Once again, a government agency is encouraging citizens to report photographers as potential terrorists.
This time it is the City of Houston, which has produced a high-budgeted video funded by the Department of Homeland Security.
Starting at 1:45 in the video titled “Make the Call – Terrorism Prevention – The Threat is Real,” a male authoritative voice states the following:
Cameras and recording devices have gotten so small, that most of us seem to have one with us all the time. It’s not unusual to see people taking pictures or video almost anywhere.
But surveillance and information gathering is a common practice used by terrorists prior to an attack. If you see someone trying to conceal what they are doing, taking pictures of exits, security or restricted areas, if they hang around for no apparent reason, ask inappropriate questions about schedules or the facility, or if they try to avoid security when approached, make the call.
But the truth is, it is not a common practice for terrorists to take photos or videos of their intended targets as security expert Bruce Schneier stated in his 2008 article, The War on Photography:
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.
The video, reminiscent of the 1950s Red Scare government-funded films, was uploaded to a DHS-funded City of Houston website in January 2011, five months after the Department of Homeland Security issued a directive informing federal officers that it is lawful to record federal buildings.
But it barely went noticed, receiving just over 2,000 views in 17 months. But on August 6, it was uploaded to a Youtube account under the username RunHideFight, which contains various government-funded, fear-mongering videos in several languages, including a recent one on how to survive a mass shooting.
Then it ended up on my Facebook wall this morning.
The video also encourages citizens and employees to call police in the event that somebody happens to leave a bag behind at a restaurant instead of just trying to yell out to that person in the case they may have just left it behind by accident.
A second video geared towards employees, including restaurant and store workers as well as security guards, was also uploaded to the Houston city-owned site, but that only received just over 400 views in those same 17 months.
In other words, thousands of taxpayer dollars were spent for a production crew to produce a pair of inaccurate yet paranoid-inducing videos that were barely viewed in a city of 2.1 million people.
That might not be such a bad thing considering the number of security guards who are already under the impression that photographers are potential terrorist threats.
But it also indicates that many of these security guards that harass photographers are probably following orders.
Houston, we have a problem.
UPDATE: Photography is Not a Crime reader Tony Loro sent an email to the City of Houston inquiring about the video and received the following response:
Thank you for contacting our office and sharing your concerns. The
Run, Hide, Fight video provides residents with various scenarios and
multiple methods of detecting suspicious behavior, and is not intended
to single out one group or industry. The City of Houston is committed
to protecting the rights of photographers and other artists in our
community, while continuing to provide information to the public to
help them be the eyes and ears of those first responders entrusted with
our safety. If you have any other feedback, questions, or concerns
about the video, please feel free to contact our office.
Public Information Officer
City of Houston | Office of Emergency Management
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CARLOS MILLER’S LEGAL DEFENSE FUND
I am immersed in a legal case where I not only want to clear my criminal charges stemming from my arrest in January, but I want to sue the Miami-Dade Police Department for deleting my footage, which I was able to recover.
My goal is to set some type of precedent to ensure this does not happen as often as it does today where cops simply get away with it.
So if you would like to contribute, please click on the “donate” button below and contribute whatever you can afford.
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Also, in an unrelated PINAC matter, I recently went through a hair transplant operation and I’m documenting my recovery on this blog if you are interested. I did not pay for this transplant, which is why I’m promoting the doctor through the hair transplant blog.