FBI Visits Oregon Man at Home, Inquiring why he Photographed Dam


An Oregon man who enjoys taking pictures of wildlife around a local dam received a visit today from an FBI agent and a police officer, inquiring what he intends to do with his photographs.

But Doug Tankersley handled it perfectly, forbidding them men from entering his home while documenting the exchange with his video camera.The men were gone in just over five minutes, having done their duty in keeping our country safe from a 59-year-old grandfather who enjoys posting his photographs on Facebook and Tumblr as well as a few framed favorites on the walls of his home in Umatilla City.

The truth is, the visit was nothing but retaliation from the Umatilla City police department over his insistence of standing up for his rights to take pictures near the McNary Dam, which is less than a mile from his home.

It was the latest incident in a pattern of harassment that began three years ago after he was accosted by a security guard for taking a photograph of a flower. A long story which he explains well on this Facebook page.


Mexican Hat Flower
Mexican Hat Flower (Photo by Doug Tankersley)


The audio of the video starts off low but picks up within 30 seconds of the video. The agent’s first name is Gary but it’s difficult to make out his last name in the video. He works out of the office in Bend.

“We are here to ascertain what your motives are with the pictures,” the FBI agent tells Tankesley on the video he posted on Facebook.

Tanskersley reminds him there is no law against photographing the flowers with his camera or photographing the dam with a camera from his remote control airplane, which he has done in the past.

“Yeah, I heard about that,” the agent acknowledges.


McNary Dam
The McNary Dam from a remote control airplane (Photo by Doug Tankersley)


The agent also acknowledges that photography is not a crime, but then explains his visit with the following statement:

“Sometimes there are nefarious things behind photographs and taking pictures of our infrastructure and things like that, you know, perhaps not you, but perhaps other people with bad intentions to try and get some intel in different ways to let’s say, blow up a dam or something.”

The FBI agent then insinuates that terrorists took pictures of the World Trade Center before the 9/11 attacks, even though there is no evidence to support that claim and even if they did, they were already countless photos of the buildings on the internet.

“You can tell me honestly you have nothing against the United States, nothing against that dam?” the agent asks.

“I got a lot of things against the United States. Are you trying to tell me you don’t?” Tankersley responds.

“You’re going to cause any harm to anybody or anything?” the agent inquires.

“I don’t have to answer that, but I will. No, I’m not going to cause any harm to anybody.”

“Then we’re good. I appreciate you answering that,” the agent responds before departing.

In 2012, the FBI visited the home of a Houston man because he had been photographing the weather.

So don’t be surprised if you’re next. Try to prepare yourself by having a fully charged video camera with plenty of storage space.

About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.

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