May 16th, 2009

Should President Obama release the torture photos? 0

By Carlos Miller

The president who vowed to instill government transparency will do all he can to prevent the release of photographs depicting abuse of prisoners abroad at the hands of American authorities.

“The publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals,” Obama said yesterday. “In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in danger.”

While it would be hard to further inflame anti-American sentiment after six years of the Iraq War, it would also be hard to ensure these atrocities do not occur again if they are not seen by the public.

Sometimes, we must face the truth. Because otherwise we would continue living in denial.

What do you think?

Should Obama release the torture photos?
No free polls
May 16th, 2009

Twin Cities cops suing over release of their names to newspaper 0

By Carlos Miller

Six Minneapolis-St. Paul law enforcement officers were so upset at seeing their names in print, they filed a lawsuit against a state agency for releasing their names to a local newspaper.

Now, their names are bound to be published repeatedly on various other news sites and blogs with readerships that extend far beyond the borders of the Twin Cities.

The officers work for various agencies in the area but are members of an anti-gang task force called the Metro Gang Strike Force. In March, they attended an Asian gang conference in Hawaii – a trip that was funded by taxpayers – and reported by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Now the local police union is suing the Department of Public Safety, the Strike Force and the Strike Force commander who released the names under a public records request, according to the Star-Tribune.

Paul Meskan, Timothy Pinoniemi, Tim Noll, John McManus, John Hankes and Alesia Metry are listed as John Doe 1-5 and Jane Doe on the lawsuit that was filed earlier this month.

The issue raises the question as to whether police officers are different than any other public sector employee, whose names have long been public record. Furthermore, the initial story that published their names was reporting about a trip that was paid for with public funds.

Also, the issue is relevant to those of us who believe we are allowed to photograph police in public. If a judge rules that it was illegal to release their names to a newspaper, then that would make it another step closer to making it illegal to photograph police officers in public.

When I was a cop reporter out west, I would sometimes accompany police officers on raids on the condition that I would not publish photos of undercover officers. Other times, I would show up to a drug bust after hearing about it on the scanner and some of the officers would get nervous about me publishing their pictures. I would always assure them that I would not, just to be cooperative.

But I was under no legal requirement to refrain from taking their photo. And they seemed to know that.

And ultimately, the names of all these officers could already be found on the internet with a simple Google check before the article was even published.

A relatively simple Google search last week quickly yielded references to all six investigators; four were listed as Strike Force members and two as police officers.

Paul Meskan was listed on as a member of the Ramsey County sheriff patrol and the Gang Strike Force. His Strike Force affiliation also is included in a Bemidji State newsletter, and he is cited as giving a talk on gangs to a Catholic Church.

Timothy Pinoniemi is listed on the St. Paul Police Historical Society website for getting a medal for a 1997 undercover operation.

Tim Noll is named in the annual report of the Lino Lakes Police as an officer. Alesia Metry is listed on a website as a Strike Force member who donated to a social service agency.

Strike Force officers John McManus and Jon Hankes are mentioned in state appeals court decisions posted on the Internet.

And now that the lawsuit has been filed, any sense of privacy they were seeking has completely vanished.

But maybe it isn’t necessarily privacy they were seeking, but protection.

After all, this same task force is being sued by a man who claims they stole $4,500 from him even though he was never charged with a crime.

May 15th, 2009

Tourist is harassed for taking photos at Miami Metrorail station 0

By Carlos Miller

A tourist visiting Miami this week said he was harassed by the Miami-Dade Transit Chief of Security for taking photographs of an approaching Metrorail Train, something I’ve done countless times, including in the above video.

The photographer, who is a rail fan, posted his story on Subchat under the name HarryP.

He said the man who harassed him identified himself as Eric Muntan and told him he needed some type of “access permit” in order to take photos on the publicly funded train platform.

A man named Eric Muntan has a LinkedIn page where he describes his occupational title as “Chief, Office of Safety and Security at Miami-Dade Transit.”

HarryP said Muntan “smirked” when he brought up his Constitutional rights.

He kept insisting that I could not take pictures. When I asked him the reason, he wouldn’t answer the question, and when I brought up the issue of constitutional rights, he just smirked. Even though he wasn’t nasty about it, his arrogant smirk really set me off, and I told him that I was going to file a complaint. I asked for his name. He told me his name is Eric Muntan.

I fully intend to file a complaint and contact the Florida chapter of the ACLU, and to see if I can also get it into the local media. It’s a disgrace how arrogant these tax-funded government agencies have become, thinking that they are way above the law and can push people around at will!

Welcome to Miami, HarryP.

While I’ve never had the fortune of meeting Mr. Muntan, I’ve had my experiences with Wackenhut security guards at Metrorail stations in Miami.

But I’ve also managed to take a number of photos as well as the above video without getting harassed. Maybe that’s because I’ve just learned how to be sneaky about it.

After all, as I’ve learned after my arrest and as HarryP learned this week, the Constitution doesn’t necessarily apply south of the Broward border.

Via War on Photography.

May 15th, 2009

Mississippi deputies deleted video footage shot by arrested activists 0

By Carlos Miller

Three libertarian activists who were jailed yesterday in Mississippi said deputies deleted the video footage they shot seconds before they were arrested.

They also say that deputies searched their motorhome without consent.

One of the activists also said he was pepper sprayed and choked.

The men were charged with varying misdemeanors including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and possession of a beer in a dry county.

They have not responded to my request to interview them, so I’m just going on the information they provided on their website and Twitter account.

May 15th, 2009

Apply for your Homeland Security Photography License here! 0

By Carlos Miller


Nothing would shut a clueless cop or security guard up faster than a Department of Homeland Security Photography License authorizing the bearer to operate a still or video camera in public.

Created by San Francisco designer Matthew Williams, who is now legally allowed to photography anything he wants in public, the licenses are a must-have for any shutterbug.

The licenses were created in the wake of last week’s incident involving a fare cop on the San Francisco Municipal Railway.

Williams has uploaded the master file in case you want to make your own, which pretty much limits the license to designers or people with Adobe Illustrator who understand EPS or OCR.

Otherwise, you’re SOL.

Thanks, Rick.

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