The Transportation Security Administration is considering changing its policy on photographing security checkpoints after several videos depicting questionable incidents between passengers and TSA screeners were posted on Youtube.
News of the possible changes in policy was posted Friday on the TSA Blog, the same blog that posted that it is permissible to photograph checkpoints, even though most screeners act as if it has always been illegal.
The reason it is considering changing its policy stems from a Youtube video that was recorded in Phoenix when a woman opted-out of the metal detectors and chose to get patted down by a TSA screener.
The woman began yelling hysterically that she had been molested by the screener.
Meanwhile, the woman’s son was recording the incident and continued to do so, even though several TSA screeners told him he was breaking the law.
It is impossible to tell whether the woman was molested in the video, but it’s clear that the TSA screeners were creating their own laws in dealing with the videographer – as they’ve done so many times before.
This is what the TSA had to say about the incident:
You may have seen the video of a woman at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport who was upset about her screening experience.
TSA takes all allegations of improper screening seriously and investigates each claim to the fullest. After reviewing this passenger’s time at the checkpoint, we found that our security officers acted properly and neither the CCTV footage nor this YouTube video support any of the allegations levied. Real violations of our protocols are worth every ounce of our energy to investigate, but this alleged incident does not meet that threshold.
This incident has also raised many questions about whether or not passengers can film at checkpoints. This topic is currently under review, but you can read this blog post on our current policy for photography at checkpoints.
It doesn’t make sense to ban people from videotaping checkpoints just because a woman began yelling that she had been molested. If anything, more video cameras can provide more sides of the truth.
The real issue here is that TSA has made absolutely no effort to train its screeners on the current photography policy judging from my personal experiences as well many other embarrassing videos on Youtube.
And they probably find it easier to rewrite the policy to what the screeners already believe than make an attempt to educate them.
Whatever their reasons, it has nothing to do with keeping up safe from terrorists.
UPDATE: Mickey H. Osterreicher, attorney for the National Press Photographers Association, just sent an awesome letter to Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, regarding this matter.
UPDATE II: The TSA updated its blog after this post was published to include the following paragraph:
***Update: 6/9/2011 – There have been many many different interpretations of the photography portion of this post, so I wanted to clarify things a bit. We recognize that using video and photography equipment is a constitutionally protected activity unless it interferes with the screening process at our checkpoints. While our current policy remains the same, TSA is reviewing our guidance to officers at the checkpoint to ensure consistent application. Our goal is to protect passenger’s rights, while safeguarding the integrity of the security process. ***
So does this mean that they are going to start training TSA screeners that photography is allowed?