Earlier this week, we reported that the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office was encouraging citizens to report people taking pictures in public as suspicious activity.
Now we’ve learned that the U.S. Coast Guard is doing the same.
On a website called America’s Waterway Watch, described as a “combined effort of the Coast Guard and its Reserve and Auxiliary components,” citizens are given several scenarios that describe “suspicious activity,” including a few that involve people taking pictures of the shoreline or of bridges.
Citizens are informed that while this may have been acceptable behavior prior to September 11, 2001, it is now considered suspicious.
The Coast Guard is taking the same stance that various other agencies have done in the past, including the Transportation Security Administration and the Chicago Transit Authority, assuming that terrorists would photograph their targets beforehand.
But that’s nonsense, according to security expert Bruce Schneier
Since 9/11, there has been an increasing war on photography. Photographers have been harassed, questioned, detained, arrested or worse, and declared to be unwelcome. We’ve been repeatedly told to watch out for photographers, especially suspicious ones. Clearly any terrorist is going to first photograph his target, so vigilance is required.
Except that it’s nonsense. The 9/11 terrorists didn’t photograph anything. Nor did the London transport bombers, the Madrid subway bombers, or the liquid bombers arrested in 2006. Timothy McVeigh didn’t photograph the Oklahoma City Federal Building. The Unabomber didn’t photograph anything; neither did shoe-bomber Richard Reid. Photographs aren’t being found amongst the papers of Palestinian suicide bombers. The IRA wasn’t known for its photography. Even those manufactured terrorist plots that the US government likes to talk about — the Ft. Dix terrorists, the JFK airport bombers, the Miami 7, the Lackawanna 6 — no photography.