same thing; that video recording the checkpoints is forbidden.

When I insisted he was wrong, that it clearly states on the TSA website that it is legal to record, he called police.

Fortunately, the pair of DC Metro cops who arrived acknowledged that I wasn’t committing a crime, but they did not go as far as telling TSA that I had the right to record the checkpoints.

They basically told TSA to deal with the situation themselves.

So even though I was eventually allowed to enter the checkpoint, the TSA supervisor, who said his name is Ricky Flowers, continued to insist that I was not allowed to record.

Perhaps Flowers would have been convinced had I handed him a copy of the policy as I did in Miami in January, but shouldn’t a supervisor already know the policy?

At this point, my family was really stressing out at the thought of me going to jail, so they kept urging I turn the camera off.

And I had already proven what I had set out to prove; that TSA officials are clueless about their own policy.

I did turn the camera off, but turned it back on once I got through the checkpoint because my aunt was detained after setting off the metal detector with her replacement metal hip.

She was prepared for this, so she had a card explaining the metal hip, but the TSA screener would not allow her to retrieve it from her pocket.

Instead, she was pulled aside and patted down, the screener’s hands coming uncomfortably close to her privates, flustering and frustrating my aunt even more.

Because I was the last to walk through and was dealing with my own issues, I managed to record her reaction after the pat down, but not the pat down itself.

But once again, TSA screeners threatened to call the cops on me.

At this point, we had all gotten through, so we just walked to our gate where I ordered a much-needed beer.

Why do I do this?

It may seem petty and instigating to many people, but it is crucial that we ensure TSA officials abide by their own policies – especially at a time when their authority is expanding beyond airports.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

The Transportation Security Administration isn’t just in airports anymore. TSA teams are increasingly conducting searches and screenings at train stations, subways, ferry terminals and other mass transit locations around the country.

“We are not the Airport Security Administration,” said Ray Dineen, the air marshal in charge of the TSA office in Charlotte. “We take that transportation part seriously.”

The TSA’s 25 “viper” teams — for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response — have run more than 9,300 unannounced checkpoints and other search operations in the last year. Department of Homeland Security officials have asked Congress for funding to add 12 more teams next year.

According to budget documents, the department spent $110 million in fiscal 2011 for “surface transportation security,” including the TSA’s viper program, and is asking for an additional $24 million next year. That compares with more than $5 billion for aviation security.

TSA officials say they have no proof that the roving viper teams have foiled any terrorist plots or thwarted any major threat to public safety. But they argue that the random nature of the searches and the presence of armed officers serve as a deterrent and bolster public confidence.

Bolster public confidence?

Does it make you feel secure knowing that an agency supposedly responsible for your safety doesn’t even know its own policy towards something as simple and common as passengers pulling out cameras during the screening process?

Does it make you feel secure that the agency that is supposed to protect passengers from dangerous hijackers is busy strip searching 84-year-old women in wheelchairs?

Does it make you feel secure that the agency responsible for screening terrorists from boarding planes is unable to screen child molesters from its own ranks?

TSA News, which proclaims it is “dedicated to writing about the agency with fairness, balance and accuracy,” highlighted nine cases from 2011 where a TSA official was arrested on charges of child pornography or sexual assault on a minor.

It must be further noted: the vast majority of sex crimes–like enticement, molestation, and rape–are not reported (for example, only about one in six incidents of rape are reported). This is due to a complicated array of cultural and legal factors that includes misplaced shame (where victims, especially young ones, blame themselves), fear of having to relive a horrific incident in a courtroom setting, fear of retribution, fear of the perpetrator himself, and more. Thus, we can fairly conclude that there were even more such crimes committed by TSA employees than those in the hardly-brief list above.

None of that makes me feel secure, which is why I won’t stop video recording TSA screeners despite their threats, lies and intimidation tactics.

December 27th, 2011

Police Confiscate Camera, Arrest Woman After She Recorded Melee 0

By Carlos Miller

It’s hard to tell what happened in a North Carolina melee that resulted in several arrests on Christmas Eve.

The reporter who wrote the story doesn’t have a knack for telling a story.

And the witness who video recorded the melee was herself arrested by Jacksonville police and had her camera phone confiscated.

Daisy Besancourt was charged with failure to disperse on command after she recorded the incident on her cell phone, according to the news story.

Attorney blogger Jonathan Turley tried to get more details from police, but didn’t get anywhere either.

But if it is true that police confiscated her camera for recording – or even for failing to disperse – she should be contacting a lawyer to prepare a lawsuit.

As I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, police can only confiscate your camera if was used in a commission of a crime, such as upskirting or child porn.

Failing to disperse, even if she did refuse their orders while continuing to video record, does not mean it was being used in a commission of a crime.

In fact, that could very well likely have been an unlawful order.

And even if it was a lawful order, maybe she was getting too close for their comfort, then it’s a misdemeanor which means she should have been released in a few hours.

And she should have had her camera returned to her upon her release.

If not, then she better be contacting a lawyer because she has a solid case against the police department.

UPDATE: Besancourt’s camera appear to have been released, but the update doesn’t really answer any questions.

December 26th, 2011

Testing TSA Photo Policy At Miami International Airport Again 0

By Carlos Miller

So I couldn’t resist pulling out my Flip camera as I walked through the TSA checkpoint in Miami International Airport on the way to Washington D.C. this morning, even though I was dead tired from having partied all day Sunday at my friend’s house.

I was operating on three-hour sleep, so I wasn’t as sharp I could have been. Otherwise, I would have opted out of the radiation body scanner, which would have given me an excuse to keep holding the camera.

The other thing is, I had my boarding pass in my hand, but not my driver’s license, so even though they can’t legally ban me from boarding without my ID, they would have to go through a series of steps and phone calls to determine I am the real Carlos Miller.

Then I had some asshole behind me who started getting on my case because the TSA agents were getting on my case about video recording, which ended up holding the line up.

And I was also traveling with seven Colombian family members, who had no idea what I was doing – not that they were surprised – but the whole confrontation added to their stress of flying with a Colombian passport, which means they could have been whisked to a sideroom by Customs to have their bags searched at a moment’s notice (it’s happened before).

I also didn’t have the printout from the TSA website that confirms what no TSA official knows; that photography and videography of the checkpoints is allowed.

I had it on me last year when I did the same on a trip to Colombia and look how that turned out.( 

So after arguing with the two TSA agents about the legality of videography at checkpoints, I had to let my camera swing from my wrist while I retrieved my ID from my wallet, which is why I cut that part out. It’s just too jarring to watch.

He told me to turn it off and I told him it was turned off just so to keep the line moving, but it was rolling. As much of an asshole I can be, I really don’t want to hold the line up because I know people need to get on their flights.

He left me alone while another TSA agent was acting all friendly towards me, asking me where I was traveling to and things like that, so I was thinking he was feeling me out to see if I acted nervous.

I made some small talk with him as my camera went through the scanner on the conveyer belt and I stepped into the radiation box where I’m sure they all gathered around to check out my pacakge.

And that was it. I turned the camera off on the other side while I gathered all my crap; my camera bag, my laptop, my shoes, my wallet, my pens.

In fact, my family ended up getting their bags searched more than I did, which is rare because my camera bag always sets off alarms in their heads that result in them having to go through it with their hands.

But then again, they’re traveling with Colombian passports. I regret not  that recording that part.

You think I would be a pro at this, but I’m not. I should have had more of a game plan about my reasons for recording the checkpoint, specifically my intent on documenting the scanners and the opt-out process, instead of just saying I am testing out their knowledge on their own photo policy.

It’s pretty much a given they don’t know their own policy, so it’s no longer a test. The true test is how they react to my intent on recording my own molestation or radiation process.

The true test is how they deal with my insubordination when I refuse to put the camera down as I choose either Door # 1 or Door # 2.

The true test is whether my family has the balls to video record me as I video record them.

Nah, I won’t drag them into this. Especially with those Colombian passports. I can just imagine the headlines that would stem from a mass arrest against my family.

I’m flying back to Miami on Wednesday, so I might do this again with a better game plan in place.

December 25th, 2011

Davy Vara, Longtime Activist, Visits Miami 0

By Carlos Miller

One of the greatest things of running this blog is the people I meet. Over the years, I’ve met several very cool readers visiting Miami from all parts of the country as well as readers in various parts of the country outside Miami.

This year was no different. I had a great time taking photos with JT. And I will never forget EK and his crazy whip in Austin.

And thanks to JM, who was recently visiting Miami from New Hampshire, I will be speaking at the New Hampshire Liberty Forum in late February.

As I mentioned in my last post, meeting Mickey Osterreicher was also a very cool experience.

But there is one guy who deserves his own video.

And that is Davy Vara.

I got to meet Vara after the Emily Good incident in Rochester, which was one of my biggest stories this year, winding up on the Drudge Report and from there going everywhere else.

Vara was one of the videographers who recorded Rochester police using little pink rulers to issue tickets to cars parked more than 12 inches from the curb at a public meeting in an act of retaliation.

He is a Cuban-American who spent his childhood years in Miami before moving up to Rochester with his family. Check out his Youtube channel.

His aunt still lives in Miami, so he brought his family down over the summer for a visit. It turns out, his old neighborhood where his aunt still lives and where he was staying is my neighborhood.

We were within walking distance from each other.

I invited him to lunch at my local Cuban joint, Sergio’s, for Cuban steak sandwiches, then to Cuban pastries at Gilbert’s bakery.

He told me how in 2004, he was arrested for harassment after sending a police officer a video he had produced documenting a case in which that officer killed a man.

But he also sent that video to all the news stations and anybody else who would want it.

It has hardly harassment but he entered a plea deal anyway to avoid serving a possible year in jail.

I shot the above video with a Flip camera and a pocket tripod. The lighting was excellent. And it captures a place where I drink coffee almost every day.

So here you go, Davy, Merry Christmas!

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December 24th, 2011

2011: The Photography Is Not A Crime Year In Review 0

By Carlos Miller


Photography is Not a Crime continued to grow in popularity reaching record numbers, especially over the summer, specifically the month of July where more than 540,000 page views were reached.

PINAC racked up more than a half-million page views in August as well.

But in the fourth year of running PINAC I’ve learned that summer is my busy season.

That’s when everybody is out and about with their cameras. That’s when cops are a little heated under the collar.

This was also the year where the National Press Photographers Association became very active in following PINAC’s stories. And that’s huge.

NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher proved that photographers are supported regardless if they  are NPPA members or are working for the mainstream media, sending out countless letters to police departments across the country and even helping drafting several photo policies within these departments.

That hasn’t always been the case. And PINAC had a lot to do with that change.

I managed (so far) to get through the year without getting arrested, even though I was due in 2011 considering I was arrested for taking pictures of cops in 2007 and in 2009.

Besides not getting arrested, my personal highlights was organizing the Fort Lauderdale photo protest, which turned out to be very successful.

Another highlight was meeting Osterreicher at a media conference in Georgia after speaking almost daily on the phone for months. A very cool guy.

If anybody wants to make a solid contribution to the ongoing battle photographers face, I recommend joining the NPPA. They have proven to have our backs.

As always, I only selected the incidents that I found most interesting. There are many that are not mentioned on this list. Otherwise, it begins to sound like a broken record – as if it doesn’t already.

These incidents are not going away anytime soon. And neither am I. The fight will continue.

Here are PINAC’s 2010 Year in Review and 2009 Year in Review.

And here is the 2011 Year in Review:


St. Louis cops were caught on video beating a man in a gas station, earning the honor of having the first viral police abuse video of 2011.

But San Francisco cops stepped it up a notch a few days later when they were caught on video shooting a man in a wheelchair.

Meanwhile, an enraged Honolulu cop grabbed a camera out of a woman’s hands and slammed it on top of the car after she had attempted to video record President Barack Obama.

The Transportation Security Administration was still going through a lot of scrutiny over the newly introduced body scanners, so I tested out their knowledge of their own photography policy on a trip to Bogota. Not surprisingly, the TSA official who confronted me about video recording the checkpoint had no clue about the policy, but fortunately, he took the time to read it when I showed it to him.

Shortly after, a man named Phil Mocek was cleared of all criminal charges from a 2009 incident where he was arrested for video recording a TSA checkpoint.

In Florida, a man was arrested for video recording cops in Tampa after he refused to hand over his camera as evidence. Charges were dropped a month later.

And Homeland Security issued a directive that confirmed it is legal to video record or photograph federal buildings.


Legislators in New Mexico approved an unconstitutional resolution requiring citizens to ask permission before photographing them.

Then a Florida legislator introduced a bill that would have made it a felony to photograph a farm from the side of the road.

And a Connecticut senator introduced a bill that would not only guarantee the rights of citizens to record police, but hold police accountable when they prevent citizens from recording them.

Federal security guards in Washington D.C. deleted footage from a man’s camera after he video recorded a courthouse, proving that January’s new directive was only worth the paper it was written on.


I filed a lawsuit over the incident in which I was assaulted by a security guard on the Miami-Dade Metrorail, which is still pending.

But that did nothing to stop the harassment of photographers by these very same security guards.

A New York senator received probation for chasing down and attacking a photojournalist who had tried to photograph him in public.

TSA officials continued to ignore their own policy by forbidding a mother from video recording them patting down a toddler.

A New Orleans cop violently smacked a camera out of the hands of a man as he was videotaping them making an arrest.

A crazy lady attacked me in Miami for attempting to photograph a fish. Yes, a fish.

Police in New Hampshire continued to use their state’s wiretapping laws to arrest people recording them, even though the charges never stick.

A Seattle journalist was harassed and pulled over for photographing a refinery from a public street.

And Illinois, which already has the most Draconian laws regarding the audio recording of cops in public, attempted to pass a law that would ban the photography of traffic accidents.


An Arkansas state trooper who made PINAC headlines in 2008 after arresting a photojournalist turned out to be a photographer himself.

A Las Vegas cop beat a man for video recording him from his front yard. And didn’t get fired for it until this month.

So naturally police in California knew they could get away with handcuffing a man for video recording them from his own garage.

Meanwhile, a New Orleans photojournalist was arrested and charged with battery on a police officer after trying to photograph a traffic accident.

And TSA officials continued to ignore their own policy when they detained a man in Dallas for attempting to record his own pat down.

And three men who actually made it inside a plane began taking pictures, forcing it to return to the starting gate.

Milwaukee police broadside a woman, so naturally they attack a photojournalist who showed up to take pictures, including breaking his camera.

A Massachusetts man was distraught that his barn was burning down, so he took out his anger on a man who was taking pictures for the fire department.

El Paso cops didn’t like the fact that a man was recording them making a traffic stop, so they called his boss and tried to get him in trouble, even though he broke no law.

And Pennsylvania police forced a man to delete his images after he photographed a power plant from a public road.


Miami Beach police shot and killed a man, then went after another man who video recorded the shooting, ordering him out of the car at gunpoint where they threw his phone against the sidewalk. The video made it online anyway. After months of international news reports, the Miami Beach Police Department issued new guidelines to its officers in how to deal with photographers.

Phil Mocek, who was arrested for video recording a TSA checkpoint in 2009, was arrested for taking pictures in front of a federal building in Seattle.

Joey Boots was harassed, detained and cited for photographing armed soldiers inside a New York City subway station.

A Miami man was told he was guilty of a felony for photographing a whale.

Philadelphia police arrested a man for uploading an audio recording of them harassing him for legally open carrying a gun.

A Wisconsin State Capitol staffer who apparently worked as a photographer grabbed another man’s video camera after a heated political discussion, which was the first of many assaults and arrests against photographers in the capitol this year.

A North Dakota teenager who knew his rights ended up getting arrested for video recording a cop from a respectable distance.

New Jersey attempted to pass a law banning the photography of children.

South Florida cops once again arrest a citizen for recording them in public, even though state law does not give police an expectation of privacy in public.


A Rochester woman who was video recording a cop from her front yard ended up getting arrested, shining the national spotlight on a town that often gets ignored, which prompted police to take retaliatory measures against citizens.

Fort Lauderdale police began threatening photographers with arrest for taking pictures outside a movie set, which prompted me to organize a protest and straighten them out.

TSA insinuated they were going to ban photography at checkpoints, but then insisted they would never do such a thing after the National Press Photographers Association stepped in.

A video emerged showing a Niagara Frontier Transit Authority cop threatening to “fucking break” the face of a man who dared video record him in public. The NPPA once again stepped in and helped the NFTA draft a new photo policy to educate its officers.

A pair of journalists were arrested for trying to cover a public meeting in Washington D.C. while another journalist was escorted out of a public meeting in Virginia for photographing a public official.

And once again, a man was detained for photographing a federal building.


A woman was escorted off a US Airways flight after she photographed the name tag of a rude employee named Tonialla G.

United Airlines then threatened to place a woman on the no-fly list after she photographed the name tag of a rude employee.

A Suffolk County police sergeant who bragged about his 30 years experience on the force arrested a news videographer for recording a traffic accident on a public street.

A citizen with a cell phone camera captured the chilling screams of a homeless man being beaten to death by Fullerton police officers. We later learned that police confiscated several cameras that night.

TSA officials continued to show their ignorance of their own photo policy.

The Washington Attorney General who is running for governor called the cops on a man who was recording him in a public meeting.

Military police threatened to confiscate the cameras from a wedding photographer because he was shooting too close to Arlington National Cemetery, which happens to be the most photographed cemetery in the country.

An Idaho man was stigmatized by the media and interrogated by police for photographing his grandson in a public park.

And a New Hampshire judge was caught on video ordering a false arrest because he did not appreciate being recorded against his wishes.


An Ohio Congressman received loads of negative publicity after he had cameras confiscated from citizens in a town hall meeting.

Parents in Minnesota were told they would no longer be allowed to photograph their children in a public pool, even though the pool staff had the right to photograph them for advertising. After the story went up on PINAC, the pool quickly changed its policy.

Police in Long Beach, California admitted that they are trained to harass citizens who are not taking photos of “esthetic value.”

Massachusetts police arrested a man on wiretapping charges who recorded an argument he was having with a cop on a traffic stop.

Less than a week later, a Massachusetts district attorney said that police do not have an expectation of privacy in public, which is why wiretapping laws shouldn’t apply to these types of cases. But that, of course, had no bearing on the above case.

A third video emerged of a Canton cop threatening to kill a citizen during a traffic stop.

A man was arrested for refusing to show identification after he was confronted for video recording outside a FEMA checkpoint.

A man who was selling lemonade on the streets as a form of activism was assaulted, then threatened with wiretapping charges when he insisted on video recording his actions.

A Capitol cop assaulted a videographer during a lemonade protest in Washington D.C.

A professional videographer from California who was in Miami for an assignment was arrested for threatening to blow up the Israeli consulate after he refused to stop videotaping the outside of a building. He was just acquitted.

And, of course, TSA officials continued to show their ignorance about their own photo policy when they detained a man for two hours after he photographed them lounging about.


The Occupy Wall Street movement began, which captured several instances of police abuse on the cameras of activists.

Not to be outdone by their republican counterparts, Ohio democrats ordered a republican blogger to not record a town hall meeting.

A cop in Miami told a friend of mine who is a Cop Block contributor that “we can videotape you, but you don’t have the right to videotape us.”

A Google street view car captured a naked woman in her front yard in Miami, which should be required reading for anybody who thinks they have an expectation of privacy in public.

The Draconian wiretapping law in Illinois, which allows cops to record us, but forbids us from recording cops without their consent, was put to the test when a judge threw out a case ruling it unconstitutional and the ACLU prepared arguments to get the law changed.

A group of activists in Wisconsin were dragged out of a public meeting for insisting on recording it.

And a Longshoreman who introduced himself to reporters as Mr. Fuck You Cocksucker because they wanted to interview him on camera was arrested for damage he inflicted during a protest against a company during a union standoff.


The Occupy Wall Street movement began spreading around the country because of those police abuse videos that kept emerging from New York, which led to more police abuse videos and journalist arrests, but also many videos of the activists themselves threatening videographers and reporters.

A little-known law in Washington D.C. was exposed, which allowed police to arrest people for standing in one area for more than five minutes taking photos.

An Indiana man was arrested for photographing a traffic accident but the charges were quickly dropped.

A cop in Pennsylvania threatened to arrest a man on wiretapping charges, even though it is a well-established fact that cops in that state do not have an expectation of privacy.

And a cop in Massachusetts told a student recording him in public to “shut the fucking thing off before I slap you.” He was eventually disciplined.


An Oakland cop fired a rubber bullet at a man who dared video record him. The cop was eventually identified and disciplined.

Pennsylvania cops continued to hold on to the myth that they could lawfully arrest people on wiretapping charges who record them in public.

South Florida cops also continued to hold on to that myth.

Senator Bill Nelson’s intern threatened to sue me for video recording him without his consent, but I have yet to hear a thing. Maybe next year.

Wisconsin activists continued getting arrested for video recording public meetings.

A UC Davis cop pepper sprayed a group of student protesters not caring if every witness had a camera. As a result, the image became an internet meme which he will never live down.

Occupy Oakland activists proved to have a serious disdain for those who video record them.

NYPD cops continued to crackdown on journalists as Mayor Bloomberg’s flack made himself look like an ass in trying to justify the arrests.

A Youtube video proved a Dallas cop to be a liar.

And a reporter in California was assaulted as she investigated who pooped and peed on the bank.


LAPD cops assaulted a photographer, then charged him with assaulting them.

And a video emerged proving that LAPD lied in what took place before they arrested a journalist.

And NYPD continued to harass journalists, even though they promised they wouldn’t do so anymore.

Cop Block founder Adam “Ademo Freeman” Mueller – who is always good about informing the cops he calls that he is recording the conversation – failed to do so one time and was charged with wiretapping.

A nude woman living with pigs as part of an art display did not want to be photographed, so naturally, I photographed her, just to see how her security guards would react.

A Virginia man has one hell of a lawsuit on his hands after he was arrested for recording cops in public.

A former senator from West Virginia proved not to have a firm grasp of the law when she deleted photos she took at a mall after a security guard ordered her to do so.

And a pair of grandparents were ejected from a shopping mall after photographing their grandson.

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