TSA Talks About Suspicious Photog Poster Sparking Outrage On Blogs

A handful of blogs recently pointed out a new Transportation Security Administration poster depicting a hooded photographer shooting pictures outside an airport fence. The poster encourages people to report suspicious activity, e.g. suspicious-looking people mulling around airports with cameras.

According to TSA representative Anne Davis, the posters were created for General Aviation (GA) facilities, the hundreds of smaller airports all over the country used by private aircraft owners at which TSA has no jurisdiction. The poster is not for commercial airports, so it shouldn’t increase the likelihood that your average nervous traveler is going to call the authorities if they see you taking pictures of an airplane while you’re waiting for your next flight to board.

But the posters could encourage local law enforcement and security personnel to question and/or harass professional photographers and hobbyists more than they already do. Davis says TSA works with these small GA airports and offers them guidelines on how to operate security, but has no real control over whether their suggestions are implemented. Operation of GA airports is left up to local, not federal, law enforcement.

Davis says the posters were given to GA airports, but she did not know where the posters would be hung, and said that GA facilities might choose not to hang them at all. She also was not sure why a photographer was the suspicious person of choice for the posters, rather than, say, someone trying to break into a GA facility or loitering around aircraft.

“I always suggest that photographers check with the airport press office,” before photographing around GA airports, Davis says. By law, though, photographers don’t need permission to photograph anything from public property. And the unfortunate message the TSA is sending with its poster is: cameras in the hands of government agencies protect us; cameras in the hands of private citizens and the press are a threat.

8 Responses to “TSA Talks About Suspicious Photog Poster Sparking Outrage On Blogs”

  1. Network Geek Says:

    Really? You mean the TSA doesn’t know what they’re doing in their own out-reach and education department? Is that really such a surprise?
    Consider when they banned bottled water from outside a security area because it might be an explosive component, then threw them all into a big bin, together, where they might combine. Just like they were allegedly trying to stop!

  2. Call 866 to report a photographer | Фотоблог Наты Покровской Says:

    [...] А вот и реакция TSA. В [...]

  3. SonC Says:

    “I always suggest that photographers check with the airport press office,” before photographing around GA airports, Davis says.

    How many General Aviation, or even Commercial airports have a Press Office?

  4. john mcd Says:

    This is the thoughtless act of a bureaucracy that has gotten a little bit out of control. It is too stupid to merit a serious comment but it will no doubt reaffirm the silly perception that people who photograph airplanes are a security threat. The ironic thing is these very same folks put out a call for photographs taken by the public when something happens. In other words, we don’t really want people to take pictures…unless something actually happens and then we can use the pictures to investigate after the fact. This is getting so tiresome.

  5. Steve Says:

    I’d say if you’re going to make a poster like that, then make some with some truth to it…create one with a mom and her child taking a picture with an iPhone. Make another one with a tourist taking a picture with a point and shoot. Make another one with a student taking a picture with a view camera. Make another one with a guy wearing a backpack because there’s those mini spy cameras.

  6. Rohn Engh Says:

    It’s easier for the terrorist to go to Google and type in the type of plane or location and find better information and photos.
    BTW. Was the photographer who took the picture of the ‘hooded’ photographer taking the photo, absconded and hauled off to jail for taking a picture of a terrorist at the airport?

  7. J Says:

    The TSA blog mentions it. But uses another picture (from Flickr!) of clearly an air show photographer. Not handling it very well…

    http://blog.tsa.gov/2010/09/tsa-general-aviation-poster-encourages.html

  8. dbltapp Says:

    The greatest threat to Americans’ freedoms is their federal government. Always will be.