UPDATE: TSA says it was not involved in this incident.
TSA screeners confiscated a man’s camera after he began video recording a checkpoint in Puerto Rico, deleting his footage before returning his camera.
The incident has sparked a debate on Flyer Talk as to what laws would actually apply in this case.
On one hand, there are no photo or video restrictions at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints, as much as many screeners act otherwise.
But on the other hand, Puerto Rico has its own constitution and laws that might not always reflect those of the United States.
However, federal laws apply to Puerto Rico, according to Wikpedia.
The story initially came to my attention this week when I received an email from Photography is Not a Crime reader Tom McCormack inquiring how to recover deleted footage.
He ended up recovering the footage and sent me a clip, which I posted below.
This is how he explained it in the email:
I was in the San Juan aiport at noon (Sept 24) heading for St. Kitts.
I videotaped (Canon Power Shot) the podium where they make you show the passport/boarding pass, as I approached and then the next area with the X-ray scanners. It was busy. One TSA woman told me to stop from about 20 feet away. I didn’t.
They all seemed intrigued I wouldn’t follow their orders. A TSA guy soon approached me and said I had to stop. I kept the video going and said
“Sorry, it’s a Constitutional right.” He said “Okay” and walked back, a little indignant, to the X ray area.
When I went through X rays they were waiting for me. Two uptight TSA ladies rolled up on a cart and approached me. I grabbed my camera and started rolling; I wanted to capture the conversation with them.
One of them approached me and violently ripped the camera from my hands. I was shocked and told her to give it back and lunged for my camera. They took my camera and passport and boarding pass and ran off to some corner to confer with one another.
A police officer approached and asked where I was from. I said California. The conversation went like this:
Me: “I’m from California. Why?”
Him: “Well, each State has its own rules.”
Me: “But this is TSA. A Federal agency. Therefore the State laws don’t apply. Besides, the First Amendment of the Constitution trumps state rules.”
Him: “This is an airport. You can’t just videotape people. You need permission.”
Me : “Nonsense, this is a public arena. There is not permission required or any expectation of privacy here.”
Him: “No, Puerto Rico is not like the States. There are local laws that have nothing to do with the way they do things in the States.”
Me: “Look, let’s just agree to disagree. I don’t accept anything you say. I want my camera back. See stole it. I want her to give it back right now.”
Him: “She didn’t steal it. She just confiscated it because you violated the rules.”
The TSA lady reappeared with my camera, passport, boarding pass. I took it and started to walk away (pissed off) when I noticed the camera would not go on. I looked at the cartridge slot and it was gone. They had stolen it!
I showed the cop and said, “Look I want my cartridge (with 200 or so personal photos) back or I’ll call a lawyer and 911 to get more cops.
This is outrageous!” He seemed to be aware I was getting upset and the TSA ladies scurried off with the cop and came back 2 minutes later with the cartridge.
“It must have fallen on the ground” said the cop.
Yeah, right. Predictably all the videos of them giving me a hard time were deleted. The whole episode lasted about 10 minutes.
Please send stories, tips and videos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Facebook PINAC Page