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9/11 Sparked Decade Of Madness Against Photographers

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Ten years ago today, terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center, suddenly turning all photographers into suspected terrorists.

But there has never been any evidence that terrorists used cameras to document their targets before striking them.

Bruce Schneier, a man who obsesses about security more than I obsess about photographers’ rights, pointed this fact out in a memorable 2008 article which needs to be revisited today.

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.

Given that real terrorists, and even wannabe terrorists, don’t seem to photograph anything, why is it such pervasive conventional wisdom that terrorists photograph their targets? Why are our fears so great that we have no choice but to be suspicious of any photographer?

Because it’s a movie-plot threat.

In the movies, terrorists photograph their targets because it’s lets the viewers know what’s going to happen.

In real life, terrorists do all they can to prevent people from knowing their intentions.

But despite this logic, police and security guards still associate photographers with terrorists, including an incident last month where a professional videographer was arrested for allegedly making bomb threats after he was confronted by a security guard for videotaping the outside of a building.

It’s been a decade of madness, escalated by the fact that almost everybody is carrying a camera these days. It is just now that the ACLU has begun an aggressive campaign against this insanity.

The truth is, this ongoing war against photographers has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with the fact that we all have access to the internet.

For the first time in history, we have true Freedom of the Press through blogs, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and more recently, Google Plus.

And that’s a freedom that scares the hell out of authorities.

photo_not_terror_header.png

Ten years ago today, terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center, suddenly turning all photographers into suspected terrorists.

But there has never been any evidence that terrorists used cameras to document their targets before striking them.

Bruce Schneier, a man who obsesses about security more than I obsess about photographers’ rights, pointed this fact out in a memorable 2008 article which needs to be revisited today.

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.

Given that real terrorists, and even wannabe terrorists, don’t seem to photograph anything, why is it such pervasive conventional wisdom that terrorists photograph their targets? Why are our fears so great that we have no choice but to be suspicious of any photographer?

Because it’s a movie-plot threat.

In the movies, terrorists photograph their targets because it’s lets the viewers know what’s going to happen.

In real life, terrorists do all they can to prevent people from knowing their intentions.

But despite this logic, police and security guards still associate photographers with terrorists, including an incident last month where a professional videographer was arrested for allegedly making bomb threats after he was confronted by a security guard for videotaping the outside of a building.

It’s been a decade of madness, escalated by the fact that almost everybody is carrying a camera these days. It is just now that the ACLU has begun an aggressive campaign against this insanity.

The truth is, this ongoing war against photographers has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with the fact that we all have access to the internet.

For the first time in history, we have true Freedom of the Press through blogs, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and more recently, Google Plus.

And that’s a freedom that scares the hell out of authorities.

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