Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Can I Take Photos at the Checkpoint and Airport?


Unfortunately, there isn't a cookie cutter answer that can be applied to all of our screening locations and airports. It’s important to note that we know there’s a difference between someone taking a casual photo and someone doing surveillance, but if you are taking pictures at or near the checkpoint, don’t be surprised if someone (TSA, airport police, or a curious passenger) asks you what you’re up to.

We don’t prohibit public, passengers or press from photographing, videotaping, or filming at screening locations. You can take pictures at our checkpoints as long as you’re not interfering with the screening process or slowing things down. We also ask that you do not film or take pictures of our monitors.

However… while the TSA does not prohibit photographs at screening locations, local laws, state statutes, or local ordinances might. Your best bet is to call ahead and see what that specific airport’s policy is.

I suggest you use the Got Feedback program to directly contact the Customer Support Manager at the airport you’re going to be traveling through. They will have an answer for you and if they don’t, they can connect you with somebody who does. Of course, if you’re a member of the press, you should contact the TSA Office of Public Affairs.

I’ve taken photographs in checkpoints, terminals, and on planes and I have never had an issue. I know some of you have and hopefully this information helps you a little.

Bob Burns

If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact us by clicking here.

182 comments:

grahamstravelblog said...

I took a picture that involved something just past some TSA officials when I was traveling through SNA/Orange County/John Wayne. I asked the TSA officials near by if it was OK to take a pictre and they said it was fine. I always worry about taking pictures in the security area though. Thanks for the post, I'll know where I stand next time, but it never hurts to ask.

I hope that taking the pictures on the plane didn't happen with a digital camera during take off or landing. Though, I wish that wasn't an issue because that's when the interesting stuff is out the window.

Anonymous said...

As usual, TSA says one thing but then says, or maybe not. Can you in fact name a single local ordinance against photographing a TSA installation that was not asked for by TSA? You guys always like punting things off on other agencies. I.e. "We don't arrest anyone! The cops just arrest anyone we ask them to!"

Also, there exist a small but not hard to find number of people with near photographic memory. So, preventing normal people from taking pictures would accomplish..... what?

Anonymous said...

Okay, now you just know that someone is going to say something snarky like: "Hear that, folks? No oversight without their permission."

Phil said...

Bob, I took your advice and submitted the following question via your "Got Feedback?" form:

"On March 31, 2009, Bob at the TSA blog wrote that TSA does not prohibit any photography of publicly-accessible parts of airports [1]. He also wrote, "while the TSA does not prohibit photographs at screening locations, local laws, state statutes, or local ordinances might. Your best bet is to call ahead and see what that specific airport’s policy is. I suggest you use the Got Feedback program to directly contact the Customer Support Manager at the airport you’re going to be traveling through. They will have an answer for you and if they don’t, they can connect you with somebody who does."

Do any such local laws, state statutes, or local ordinances apply to people who wish to photograph publicly-accessible areas of your airport? If so, which ones?

References:

[1]: http://www.tsa.gov/blog/2009/03/can-i-take-photos-at-checkpoint-and.html


I submitted it once for each of the following airports: AZ Phoenix, CA Los Angeles, CA Oakland, CA Ontario, CA Orange County, CA Sacramento, CA San Diego, CA San Francisco, CA San Jose, CO Denver, DC Washington (Dulles International), DC Washington (National), FL Ft. Lauderdale, FL Miami, FL Orlando, FL Tampa, GA Atlanta, HI Honolulu, IL Chicago (Midway), IL Chicago (O'Hare), IN Indianapolis, LA New Orleans, MA Boston, MD Baltimore, MI Detroit, MN Minneapolis/St. Paul, MO Kansas City, MO St. Louis, NC Charlotte, NC Raleigh/Durham, NJ Newark, NM Albuquerque, NV Las Vegas, NY New York (John F. Kennedy), NY New York (La Guardia), OH Cincinnati, OH Columbus, OR Portland, PA Philadelphia, PA Pittsburgh, PR San Juan, TN Memphis, TN Nashville, TX Dallas/Fort Worth (Regional), TX Dallas (Love Field), TX Houston (Intercontinental), TX Houston (William P. Hobby), TX San Antonio, UT Salt Lake City, and WA Seattle-Tacoma.

I'll follow up here with results of my survey.

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

GSOLTSO said...

Anon said "As usual, TSA says one thing but then says, or maybe not. Can you in fact name a single local ordinance against photographing a TSA installation that was not asked for by TSA? You guys always like punting things off on other agencies. I.e. "We don't arrest anyone! The cops just arrest anyone we ask them to!"

The organization says the following "WE (meaning TSA) do not prohibit the photography, video, or filming at the checkpoint areas AS LONG as you do not interfere with the screening process, or slow the checkpoint flow down". This means you can take pictures of your buddy Fred being patted down, your buddy Fred can take pictures of you being patted down, you can even videotape Fred getting the pat down. The organization also asks you not to film the monitors (for the x-ray machines and/or closed circuit tv systems). That is it on our part, we make no modifiers on this past those (salient) points. Now, the local LEO/government structure may have different rules that they apply. Please explain to me how "they may have other rules/laws on a local level" became "you guys always like punting things off on other agencies". I will help you some here, the basic rules are given to you here (don't interfere, don't slow down the process, don't photo the monitors), as long as you check with the INDIVIDUAL airport you are flying through to ascertain if they have any laws/rules that are different, you should be ok. I suggest that if you intend to photo/video/film things at a checkpoint, that you ask the nearest airport official (LEO, Security, etc) or the nearest TSO. If the person you ask can't give you an answer, then they should be able to get you in touch with someone that can.

Anonymous said...

What a ridiculous post Bob. Do you honestly think that if someone whipped out a camera at a checkpoint they wouldn't immediately be accosted by security, any checkpoint at all? I have learned from experience and from this blog, that any action outside the narrowly defined "norm" more often than not gets you an unpleasant date with a LEO, in extreme cases you get surrounded my machine guns and carted off to jail, then later forced to apologize for your "hoax attack" by the people who screwed up.

Phil, thank you so much for doing Bob's research for him. It will be interesting to see if any airport claims to be okay with checkpoint photography. Even if some do, I have a feeling that testing the theory might prove inconvenient or fatal!

Anonymous said...

Quote:
"Bob, I took your advice and submitted the following question via your "Got Feedback?" form:"


Question: Why is it that people (especially Phil) find it neccessary to copy & quote the entire section of a blog post? Everyone read the post!! You don't need to drop the entire article into your post!! All you do is make a huge, long post that most people skip over anyway!

Are you really that self-importatnt that you feel that you need to have the longest post on the site??

Get over yourself, post your question / comment and get on with life!

Anonymous said...

I agree that this is a ridiculous post that tells us nothing. It merely says that like everything else about the TSA, what is and is not permitted is entirely at the whim of whichever uniformed official is on duty at the moment. This is presumably what Kip meant by "unpredictability," which he has declared the cornerstone of TSA effectiveness.

That said, I would never dream of taking pictures at an airport, or within viewing distance of any government facility. The "chilling effect" so beloved of Cheney and Ashcroft has been effective. I practice the responsible self-censorship that is essential for all patriotic citizens who want to help our Leaders achieve Victory in the Global War On Terror.

Photography has become a proxy for terrorism. The presence of a camera sets off the alarms of whichever uniformed official is protecting that piece of turf. The Homeland Security Department has dealt with a vaguely-defined threat that's usually difficult to detect by declaring a generalized "War on the Unusual." If the public is afraid of everything and reports it to the Authorities, that might somehow stumble on a terrorist plot that evades ordinary "intelligence." And somehow photography is universally considered "unusual" enough to fit that definition, so everyone is specifically encouraged to be afraid of it. Effectively, there is a War On Photography (that has joined the roster of Wars on Drugs, Terrorism, Child Pornography, and assorted other scourges). Terrorists are very rare, but photographers are rather common; so photographers are useful targets for uniformed officials who are eager "do something to fight terrorists."

The supposed rationale for the War on Photography is that terrorists will take pictures of their targets before planning their attacks, rather than relying on Google Earth or the public library. Since anything can be a target, treating all photographers as suspected terrorists seems the only thing we can do to fight terrorism. So transit authorities ban photography in subways buses, and cities ban photography of bridges because that's they honestly believe it's protecting us and helping to win the War On Terror.

Those cops and officials frequently invoke the PATRIOT Act to justify harassing photographers, even though it actually says nothing about photography. But that's understandable, and perhaps even a desirable side-effect that Ashcroft intended when he rammed it through Congress. The PATRIOT Act is an enormous, wide-ranging piece of legislation that very few people have read and even fewer people really understand. But Congress passed it after 9/11 to "fight terrorism," so cops and officials assume that it restricts or bans photography because of its clear association with terrorism. And threatining a terrorist/photographer with prosecution under the PATRIOT Act is certainly an impressive and effective way to make them surrender a memory card or camera (which the photographer actually has no legal obligation to do).

Of course the enforcement is selective. Someone with an SLR will attract any cops or rent-a-cop in the vicinity, but millions of people with ubiquitous cellphone cameras won't be noticed. That means if a terrorist actually does decide to photograph a target, he'll use an unobtrusive cellphone camera. So while harassing more serious photographers lets the cops feel like they're being heroes who fight terrorism, it's just another one of so many needless losses of freedom that provides no actual security benefit. That unfortunately seems to be the defining characteristic of the vaguely-defined Global War On Terror.

Phil said...

Someone anonymously wrote:

"Why is it that people (especially Phil) find it neccessary to copy & quote the entire section of a blog post? Everyone read the post!! You don't need to drop the entire article into your post!! All you do is make a huge, long post that most people skip over anyway!"

In discussions that take place "on the Internet" (whether they be on Usenet, in e-mail, in a Web-based discussion forum, or in the comments for a blog post) good netiquette dictates that follow-up messages/posts include a quotation of the original message or post sufficient to provide context for the follow-up.

I make a strong effort to trim my quotations to include the minimum necessary for readers to understand what I write. For instance, in this case I left out your assumptions and suggestions about my intent and future actions. Many people, I assume, will believe that you wasted space by including those rude comments that added nothing to the discussion.

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Anonymous said...

Quote:
"I make a strong effort to trim my quotations to include the minimum necessary for readers to understand what I write. For instance, in this case I left out your assumptions and suggestions about my intent and future actions. Many people, I assume, will believe that you wasted space by including those rude comments that added nothing to the discussion."

Uh, no you didn't and uh, no they won't!

Anonymous said...

So once again we are given a vague non-answer. Photography at checkpoint is allowed unless a TSO decides that we are interfering with the screening process. Since we lack any clear definition about what interfering at a checkpoint is we are then subject to the TSO’s definition and that definition is SSI. Something that could not be questioned or we could be subject to harassment if law enforcement is called.

We’ve seen what happens when TSO’s are allowed to substitute their definition for some sort of written standard. Battery packs confiscated because they look like a bomb, is it 3.0 ounces or 3.4, containers in the freedom baggie, our 3.4 ounce containers must have the manufacturers label on them or not, prescriptions medications have to the pharmacy label on them or not, nipple rings must be removed or not, freezer gel packs can be used or not. These are just a few of the problems that occur when a policy can be enforced when TSO’s are left to their own devices. I’m sure someone will claim these are isolated incidents, but when the TSA makes claims about protecting us from harm they can claim it only has to happen once. So that guideline should be applied to all policies.

Eric
One of the 5 or 6

Anonymous said...

Some dude said some TSA dude said you're wrong:
"TSA Captain: Yes there is. Phography is not allowed."

Anonymous said...

"I make a strong effort to trim my quotations to include the minimum necessary for readers to understand what I write. For instance, in this case I left out your assumptions and suggestions about my intent and future actions. Many people, I assume, will believe that you wasted space by including those rude comments that added nothing to the discussion."

Uh, no you didn't and uh, no they won't!


He did and we do.

Eric
One of the 5 or 6

matt said...

I don't think taking a photo with a camera is a good idea to begin with. I mean of course TSA is going to say something because they are doing there best to protect.

Tomas said...

Yet Another anonymous wrote...
Of course the enforcement is selective. Someone with an SLR will attract any cops or rent-a-cop in the vicinity, but millions of people with ubiquitous cellphone cameras won't be noticed. That means if a terrorist actually does decide to photograph a target, he'll use an unobtrusive cellphone camera. So while harassing more serious photographers lets the cops feel like they're being heroes who fight terrorism, it's just another one of so many needless losses of freedom that provides no actual security benefit. That unfortunately seems to be the defining characteristic of the vaguely-defined Global War On Terror.
________________

Sadly that has turned out to be the case in places other than just the United States.

My usual digital camera is a DSLR with a hefty zoom lens on it, because I enjoy taking GOOD pictures, and have used a single lens reflex for this since 1961.

SLRs tend to stand out a bit because they are large, difficult to conceal lumps, and are easy for the officious minions to spot.

Just to prove a point, a friend of mine who has a high-end cell phone with an excellent camera in it recently stood in a "no photography" area appearing to talk on his phone.

As he slowly, casually turned 360 degrees while "talking" on his phone, he was actually making a detailed video of the entire area.

The two "guards" nearby didn't even notice him.

Later he came back with his DSLR and was told he could not bring it in.

True, this was not TSA, and not an airport, but it shows that as usual, the "watchers" see only what they expect to see.

Tom

Anonymous said...

@GSOLTSO "This means you can take pictures of your buddy Fred being patted down, your buddy Fred can take pictures of you being patted down, you can even videotape Fred getting the pat down."

I was threatened with arrest by a TSA supervisor at SLC for trying to take a picture of a friend being screened from 25 feet away. (The supervisor wasn't called, just standing around staring at the ceiling bored when he saw me.) Despite my knowing he has no arrest powers, I am sure that if he called the police they would arrest me for some trumped up "verbally interfering" charge on behalf of TSA. So despite being in the right I stopped - I did not have time, sadly, to stand up for myself against someone's power trip.

GSOLTSO said...

Anon said "I was threatened with arrest by a TSA supervisor at SLC for trying to take a picture of a friend being screened from 25 feet away. "

I will say that unless there was an interference issue (impeding the process, passenger flow or response to another situation) this was not the stated policy. I can't comment on the situation you describe, but the stated policy is essentially "if it doesn't interfere, and the pics/vid are not of the monitors then it is ok". I hope that you addressed your situation with the Got Feedback page. I know it is not 100% satisfactory, but let them know what happened, give them the who, what, where, when and your view on why. There might have been something going on that you didn't know about, there could have been some problem with where you were standing, etc. Even if you don't get the resolution you are looking for, you might get some information for future reference.

Sandra said...

Anonymous posted this, (April 1, 2009 4:40 PM):

Some dude said some TSA dude said you're wrong: "TSA Captain: Yes there is. Phography is not allowed."

Follow the link and in the comments you will find:

Comment 1: "They would simply say ignorance of the law is no excuse"

Comment 2: I agree, but there’s no way for me to acquaint myself with said law…

Guess what - Comment 2 DID NOT come from Phil. So there are others out there who also realize that the TSA is hiding behind secret rules.

Anonymous said...

@GSOLTSO "I hope that you addressed your situation with the Got Feedback page."

It was around a year ago, before the Got Feedback Program when the only way to complain was to hand over your ID in exchange for a complaint form and a retaliatory screening. (Only wee a bit of snark in that sentence. :))

A real problem though is, how do you complain about someone without their ID number? Because if you are already feeling mistreated by someone with authority, asking them to stand still while you find some paper to write down a small number form their badge is not very appealing.

RB said...

While we are discussing what should not be a problem at a TSA Checkpoint would any of you on the TSA Blog Staff care to comment on an event that occurred at St. Louis and reported on Fox news where a traveler was detained and interrogated by TSA personnel for having somewhere around $5000 in cash?

Can someone at TSA articulate what threat this person presented to the air transportation system?

Can someone at TSA articulate why TSA employees are permitted to use threats, vulgar language and intimidation to coerce information from anyone?

Can someone at TSA describe what interrogation training TSO's received since we all know they are so highly trained?

Can anyone at TSA tell me why this event was not headlined on the TSA web page as a success story?

Here's a partial clip of the event.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMB6L487LHM

I suspect I will only get silence from TSA on these questions but surely the Public Affairs staff has spun this already.

Dunstan said...

According to the Onion, things could be worse:
http://www.theonion.com/content/video/pragues_franz_kafka_international

Dunstan said...

" matt said...

I don't think taking a photo with a camera is a good idea to begin with. I mean of course TSA is going to say something because they are doing there best to protect."

SSI, Matt? Protect the human race from being its historically curious, gossiping nature?

Patrick (BOS TSO) said...

How ironic or shall we coincidental, because I was just stopped two days ago by MBTA (or as we call it... the T)customer service agent for taking photos in the subway station. I'm a railfan, one of my little hobbies I do. ;)

Of course, it was my day off, and I was just killing time in Boston. The guy just hassled me a bit. I felt like whipping out a copy of the system map, which has a small section on the T's photo policy and showing it to him. But I decided not to.

Personally, again, I could care less if you take photos or videos of pat downs since we do the same exact thing the CCTVs. However, If you try to take a photo regardless if you have a cell phone, a compact or an SLR of an X-ray screen or an ETD, I will try and disrupt your photo as that is forbidden as X-ray images are generally considered to be SSI.

But again... I don't have much against people taking photos because I do it myself.

Mr. Gel-pack said...

GSLTSO @ "I will say that unless there was an interference issue (impeding the process, passenger flow or response to another situation) this was not the stated policy. I can't comment on the situation you describe, but the stated policy is essentially "if it doesn't interfere, and the pics/vid are not of the monitors then it is ok". I hope that you addressed your situation with the Got Feedback page. I know it is not 100% satisfactory, but let them know what happened, give them the who, what, where, when and your view on why. There might have been something going on that you didn't know about, there could have been some problem with where you were standing, etc. Even if you don't get the resolution you are looking for, you might get some information for future reference."


###

The "Stated policy" and the "you might get some information for future reference" is a huge problem with TSA communication--the rules/stated policies often change depending on who you are talking to. This problem is what Phil and at least 30 of the 5 or 6 have been asking for for months: Publish the darn rules. If the rules of the game are SSI and can only be officially shared through bureaucratic responses from GotFeedback, us passengers will never be able to "partner" with TSA.

Phil said...

Someone anonymously wrote:

"I was threatened with arrest by a TSA supervisor at SLC for trying to take a picture of a friend being screened from 25 feet away."

GSOLTSO responded:

"the stated policy is essentially `if it doesn't interfere, and the pics/vid are not of the monitors then it is ok'."

That's not the policy Bob from TSA published here two days ago. He wrote that TSA "don’t prohibit public, passengers or press from photographing, videotaping, or filming at screening locations." He also said that TSA asks people not to film or photograph their monitors. He didn't say which monitors, and he didn't say that such photography was prohibited, only discouraged. I've attempted repeatedly for the past three days to post a comment about this request that people not photograph monitors, but although it violates none of TSA's comment rules, it has not been approved. Bob, why are you refusing discussion of this matter?

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Anonymous said...

GSOLTSO said...
"This means you can take pictures of your buddy Fred being patted down, your buddy Fred can take pictures of you being patted down, you can even videotape Fred getting the pat down. The organization also asks you not to film the monitors (for the x-ray machines and/or closed circuit tv systems). That is it on our part, we make no modifiers on this past those (salient) points"

Exactly. I have worked at several airports and photography has never been a problem unless it is interfering with the screening process. What do I mean by interfering? For example, when your companion is trying to step into the wanding area to get a snapshot of you getting screened or a camera right up in the face of the officer. Also consider how distracting flash photography can be. I think most of us would have a hard time doing our jobs with the pop of flash bulbs in your face. Yes, sometimes local policy is more strict than TSA. Often LEOs working at a checkpoint do not want their pictures taken, or maybe other passengers don't want to be in your YouTube video.
I think exercising common sense and courtesy (on both sides) can make taking your pictures a possibility. Be prepared to explain what you are doing - if you are just taking a picture of "Fred" on his way to Cancun, you have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. If you are unnecessarily hassles, you should report the event.

Anonymous said...

GSOLTSO said...
Anon said "I was threatened with arrest by a TSA supervisor at SLC for trying to take a picture of a friend being screened from 25 feet away. "

I will say that unless there was an interference issue (impeding the process, passenger flow or response to another situation) this was not the stated policy.


Bob, I tried searching the TSA website and could not find anything official regarding the TSA’s policy on photography at a checkpoint. Something that I could show in the event a TSO attempted to do what is described above. More importantly something that defines “interference”, other wise we are subject to vague whims of TSA personnel. The problem with this and other TSA blog posts is that there are no official documents to protect passengers from TSA personnel abusing the system.

Eric
One of the five or six

HappyToHelp said...

Might I pose another scenario. Someone who is not suppose to be photographed is present at the checkpoint. The supervisor is asked to report such people taking photographs to law enforcement during that time. Person leaves and photography is allowed as normal.

Just something to think about.

-H2H

Phil said...

Patrick (BOS TSO) wrote:

"If you try to take a photo regardless if you have a cell phone, a compact or an SLR of an X-ray screen or an ETD, I will try and disrupt your photo as that is forbidden as X-ray images are generally considered to be SSI."

Patrick, what you wrote was in conflict with what Bob wrote Tuesday (photography of your monitors at TSA luggage search stations is discouraged but not prohibited). It's also in conflict with 15 of the 17 responses I've received so far from TSA representatives at various major airports.

Could you please explain why you believe that such photography is prohibited?

Also, you wrote that X-ray images are "generally considered [by TSA] to be SSI." My understanding of your "SSI" classification is minimal, but Bruce Schneier wrote, "Before someone can have access to SSI, he simply must sign an NDA. If someone discloses classified information, he faces criminal penalties. If someone discloses SSI, he faces civil penalties."

If he's correct, then aren't you subjecting yourself to civil penalties by displaying that SSI to anyone who walks by?

Why would you want to prevent someone from photographing what thousands of people can see and remember? For that matter, how do you think you can enforce such a policy given the ubiquity of tiny cameras, often built into objects that people carry around and hold up to their faces in airports (mobile phones)?

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Anonymous said...

Just an interesting perspective... http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0714-01.htm

Chris Boyce said...

HappyToHelp said...

Might I pose another scenario. Someone who is not suppose to be photographed is present at the checkpoint. The supervisor is asked to report such people taking photographs to law enforcement during that time. Person leaves and photography is allowed as normal.


Sir, I'm utterly baffled. Would you mind posting an example of such a person and under what law photography of said individual is prohibited?

RB said...

HappyToHelp said...
Might I pose another scenario. Someone who is not suppose to be photographed is present at the checkpoint. The supervisor is asked to report such people taking photographs to law enforcement during that time. Person leaves and photography is allowed as normal.

Just something to think about.

-H2H

April 2, 2009 2:33 PM
.......................
It is something to think about.

What kind of people are those who cannot be photographed?

Who asked and by what authority was the supervisor instructed to report such people and why would law enforcement care?

Person leaves and photography can resume.

If taking pictues is not against some law then people on the checkpoint cannot modify or create a new law just because they want to.

That would be a restriction of individual freedom.

Just something to think about!

Anonymous said...

Any information on TSA confiscating lunches of airport workers?

Any information on TSA harassing a guy with $4700 in cash? Seems like it is significantly less than the $10,000 being tossed about as being suspicious.

Boomka said...

I was at the airport in Adelaide in Australia and I took a picture of the departures board which happened to be above the security check point. Well, someone came up to me and asked to see the photo because apparently it was illegal. It was the first time I'd heard of that.

Anonymous said...

Many stories of harassed photographers:

Photography is not a crime

and

War on Photography

RB said...

Bob, why was a traveler detained by TSA for doing nothing more than having $4700 dollars on their person?

Anonymous said...

@HappyToHelp "Might I pose another scenario. Someone who is not suppose to be photographed is present at the checkpoint. The supervisor is asked to report such people taking photographs to law enforcement during that time. Person leaves and photography is allowed as normal."

What does this mean? There are special people that can not be photographed? What makes a person so magical? Who maintains such a list? Are they given special ID cards?

Anonymous said...

TSA Abuse of Power continues:

http://www.upgradetravelbetter.com/2009/04/02/caught-on-tape-tsa-harasses-traveler-for-carrying-cash/

TSA had someone arrested even though they had not committed a crime, and it was pretty clear the person would have cooperated with any legal requests. TSA was not making legal requests.

TSA needs to stop trumpeting their false wins, and either start really making air travel safer, or disband.

As to the people involved with the incident in St Louis: Fire them all. Publicly. Now!

Just Some Guy said...

Will you be commenting on the traveler in St. Louis who was detained by TSA and threatened because he wouldn't answer unlawful questions?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMB6L487LHM

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bob for bringing up the subject. While I really have no interest in taking pictures or filming the security checkpoints, I do enjoy the hobby known as "plane spotting"--hopefully you've heard of it. It's a worldwide hobby that simply involves watching airplanes takeoff and land, and sometimes photographing them, listening to them talk to Air Traffic Control on airband scanners, and tracking their movements; sometimes from within the terminals and sometimes from the airport perimeters. It's a perfectly legitimate and legal hobby that's been around long before 9/11 and long before TSA. Many airports actually have parks and observation areas set up for this purpose. In the wake of 9/11, several areas were closed down. Due to efforts (letter writing campaigns, petitions, etc) by myself and others, a number of observation areas have been thankfully reopened. While it's my understanding that photography at airports has never been prohibited by the TSA or FAA, plane spotters frequently attract the attention of "security personnel" including police officers and contract guards who attempt to harass us and threaten us with violations of TSA and/or FAA regulations. Some have legitimate concerns, while others are clearly on a power trip of some kind. I'm not really posting here to rant, but more to introduce the hobby to those who may be unfamiliar with it. While it may appear that we're doing "surveillance", please rest assured that we simply enjoy watching airports and airplanes just like many people enjoy walking their dog at the park. In addition, we serve as the "eyes and ears" of the security apparatus, and will be the first ones to report any real threats to aviation (i.e. someone climbing the fence or setting up a shoulder fired missile). So please consider us allies in the war on terror, not enemies. I encourage you to check out websites such as http://www.airliners.net and http://www.flightlevel350.com to watch some of the outstanding photos and videos taken by aviation enthusiasts.

Anonymous said...

RB said...
"While we are discussing what should not be a problem at a TSA Checkpoint would any of you on the TSA Blog Staff care to comment on an event that occurred at St. Louis and reported on Fox news where a traveler was detained and interrogated by TSA personnel for having somewhere around $5000 in cash?"

I watched and listened to this clip and it sounded to me like the conversation was between local law enforcement officers and the passenger with the exception of one interjection which appeared to be a TSA officer stating that the individual was not cooperating at the checkpoint either. Because this is only audio and not video there is no clear indication who is speaking to the passenger - is it TSA officers or is it St. Louis police officers? Because TSA does not have the ability to arrest someone or "take them to the station" it seems likely it was the airport police.
It is not illegal to transport large amounts of cash unless you are travelling internationally, in which case it is to be declared to Customs. While I understand the passenges view here and his concern with perceptions of this particular campaign in that location, if he had explained that the amount was under $10K and that it was a result of fundraising he participated in while in St. Louis, the situation may have been avoided.
You mentioned Public Affairs spinning the story, I think the video clip has some spin, too as it tries to imply that all of the dialogue is between only TSA and the pax. If they were armed, they were not TSA.

RB said...

http://www.9news.com/news/article.aspx?storyid=113040&catid=339

Perhaps we should be taking photos at checkpoints all across the country.

Not only do screeners abuse travelers it seems they may be abusing themselves also.

Remember, "I'm from the government, I'm here to help!"

George said...

@HappyToHelp: Might I pose another scenario. Someone who is not suppose to be photographed is present at the checkpoint. The supervisor is asked to report such people taking photographs to law enforcement during that time. Person leaves and photography is allowed as normal. Just something to think about.

I thought about that scenario, as Happy suggested. I got a headache. Now that the TSA-Strength Tylenol has taken effect, I can write this. (If you haven't heard of TSA-Strength Tylenol, it's because it's an SSI formulation available only from the dispensary in the classified area at TSA Headquarters.)

This is a very typical TSA scenario. Photography is normally permitted, but during the few minutes the Unphotographable Person is present at the checkpoint, the rules change. The Unphotographable Person leaves, and the rules change again.

Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing that an Unphotographable person is present at the checkpoint, and thus has no way of knowing that photography is Prohibited at that moment. Since the Unphotographable Person is presumably Unphotographable for an SSI reason, there is no public announcement or indication that either the Unphotographable Person is present or that the rules have changed. Any such announcement or indication would, of course, reveal SSI.

So let's try another scenario. Hypothetical Photographer (HP) has read this blog post, and followed Bob's advice to contact the Customer Support Manager. It took five attempts, but HP finally received a response from the Acting Assistant to the Customer Support Manager: "Photography is permitted at checkpoints, except when any TSA or airport employee determines that it isn't. Thank you for contacting the TSA, and have a nice day."

Arriving at the airport for his early morning flight, HP joins the long queue leading to the checkpoint. While removing his shoes, he notices that the checkpoint is bathed in golden light coming through the skylight, and sees an interesting artistic composition. He takes his camera out of its bag and points it at the checkpoint.... just when the Unphotographable Person happens to be conducting her SSI business at the checkpoint. The supervisor sees the violation, and sends an Urgent Alert to the airport police as he has been requested to do.

Three officers converge on HP with their guns drawn. They tackle HP, confiscate his camera, handcuff him, and transport him to the police facility. When he asks why he has been arrested, he is told only that photography is strictly prohibited anywhere near the checkpoint, and the TSA supervisor has specifically requested that the police immediately arrest anyone seen using a camera.

The young Assistant United States Attorney assigned to prosecute the case is zealous and aggressive, and this terrorism-related case seems just the ticket to career enhancement. She makes an impassioned presentation to the grand jury about the 9/11 victims and their widows and orphans, and they rubber-stamp the (tear-stained) indictment. The indictment includes seven felony charges, including interference with airport security, conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, and section 41175.1372.b(2)(a)(iii) of the PATRIOT Act (an obscure provision that has nothing to do with either photography or airports, but she thought a successful conviction would set a useful precedent). The U.S. Attorney's Office calls a press conference to announce the latest Victory in the War on Terror, and the TSA issues a triumphant press conference praising the supervisor's excellent work.

The prosecutor makes an even more impassioned plea to the jury (none of whom own cameras) recounting the details of 9/11, quoting from Osama bin-Laden, and urging them to convict HP so that 9/11 will never happen again. They return guilty verdicts on six of the seven counts (they determined that the damage to the camera during the arrest did not constitute Destruction of Federal Property because it occurred before the officers formally confiscated it).

During the sentencing hearing, the still-incredulous HP reads the e-mail he got from Acting Assistant to the Customer Support Manager and insists that he had no idea that photography was prohibited. (Of course he still doesn't know about the Unphotographable Person and the rule in effect during her presence, since that's SSI.) The judge delivers a stern lecture about how ignorance of the law is no excuse, followed by a recitation of the events of 9/11 and the need to send a message to potential terror plotters. The judge then sentences HP to 150 years in solitary confinement at the Supermax in Florance, Colorado. The actual sentence is 100 years under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, but he's adding 50 years because HP has shown no evidence of remorse.

Yes, this is a very silly scenario. But it's no sillier than what Happy seems to be advocating: The concept that rules should continuously fluctuate according to conditions that may be secret, with those subject to the rules unaware of it until they commit a violation and have to suffer the consequences. Most of us (who aren't TSA employees) would consider that absurd, offensive, and completely contrary to American concepts of due process, in which people must be informed of the rules they're accountable for obeying. But apparently the TSA believes enforcing continuously-changing rules that are unknown to those who are subject to them is not only desirable, but necessary for "effective security."

Anonymous said...

Original Post-
We don’t prohibit public, passengers or press from photographing, videotaping, or filming at screening locations.
You can take pictures at our checkpoints as long as you’re not interfering with the screening process or slowing things down. We also ask that you do not film or take pictures of our monitors.

Phil asks
Could you please explain why you believe that such photography is prohibited?
___________________________________

Well Phil, I believe that the original post states.....

"We also ask that you do not film or take pictures of our monitors." Right there stating that TSA does not want you to take pictures of their monitors. How do you want that spelled out to you. I thought it was pretty easy to understand.

Phil asks-
If he's correct, then aren't you subjecting yourself to civil penalties by displaying that SSI to anyone who walks by?
___________________________________

The Xray screen can be seen by passengers sometimes. But it is not right there where they can walk up to the screen and study the images. Really are you worried about the civil penalties. You probably are, you are always worrying about things that are none of your concern.

TSORon said...

I’ll do what I can to help you out RB.

“Can someone at TSA articulate what threat this person presented to the air transportation system?”

None. But it is against federal law to transport more than $10,000 in cash outside of the U.S. We would contact a LEO in cases where this happens.

“Can someone at TSA articulate why TSA employees are permitted to use threats, vulgar language and intimidation to coerce information from anyone?”

I winced when I heard this. The TSA employee was wrong in speaking like this. Somehow I think disciplinary action is on its way for him.

“Can someone at TSA describe what interrogation training TSO's received since we all know they are so highly trained?”

TSO’s? None. BDO’s? Quite a bit. TSI’s? Even more. LEO’s? Even more than a TSI. Now, can you tell us which one it was that was asking the questions? I certainly cant.

I hope this helps.

RB said...

TSORon said...
I’ll do what I can to help you out RB.

“Can someone at TSA articulate what threat this person presented to the air transportation system?”

None. But it is against federal law to transport more than $10,000 in cash outside of the U.S. We would contact a LEO in cases where this happens.
.........................

Ah, Wrong again TSORon.

It is not against the law to transport more than $10,000 out of or in to the United States.

The only requirement is that it must be declared.

Here is a link;

http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/kbyg/money.xml

I hope this helps.

April 3, 2009 1:43 PM

Anonymous said...

None. But it is against federal law to transport more than $10,000 in cash outside of the U.S. We would contact a LEO in cases where this happens.

WRONG

It is illegal only if you don't fill out the proper paperwork.

Read up on the law before you comment TSORON.

Anonymous said...

"But it is against federal law to transport more than $10,000 in cash outside of the U.S."

No it is not.

Another TSO who just makes up laws...

Sad, very sad

HappyToHelp said...

George said...
Yes, this is a very silly scenario. But it's no sillier than what Happy seems to be advocating: The concept that rules should continuously fluctuate according to conditions that may be secret, with those subject to the rules unaware of it until they commit a violation and have to suffer the consequences.

Yes, I'm a very verbal advocate for keeping the Standard Operating Proceeder(SOP) Sensitive Security Information(SSI). My above scenario is not advocating for either keeping the SOP SSI or publishing the SOP for passenger review which would be completely off topic(photography?!?). The scenario is what it is. I've only seen that happen once and only affected the checkpoint for about five minutes. I can't see why that scenario couldn't apply to other checkpoints. I wouldn't know. It was just something to think about. Maybe more of a thinking out loud on my part.

Your story was highly entertaining George but very silly. :)

I really don't like your statement “...they commit a violation and have to suffer the consequences.” when you used such a unrealistic example of what could happen to a passenger. Your leading people to make conclusions based off of nonfactual information is very deceptive. I don't think this was done on purpose but this is how I read it. Not a personal attack on you in any way, shape, or form. Just my opinion.

Other then that, it was a top notch story. Thanks for contributing to the Evolution of Security Blog.

Have a good weekend everyone,

-H2H

Anonymous said...

TSORon, any comments on your statement and the numerous replies to it?

George said...

@HappyToHelp: Your story was highly entertaining George but very silly.

Yes, it's silly. I even said so, and you quoted me. But I was merely following your own scenerio to one possible conclusion. If a TSA supervisor is ordered to call the police when someone is guilty of (unknowingly) photographing an Unphotographable Person, that could indeed lead to arrest. The police officers probably won't know the reason they were called, so it's not inconceivable that they'd assume the worst. Such an incident probably would never lead to a life sentence at Florance ADX, but given the politicization and hysteria about anything connected with "terrorism," it's not entirely implausible.

And it's even sillier if someone who unknowingly photographs an Unphotographable Person has to be confronted by police in the first place.

I really don't like your statement “...they commit a violation and have to suffer the consequences.” when you used such a unrealistic example of what could happen to a passenger.

OK. How about a more realistic example. I have a one-ounce bottle of sunscreen in my Freedom Baggie, which reflects my best effort to know and comply with publicly-available TSA "guidelines." But when I get to the checkpoint, the TSO informs me that bottles in Freedom Baggies have to be in manufacturer's labeled containers. That rule wasn't on the website, and I didn't know about it. But that was the rule in effect at that checkpoint, for that TSO, at that moment. And I unquestionably violated that rule. So of course I have to suffer the consequences.

In this case, the consequences I suffer are far less severe than a life term in Supermax: The TSO very politely and very respectfully offers me the opportunity to voluntarily abandon (to get it technically correct for Ron) my Prohibited Item, "if you want to fly today." With a gracious smile, I accept the TSO's offer, transfer my Prohibited Item from the Freedom Baggie to the receptacle generously provided for that purpose, thank the TSO for excellent work at protecting aviation, and go on to my cozy middle seat.

There it is. A realistic example of how a highly professional TSO caught me violating a rule that I had no idea existed (and probably had no way of knowing that it existed), and how I suffered the consequences of that violation. It's at least as silly as your scenerio and my follow-up. But it actually happened to me.

And by the way, I now put my sunscreen in a manufacturer's labeled bottle that originally held shampoo. I don't know how that does anything to improve security or aid the screening process. And for all I know it could constitute "artful concealment" for which I'd suffer even greater consequences. But since my difficult-to-find sunscreen comes only in four-ounce bottles, it's the only way I can think of to avoid violating that unpublished, unknowable rule about manufacturer's labeled bottles-- should I ever encounter another TSO who is enforcing it. Silly. Very silly indeed.

Phil said...

After several people failed to understand the difference between a request and a requirement, I reminded them that Bob at TSA said that people are asked not to photograph monitors at TSA search stations.

Someone still doesn't understand:

"Right there stating that TSA does not want you to take pictures of their monitors."

Sir or madam, I don't believe I care what TSA staff want any more than they care what I want. Regardless, Bob did not write anything about a policy prohibiting such photography, only that TSA discourages it by asking people not to do it. See the difference?

See also: definitions of: request, demand, ask, and require.

Anonymous said...

@HappyToHelp "The scenario is what it is. I've only seen that happen once and only affected the checkpoint for about five minutes."

Since you say that this happened while you were there for reasons you know, what was the magical scenario that made a person at your checkpoint an non-photographic entity? Vampire?

Bob said...

Phil, for Pete's sake, I was trying to be friendly with my language, but if you really need me to spell it out:

Y O U
M U S T
N O T
T A K E
A N Y
P H O T O G R A P H S
O F
T H E
M O N I T O R S.

Now here is something that I probably could have explained a little better: X-rays, Explosive Trace Portals, Explosive Trace Detection Machines, and Explosive Detection Systems all have monitors and must not be photogrpahed.

Bob

EoS Blog Team

Anonymous said...

Sorry, what you describe is NOT how you conduct business at Bush International Airport in Houston.

This article -- by an Israeli airport security professional -- addresses some of the shambolic and abusive incompetence the traveling public is subjected to in Houston and elsewhere:

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1237727562947

Now -- why don't you behave in fact like you say you do on this nice blog?

Anonymous said...

Sure wish things happened out in the real world the way the nice TSA blogger SAYS they do.

Phil said...

In his original post, Bob at TSA wrote (emphasis added):

"You can take pictures at our checkpoints as long as you’re not interfering with the screening process or slowing things down. We also ask that you do not film or take pictures of our monitors."

Then, upon Bob's suggestion, I used TSA's "Got Feedback?" program to request specifics from various airports. Then TSA representatives from about 15 airports confirmed that the only restriction on photography of publicly-accessible areas of airports that TSA places is to say that it may not be done if it interferes with TSA operations. Three mentioned the request that people not photograph monitors.

Then, contradicting his earlier statement, Bob wrote:

"for Pete's sake, I was trying to be friendly with my language, but if you really need me to spell it out:

Y O U
M U S T
N O T
T A K E
A N Y
P H O T O G R A P H S
O F
T H E
M O N I T O R S"


Bob, please cut the folksiness. This is a matter of restricting people's freedom of movement and their ability to document the actions of their government, not the rules at local swimming pool. Please don't try to be "friendly" if it means being inaccurate. Just show us the rules you require us to follow.

Assuming that your later statement takes precedence over your earlier one, could you be more specific? Is it unlawful for us to do so, or is it simply a condition that you place on our ability to cross your airport checkpoints? If it is unlawful, please cite the law. If it is simply a rule that applies to someone who wishes to cross your checkpoint, then it should be lawful to take photographs, then leave before crossing the checkpoint, right?

Also, why have you refused to admit my followup comment with a reference to the location of details of the survey of airport policies that I conducted upon your suggestion?

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Anonymous said...

Bob:

You wrote: "YOU MUST NOT..." photograph the monitors.

No one I talk to at TSA can show me the rule that prohibits photographing the monitors.

Where is it written?

RB said...

Bob said...
Phil, for Pete's sake, I was trying to be friendly with my language, but if you really need me to spell it out:

Y O U
M U S T
N O T
T A K E
A N Y
P H O T O G R A P H S
O F
T H E
M O N I T O R S.

Now here is something that I probably could have explained a little better: X-rays, Explosive Trace Portals, Explosive Trace Detection Machines, and Explosive Detection Systems all have monitors and must not be photogrpahed.

Bob

EoS Blog Team

April 3, 2009 11:11 PM
.......................

Bob, would you please post the law codifying that statement? Thanks.

txrus said...

Bob, who appears to be getting a bit testy, said April 3, 2009 11:11 PM..
Phil, for Pete's sake, I was trying to be friendly with my language, but if you really need me to spell it out:

Y O U
M U S T
N O T
T A K E
A N Y
P H O T O G R A P H S
O F
T H E
M O N I T O R S.

Now here is something that I probably could have explained a little better: X-rays, Explosive Trace Portals, Explosive Trace Detection Machines, and Explosive Detection Systems all have monitors and must not be photogrpahed.
********************************
You mean like this Bob?
http://www.dsxray.com/auto_explv_detect/examinersx.htm

I know the picture isn't the greatest, but fortunately the company provides a 'request information' link if you scroll down & I'm pretty sure what they send in their glossy marketing materials will have a much better image.

Ponter said...

No one I talk to at TSA can show me the rule that prohibits photographing the monitors. Where is it written?

TSA rules are not written. And for very good reasons.

The TSA operates under Standard Operating Procedures that are necessarily SSI. Those Procedures aren't rules, but reasonably detailed guidelines. The real world of the checkpoints is so variable, and the enemy so protean, that it would not be possible to write "rules" that cover every situation.

So TSOs are given extensive and rigorous training in the SOPs, which include general guidance on how to deal with numerous threats and situations. With that background, TSOs are then empowered to use their special knowledge and training to make decisions about the specific enforcement of the SSI guidelines for each situation.

Similarly, the information for passengers published on TSA websites is not the "rules" to which TSOs are accountable, but merely "guidelines" for informational purposes. The emphasis in the published guidelines is on practicality under common situations. But more importantly, there are intentionally vague and incomplete to protect the secrecy of the SOPs so the enemy cannot exploit it. Following the guidelines is the best way for passengers to increase the likelihood of a smooth transit through the checkpoint, but there are no guarantees. If a TSO determines that an item is Prohibited even though it's specifically listed as permitted in the guidelines, understand that it's a determination the TSO has made based on a specific situation under SSI guidelines. You can request a supervisor, but it's likely that the supervisor will concur with the TSO based on valid SSI information. It is best for everyone to keep this in mind, and cooperate with all requests. There is a good reason for everything a TSO does, even though you may necessarily not know that reason.

Passengers thus need to understand that Effective Security against the terrorist threat cannot be based on "rules." Rather, TSOs must have the greatest possible discretion and flexibility to deal appropriately with an infinite number of situations at checkpoints. It may appear to uninformed passengers that the rules continually change, or that it's at the whim and caprice of TSOs. As Kip always reminded us, Unpredictability is the key to the TSA's effectiveness. So while the specific detailed "rules" that apply at the checkpoint may indeed vary, be assured that TSOs are always following the TSA's SSI operating procedures, and are responsible for always meeting professional standards of conduct specified in those Standard Operating Procedures.

With that understanding, the screening experience will be more pleasant for everyone concerned. Cooperation and gratitude, rather than complaining and questioning, should be the rule for passengers. If a request doesn't make sense to you, don't increase your blood pressure by being angry and trying to understand. Just remember that there is a good reason behind every decision that a TSO makes-- and that your ignorance of it is actually beneficial, since it means the enemy doesn't know it either! Leave the thinking and understanding to the TSA and its officers, since they alone have access to robust intelligence and SSI procedures that protect aviation from terrible threats. That's their job. Your job is to comply and obey. Working together as a team, the TSA and the traveling public can win the Global War on Terror!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Bob:

You wrote: "YOU MUST NOT..." photograph the monitors.

No one I talk to at TSA can show me the rule that prohibits photographing the monitors.

Where is it written?

April 4, 2009 2:48 AM


That information is SSI and as such you have no need to know.

/sarcasm

Anonymous said...

@Anon "No one I talk to at TSA can show me the rule that prohibits photographing the monitors.

Where is it written?"

I'll handle this for Bob in his usual tone:

IF WE TELL YOU WHERE IT IS WRITTEN TERRORISTS WILL KILL YOUR MOTHER!

---
Fun fact, my captcha for this post s "terer". Obviously TSA is not screening their word verification step for evil doers....

TSORon said...

Another Anonymous poster said:
"TSORon, any comments on your statement and the numerous replies to it?"

Yes.

Specifically, it is US Code § 5315, Subsection 5631 that states the requirements for transporting more than $10,000 in cash or other monetary instruments outside of the US, or into the US. You can find the whole text at the following link: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/uscode31/usc_sec_31_00005316----000-.html

Now, did someone claim that this was a reported transportation? No. They didnt. Since it was not mentioned one could have given me a break and the benefit of the doubt. I do know the law, and no I dont make it up on the spot. And I can find it on the web.

Anonymous said...

I believe the screens are considered SSI which would make the law that governs SSI the rule that applies to photographing monitors. It is like your taking a picture of SSI. The SSI is controlled under 49 CFR Part 1520.

-James

Anonymous said...

"Y O U
M U S T
N O T
T A K E
A N Y
P H O T O G R A P H S
O F
T H E
M O N I T O R S.

Now here is something that I probably could have explained a little better: X-rays, Explosive Trace Portals, Explosive Trace Detection Machines, and Explosive Detection Systems all have monitors and must not be photogrpahed."

Bob, what law prohibits citizens from taking photographs of the monitors their tax dollars paid for?

Anonymous said...

From TSORon:

Now, did someone claim that this was a reported transportation? No. They didnt. Since it was not mentioned one could have given me a break and the benefit of the doubt. I do know the law, and no I dont make it up on the spot. And I can find it on the web.

April 5, 2009 12:42 AM


So why did you say that it was illegal to take $10,000 out of the country in an earlier post? Benefit of the doubt? You don't give passengers the benefit of doubt. All passengers get treated like they are yet unidentified, unindicted terrorists by TSA. I wish you had the slightest inkling of how much this incident has done to further damage TSA's image with the flying public.

RB said...

Ponter said...
No one I talk to at TSA can show me the rule that prohibits photographing the monitors. Where is it written?

TSA rules are not written. And for very good reasons.
..............................
I hope you were doing a snark post and not being serious.

Please tell me you were not serious!

Anonymous said...

Ponter said:

Similarly, the information for passengers published on TSA websites is not the "rules" to which TSOs are accountable, but merely "guidelines" for informational purposes. The emphasis in the published guidelines is on practicality under common situations. But more importantly, there are intentionally vague and incomplete to protect the secrecy of the SOPs so the enemy cannot exploit it. Following the guidelines is the best way for passengers to increase the likelihood of a smooth transit through the checkpoint, but there are no guarantees. If a TSO determines that an item is Prohibited even though it's specifically listed as permitted in the guidelines, understand that it's a determination the TSO has made based on a specific situation under SSI guidelines. You can request a supervisor, but it's likely that the supervisor will concur with the TSO based on valid SSI information. It is best for everyone to keep this in mind, and cooperate with all requests. There is a good reason for everything a TSO does, even though you may necessarily not know that reason.

So you could, if you wanted, confiscate clothing, jewlery, cash, laptop computers and all in an effort to make flying safe? Insane.

Matt said...

>>>TSA rules are not written. And for very good reasons.<<<

Um, in America we don't follow unwritten "laws". Laws that are unwritten can be made up on the spot.

Why is the subject of laws made up on the spot always a recurring theme with TSA?

Phil said...

Contradicting his earlier statement that TSA discourages but does not prohibit photography of computer monitors at TSA search stations in airports (something which has been confirmed for me by about 15 TSA representatives for individual airports), Bob at TSA wrote:

"for Pete's sake, I was trying to be friendly with my language, but if you really need me to spell it out:

"YOU MUST NOT TAKE ANY PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE MONITORS"


Bob, assuming that your later statement takes precedence over your earlier one, could you please be more specific? Is it unlawful for people to photograph computer monitors that are visible from publicly-accessible areas of TSA's airport checkpoints, or is it simply a condition that you place on people's ability to cross your airport checkpoints? If it is unlawful, please cite the law.

If it is simply a rule that applies to someone who wishes to cross your checkpoint, then it must be lawful to take photographs, then leave before crossing the checkpoint. Why would you try to impose such a restriction that only affects people who voluntarily comply? Don't you think that anyone who really wants or needs to photograph your equipment will simply do so and disregard any disappointment it causes you?

Furthermore, why would you attempt to prohibit -- via law or via your super-secret rules that all your lowest-level staff are shown but that you hide from the public -- photography of something that thousands of people can see when they walk through an airport?

Also, why have you refused to admit my followup comment with a reference to the location of details of the survey of airport policies that I conducted upon your suggestion? You told us that information you left out of your original post could be found by contacting TSA via your "Got Feedback?" program. I did so, posted a comment here stating such and promising to follow up here with results. I have submitted the comment with links to results gathered so far three times now (at 2009-04-03 14:57 -0700, 2009-04-04 07:30 -0700, and 2009-04-06 09:03 -0700). The comment violates none of your EoS comment rules.

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Bob said...

Phil said... Also, why have you refused to admit my followup comment with a reference to the location of details of the survey of airport policies that I conducted upon your suggestion?...

The comment violates none of your EoS comment rules. April 6, 2009 2:30 PM
-------------------------------
Per the comment policy: In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. Phil, the comments you are trying to link to all have phone numbers and e-mail addresses that are not posted publicly elsewhere. In one attempt here, you even attempted to post one of our CSM's work addresses. This is not acceptable.

Bob

EoS Blog Team

Anonymous said...

"Per the comment policy: In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers."

Bob, if Phil is sharing the same information he is on FlyerTalk, shame on you for insinuating that he's posting SSNs, which are in a completely different category from the work contact information of public employees whose job is to serve the public. Shame on you.

Phil said...

I wrote:

"why have you refused to admit my followup comment with a reference to the location of details of the survey of airport policies that I conducted upon your suggestion? You told us that information you left out of your original post could be found by contacting TSA via your "Got Feedback?" program. I did so, posted a comment here stating such and promising to follow up here with results. I have submitted the comment with links to results gathered so far three times now (at 2009-04-03 14:57 -0700, 2009-04-04 07:30 -0700, and 2009-04-06 09:03 -0700). The comment violates none of your EoS comment rules."

Bob at TSA responded:

"Per the comment policy: In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers."

Bob, the comment you have repeatedly refused to allow here contains nothing of the sort. It simply contains links to various points in a discussion on FlyerTalk Forums titled, "PV Alert: Can I Take Photos at the Checkpoint and Airport?" That discussion is very relevant to this post. The information there -- that with which you take issue -- is included in the signature lines of your TSA airport "customer service" and public relations representatives -- the ones that each and every person who contacts TSA via "Got Feedback?" will receive.

It's as if someone took letters received from TSA's public relations department, made copies, and posted them on community bulletin boards, then you disallowed any mention of the bulletin board locations because that person neglected to white information on the TSA letterhead that was used. What's the big deal?

Bob continued:

"Phil, the comments you are trying to link to all have phone numbers and e-mail addresses that are not posted publicly elsewhere. In one attempt here, you even attempted to post one of our [customer service manager's] work addresses. This is not acceptable."

There are no e-mail addresses in the FlyerTalk thread. I obfuscated all of them because someone suggested that posting the addresses there might increase the likelihood of your staff receiving unsolicited commercial messages at those addresses. If the e-mail addresses and phone numbers of these people are so secret, why do those people include those addresses and numbers in their e-mail sig lines so that this information will be sent to everyone who contacts TSA? Setting aside the bizarre situation of an organization who has no customers employing "customer service managers," why was it unacceptable to publish work contact information for TSA's "customer service" managers for your "customers" to see?

Why is it unacceptable to link in a comment on the TSA blog to places where people can read e-mail I received from TSA customer service managers and public relations staff after contacting them upon your suggestion? What are you trying to hide? Would you prefer that everyone who is interested in the information you neglected to gather be required to contact TSA to receive this information instead of simply reading the copies I received?

Also, Bob, you never answered the question about photographing your monitors. First, you told us it was discouraged. Then you told us it was prohibited. Is it unlawful to do so, or will doing so simply disqualify someone from being allowed to cross your airport checkpoints?

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Miller said...

I vaguely remember seeing some signs around military installations that said something to the effect that photography was forbidden. TSA could come down off of their high horse and either expressly ok photography or ban it and post signage citing laws preventing photography. This isn't rocket science.

Bob said...

Anonymous said... Bob, if Phil is sharing the same information he is on FlyerTalk, shame on you for insinuating that he's posting SSNs, which are in a completely different category from the work contact information of public employees whose job is to serve the public. Shame on you. April 6, 2009 3:42 PM

Anon, I simply quoted the comment policy. Phil is posting phone numbers, addresses and e-mail addresses. He may have changed the format of the e-mail addresses (since I complained to the mods)but the numbers and addresses are still there. Shame on me? Hahaha. I am not ashamed of attempting to keep my coworkers in-boxes spam free, their phones prak free, and their offices stalker free.

Bob

EoS Blog Team

Phil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Bob, you're being disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst. Phil was not posting Social Security numbers, which can cause real damage in terms of identity theft; he was posting the WORK contact information of government employees. The two are not remotely similar but you chose to phrase your comment to suggest he was posting truly personal and (in the wrong hands) dangerous information. Again: Shame on you. You certainly deserve it.

Bob said...

Phil said... Bob, the comment you have repeatedly refused to allow here contains nothing of the sort. It simply contains links to various points in a discussion on FlyerTalk Forums titled, "PV Alert: Can I Take Photos at the Checkpoint and Airport?" April 6, 2009 3:46 PM
---------------------------
Phil, twist it however you like. The fact is that your links point to items that violate our comment policy. Each time you have posted, I have taken the time to follow your links and each time I found content that violated our policy.

Bob

EoS Blog Team

GSOLTSO said...

Anon said "I'll handle this for Bob in his usual tone:

IF WE TELL YOU WHERE IT IS WRITTEN TERRORISTS WILL KILL YOUR MOTHER!"

That was pretty cheap there Anon, Bob would never write what is above. He might imply that there is a viable terrorist threat to aviation (and there is regardless of what all the armchair quarterbacks on this site say), and that there are people out there that wish to do you and your family harm (which is the truth, not all of them are terrorists or foriegn persons). Man, I have seen some cheap ones on here but that one takes the cake!

West
EOS Blog Team

RB said...

Phil, twist it however you like. The fact is that your links point to items that violate our comment policy. Each time you have posted, I have taken the time to follow your links and each time I found content that violated our policy.

Bob

EoS Blog Team

April 6, 2009 4:34 PM
.....................
Your EOS comment policy does not say that links to such information violate the posting policy here.

In an attempt to control what people see and read your engaging in censorship to limit free speech.

You should be real proud Bob!

RB said...

GSOLTSO said...
Anon said "I'll handle this for Bob in his usual tone:

IF WE TELL YOU WHERE IT IS WRITTEN TERRORISTS WILL KILL YOUR MOTHER!"

That was pretty cheap there Anon, Bob would never write what is above. He might imply that there is a viable terrorist threat to aviation (and there is regardless of what all the armchair quarterbacks on this site say), and that there are people out there that wish to do you and your family harm (which is the truth, not all of them are terrorists or foriegn persons). Man, I have seen some cheap ones on here but that one takes the cake!

West
EOS Blog Team

April 6, 2009 6:24 PM

................
Apparently the remarks you speak of have been taken down.

Why not just post the law that restricts photography at a TSA checkpoint.

I say you can't because no such law exist.

Anonymous said...

@GSOLTSO "That was pretty cheap there Anon, Bob would never write what is above. He might imply that there is a viable terrorist threat to aviation (and there is regardless of what all the armchair quarterbacks on this site say), and that there are people out there that wish to do you and your family harm (which is the truth, not all of them are terrorists or foriegn persons). Man, I have seen some cheap ones on here but that one takes the cake!"

I stand by it and think it was fair. I don't know what Bob is like outside of work, but in his official persona his arguments all boil down to: (paraphrasing) "We do things that don't make sense and won't explain them to you or apologize that they violate the constitution because despite violating the laws of physics and logic they keep you 'safe'."

My post got that across in a snappier way that was easier to type and easier to read and made light of his original shouting tone of typing.

Phil said...

Bob at TSA wrote:

"The fact is that your links point to items that violate our comment policy."

How can a page on another Web site violate your comment policy? Your comment policy only applies to comments on your blog. It states:

While we’re on the subject of deleted posts, it’s important to know why we do delete some posts. It all breaks down to the following reasons:

* Personal attacks (on both officers and passengers)
* Profanity (and I thought some sailors knew how to curse)
* Long embedded url strings (only because it messes up the format of the blog)
* Threats (enough said on this one)
* Duplicate posts (hitting submit 12 times won't make the comment appear any faster)
* Off-topic comments (and since we can't tell which topic a comment goes under when we moderate, we mean REALLY off topic, think plagues of locust off topic…)
* Sensitive information (TSA folks explaining exact procedures that could aid someone wishing to do us harm)

Other than that, all's fair in love and blogging."


The target of any link included in a comment might someday violate your comment policy were that page submitted as a comment.

Your comment policy doesn't say anything about information in pages to which a comment links.

My comment does not violate your comment policy. Please allow it. All's fair in love and blogging.

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Anonymous said...

Uhhhh Phil - you might want to link the actual comment policy. I think this is an example of why you have problems finding things on the TSA page.

http://www.tsa.gov/blog/2008/01/comment-policy.html

Phil said...

Uh... anonymous person: If you had checked it, you would have found that like the other policy that has been published, the one to which you directed me does not say anything about the content of sites targeted by links in reader-supplied comments.

Bob has yet to provide any evidence other than his word that the comment he refuses to allow violates any TSA policy. Can anyone else? I'll describe the comment I tried to post: First, I quote my earlier comment describing my taking Bob's advice and contacting 50 U.S. airports via TSA's "Got Feedback?" program to ask for local policies related to photography in airports. Then I note the number of responses I have received and the number for which I received the information that was requested. I note that I am publishing my findings on FlyerTalk Forums, then I list 19 airports, each of which is hyperlinked to a different post of a thread that was created to discuss Bob's "Can I take photos at the checkpoint and airport?" EoS post. Each of those posts contains the text of e-mail I received from TSA to my "Got Feedback?" query and those I sent in response, modified in the following ways: I list my full name but not my personal e-mail address, I trim quotations from each message (because we have only top-posted, so the quotes convey no additional information), and I change the @ symbol in other people's e-mail addresses to something that is invalid in e-mail but easily recognizable by humans, "%AT%".

That's it. That is what Bob refuses to allow here. For each of these airports, I have published information that anyone who contacted TSA via the "Got Feedback?" form and asked the same question I asked would receive. There doesn't even have to be a human asking the question. Someone could write a computer program that could set up a new e-mail address, submit a question to the "Got Feedback?" form, then display the response that is sent in e-mail on a Web site. Would that, the result of a computer-generated query to TSA, be private information? It would be the same information that Bob not only refuses to allow me to post here on the EoS blog, but that when found on an outside Website at a location I reference in a comment posted to the EoS blog, causes Bob to send my comment to the delete-o-meter.

Why is Bob so concerned with me posting a link to this information that his colleages sent to me in cleartext e-mail without even knowing who I am?

Not only is the information contained in the bodies of the published messages available to anyone who writes TSA with the same question, but the information Bob has expressed concern about is in every response to any question or comment (not just the ones about photography) that people send in to "Got Feedback?", because it's in the signature blocks that these TSA airport representatives attach to every e-mail they send. There's absolutely nothing private about the information. It includes office contact information -- not personal -- for people who work for our federal government. 90% of them have "customer service manager" in their job titles (most in combination with something else, but one is a "stakeholder manager" and one is an "administrative supervisor"). Of course, TSA has no customers, but I believe when they speak of customer service, they mean to refer to the act of fielding questions and concerns about TSA from the public, so in this context, we are their "customers" and these people who respond to the "Got Feedback?" queries are paid to talk, e-mail, and write to us.

Bob claims it's bad to publish information about how to contact these customer support managers via phone, fax, e-mail, and postal mail, or to simply make an appointment walk in to the office and talk to someone like you can at any other government office that deals with the public. What would be bad about publishing work contact information for these people whose job is to be in contact with the public?

Bob, what's the problem? Publication of work phone numbers of your TSA airport customer service managers? This is all in a public directory somewhere, right? And if not, anyone can call in, get a switchboard, and have someone connect him with the TSA customer service manager, right? And if someone wants the names, he can just call the airport and ask who the TSA customer service manager there is, right?

Maybe it's not the contact information that Bob is really bothered by, but the messages showing the variety of TSA reactions to the possibility of someone doing something as harmless as photographing things that thousands of people can see in airports. Admittedly, the ability to photograph things in airports is not a burning priority, but it's still ridiculous that so many of us feel compelled to ask permission or simply assume that it is not allowed, and the fact that there's confusion among TSA airport managers is a strong indication that there is confusion among all TSA airport staff. Let's clear it up now, before it causes anyone difficulty.

I understand that many people reading this wonder why I'm making such a big deal of it. I'll try to explain.

It's becoming increasingly common for people to be hassled or even arrested by security guards and police who think the public should not be allowed to photograph things they can see with their own eyes. On the bright side, it's also becoming increasingly common for allegations of police misconduct to be caught on video because so many people carry video recorders in their pockets in the form of a mobile phone.

These airport photography policies affect our ability to document the actions of our government employees' interaction with us. Not just any goverment employees, but those of an agency whose public image is quite poor, whose airport staff have a reputation for bullying people, whose staff refer to the seizure of our belongings based on arbitrary restrictions (typically as an alternative to restriction of our freedom of movement) as "voluntary surrender", and whose staff say they have the right to prevent us from traveling about our own country based on rules we are not allowed to read. That agency is giving mixed messages about whether or not we are allowed to photograph or video record their activities.

Those mixed messages lead me to believe that there is a strong possibility that many people at airports who might otherwise record information that would be useful to the rest of us will be bullied into not doing so by TSA staff who do not know or care that the person has every right to photograph or video record as he wishes. I think we need to establish that TSA has no right to stop us from documenting the actions of its staff in this manner so that it will be crystal clear to any TSA staff who might otherwise threaten people who try to do so.

When someone working as part of our government tells me I'm not allowed to do something, but refuses to provide anything other than his word in support of his claim, I become very suspicious. Others should, too.

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Anonymous said...

Phil, the comment policy linked under the delete-o-meter is just one version of the comment policy. In keeping with the TSA traditions of keeping the public off-balance so that the terrorists stand out, there are two more comment policies policy available: One spelled out in the text above the comment box, and a third at the link above the comment box.

...Amongst our weapons are suprise, fear, secrecy, inconsistency, and, when it suits our purposes, a fanatical devotion to the SOP

GSOLTSO said...

Anon said "I stand by it and think it was fair. I don't know what Bob is like outside of work, but in his official persona his arguments all boil down to: (paraphrasing) "We do things that don't make sense and won't explain them to you or apologize that they violate the constitution because despite violating the laws of physics and logic they keep you 'safe'."

Wow, what Bob usually says is (paraphrasing) " I understand that you are not happy with what we do, but there are valid reasons behind what we do and due to the nature of the threat to aviation we do some things that are really unpopular and due to the nature of the threat, we can't tell you everything you want to hear". But what a lot of you cull from his statements are "this is NOT WHAT I WANT TO HEAR and it makes me MAD!". Cheap shots are demeaning to both the personit is directed at, but even more demeaning to the person that lofted it in the first place.

West
EOS Blog Team

Anonymous said...

@HapyToHelp "The scenario is what it is. I've only seen that happen once and only affected the checkpoint for about five minutes. I can't see why that scenario couldn't apply to other checkpoints. I wouldn't know."

Are you going to tell us about this scenario? Since I can only visit this blog every other day or so myself, I have been waiting before reminding you but you now seem to be avoiding the question.

RB said...

Bob, please post the regulation(s) that makes taking a picture of a TSA Xray monitor or any other TSA equipment a violation of the law.

Thanks.

Phil said...

In the original post, Bob at TSA wrote:

"You can take pictures at our checkpoints as long as you’re not interfering with the screening process or slowing things down. We also ask that you do not film or take pictures of our monitors."

Later, contradicting this claim, he wrote:

"YOU MUST NOT TAKE ANY PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE MONITORS"

Bob, you never updated your original post. If your later statement is accurate, then your earlier one is not accurate, and you are misleading people. Also, note that multiple TSA airport customer service managers have e-mailed me with confirmation that you simply ask people not to photograph the monitors. Neither you nor any of the 20+ customer service managers who have replied to my question has cited any laws or rules indicating that such photography is prohibited. (Readers: note that although my doing so would not be a violation of EoS's published comment policies, Bob will not allow me to post comments here which hyperlink to the FlyerTalk Forum discussion, "PV Alert: Can I Take Photos at the Checkpoint and Airport?" where you can read these responses from TSA yourselves.)

Is it unlawful for people to photograph computer monitors that are visible from publicly-accessible areas of TSA's airport checkpoints, or is it simply a condition that you place on people's ability to cross your airport checkpoints? If it is unlawful, please cite the law.

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Miller said...

RB, I suspect that no regulation exists, but that TSA is leery of having pictures of checkpoints and monitors taken, for fear that they might be held up for ridicule. Suspect that the locals might whip out the SSI in an effort to suppress something that is perfectly legal and violates nothing.

George said...

@West: Wow, what Bob usually says is (paraphrasing) " I understand that you are not happy with what we do, but there are valid reasons behind what we do and due to the nature of the threat to aviation we do some things that are really unpopular and due to the nature of the threat, we can't tell you everything you want to hear".

Even more succinctly, what Bob is saying is "Trust us." Unfortunately, many of the people who post comments here do not trust the TSA, for the reasons they describe in their comments. It is indeed frustrating when the response to questions (when there is a response at all) is usually some variation on "Trust us." The "cheap shots" are a reflection of frustration with receiving only that sort of non-answer, with no sign that the questions are ever being addressed.

Therein lies what seems an intractable problem. Bob is surely providing the only appropriate response to questions for which an actual answer would require revealing SSI or classified information. And since so much of the TSA's operating procedures fall in that category, the sort of answer you paraphrase is the only possible response. Giving Bob the benefit of the doubt, and assuming that he genuinely cares about helping us, he has to be just as frustrated about all the restrictions on what he can say.

This problem has to be resolved at the highest levels of the TSA and DHS. People would be willing to accept "Trust us" as an explanation for "unpopular" actions if the agency has the public's trust. Regrettably, the TSA does not enjoy that trust. And the TSA has only itself to blame for its lack of credibility. Its leaders have betrayed the public trust with policies of shrouding everything they do in secrecy, and of reacting to its reported failures and abuses with PR spin to avoid any accountability for correcting its problems. That's a cultural problem built in to the TSA as it's currently organized (and also a reflection of the Bush administration that created it). So we're not going to accept "Trust us" as an answer, until the TSA has earned our trust. And that will take a lot of work, including a change of culture at the TSA to one that actually values our trust. I firmly believe that such a change will only improve the TSA's effectiveness.

RB said...

Miller said...
RB, I suspect that no regulation exists, but that TSA is leery of having pictures of checkpoints and monitors taken, for fear that they might be held up for ridicule. Suspect that the locals might whip out the SSI in an effort to suppress something that is perfectly legal and violates nothing.

April 8, 2009 11:37 AM
.......................
I suspect that no regulation exist also, however TSA employee Blogger Bob clearly stated that taking pictures of these things is not permitted.

That only leaves two possible explanations, that it is in fact against some regulation that should be easily provided or that it is not against any regulation and that an employee of the United States Government has posted something that is not true and that action would be a clear violation of Integrity Regulations.

As many people know a persons integrity can be the sole reason to not grant a security clearance or to revoke same even if the person has never committed a crime or illegal act.

I'm sure Blogger Bob is being truthful about these type of photographs, I'm just asking for the regulation that regulates that activity.

RB said...

Bob said...
Phil, for Pete's sake, I was trying to be friendly with my language, but if you really need me to spell it out:

Y O U
M U S T
N O T
T A K E
A N Y
P H O T O G R A P H S
O F
T H E
M O N I T O R S.

Now here is something that I probably could have explained a little better: X-rays, Explosive Trace Portals, Explosive Trace Detection Machines, and Explosive Detection Systems all have monitors and must not be photogrpahed.

Bob

EoS Blog Team

April 3, 2009 11:11 PM

..........................
Bob is this law or opinion?

If law please state.

HappyToHelp said...

Anonymous said...
Are you going to tell us about this scenario? Since I can only visit this blog every other day or so myself, I have been waiting before reminding you but you now seem to be avoiding the question.

Not trying to avoid anything. Just had my weekend, and Mondays are bad days for me. Spent most of my blogging time yesterday signing up for a blogger account and preparing a lame profile(when you click HappyToHelp) for your viewing pleasure.

I'm not going into specifics about that scenario. It was well over a year ago and I don't have all the answers when it comes down to it. It was the only thing about photography that stood out in my memory. Tell you the truth, I rarely have ever seen photography at the checkpoint.

I can confirm it did not involve vampires. The point is that there might be some rare situations were Law Enforcement Officer will make contact with you based off of you taking pictures at the checkpoint. Would the Law Enforcement Officers ask/make you stop taking pictures. I don't know. I can't speak for them and I have no personal accounts of that happening.

Thanks for the reminder though,

-Tim “H2H”

EoS Blog Team

Phil said...

In the original post, Bob at TSA wrote:

"You can take pictures at our checkpoints as long as you’re not interfering with the screening process or slowing things down. We also ask that you do not film or take pictures of our monitors."

Later, contradicting this claim, he wrote:

"YOU MUST NOT TAKE ANY PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE MONITORS"

Despite repeated requests for him to do so, Bob has neither reconciled these conflicting statements nor cited the source of either of them.

Later, Miller wrote:

"I suspect that no regulation exists, but that TSA is leery of having pictures of checkpoints and monitors taken, for fear that they might be held up for ridicule. Suspect that the locals might whip out the SSI in an effort to suppress something that is perfectly legal and violates nothing."

In response, RB wrote:

"I suspect that no regulation exist also, however TSA employee Blogger Bob clearly stated that taking pictures of these things is not permitted."

Given everything that Bob has written here, I don't think his statements are clear. They are in direct conflict. TSA airport customer service managers have provided similarly conflicting information to me. Bob won't allow me to link to that information so you can read it, but a Web search for "PV Alert: Can I Take Photos at the Checkpoint and Airport" will locate it.

Bob, please tell us if you think that photographing TSA computer monitors that we, the public, are allowed to look at in airports is unlawful? If it is, could you please cite the law that makes it so?

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Anonymous said...

Blogger GSOLTSO said...

"....But what a lot of you cull from his statements are "this is NOT WHAT I WANT TO HEAR and it makes me MAD!". Cheap shots are demeaning to both the personit is directed at, but even more demeaning to the person that lofted it in the first place."


Do you see the hypocrisy in your post?

Anonymous said...

Why is this difficult to understand? Yes you can take pictures just ASK THE TSA AT THE CHECKPOINT BEFORE YOU DO! And sadly yes they are going to question the guy standing in line photographing every single inch of their checkpoint from one side to the other. You know, cause security checkpoints make such good vacation photos.....

Would mcdonalds be curios about a guy walking in and taking panoramic 360 degree photos of their entire resturant rather then ordering food? maybe hes a health inspector? maybe hes competition? or maybe hes a terrorist trying to find ways through a freakin checkpoint this isn't hard to understand people, and yes I was using the mcdonalds thing as a comparrison to a security checkpoint.

RB said...

Anonymous said...
Why is this difficult to understand? Yes you can take pictures just ASK THE TSA AT THE CHECKPOINT BEFORE YOU DO! And sadly yes they are going to question the guy standing in line photographing every single inch of their checkpoint from one side to the other. You know, cause security checkpoints make such good vacation photos.....

Would mcdonalds be curios about a guy walking in and taking panoramic 360 degree photos of their entire resturant rather then ordering food? maybe hes a health inspector? maybe hes competition? or maybe hes a terrorist trying to find ways through a freakin checkpoint this isn't hard to understand people, and yes I was using the mcdonalds thing as a comparrison to a security checkpoint.

April 8, 2009 5:32 PM
.....................
If it is permissible to take pictures at a TSA Checkpoint then there is no reason to ask anyone for permission.

In respect to McDonald's, that is a private business and if they don't want anyone taking pictures inside their stores then they can certainly control that activity.

Your comparisons are not the valid.

GSOLTSO said...

George, I agree that a lot of the pointed comments/cheap shots, etc are a direct reflection of the frustration from not getting the answers that they are seeking. I know that there are several situations where we are not allowed to give the information requested (due to the dreaded SSI clauses). I know how frustrating that can be, it is just maddening to have that answer, but it is just as maddening sometimes to have to GIVE that answer over and over. I will tell you to trust me that Bob really cares, you should see some of the stuff he has to delete from these blogs!

West
EOS Blog Team

RB said...

Bob, you apparently missed this since you have not responded.

Law or Policy?
.............................

RB said...
Bob said...
Phil, for Pete's sake, I was trying to be friendly with my language, but if you really need me to spell it out:

Y O U
M U S T
N O T
T A K E
A N Y
P H O T O G R A P H S
O F
T H E
M O N I T O R S.

Now here is something that I probably could have explained a little better: X-rays, Explosive Trace Portals, Explosive Trace Detection Machines, and Explosive Detection Systems all have monitors and must not be photogrpahed.

Bob

EoS Blog Team

April 3, 2009 11:11 PM

..........................
Bob is this law or opinion?

If law please state.

April 8, 2009 1:50 PM

GSOLTSO said...

Anon this is a link for you hypocrisy

I see no hypocrisy in what I said. I merely pointed out that a lot of people don't hear what they want to hear and will not accept it. I pointed out that one person using the Anon handle took a cheap shot and deserved to be called out for it. Any other questions?

West
EOS Blog Team

Anonymous said...

Phil - For someone who is supposedly "all about the right...."

I find it funny that several of the TSA email responses you posted or linked to over at Flyer Talk contain this little bit of verbiage or some such derivitive:

"This communication, along with any attachments, is covered by federal and state law governing electronic communications and may contain confidential and legally privileged information. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, use or copying of this message is strictly prohibited. If you have received this in error, please reply immediately to the sender and delete this message. "

From what I read above, that email was intended for you and you alone, not to be "publicly disseminated".

Why do you feel that that gives you the right to publish it? I would think that that alone would prevent some folks at TSA from responding to you.

Phil said...

Anonymous person: Such a notice carries absolutely no authority. Many recipients of e-mail never even see them (who reads a nasty 30-line sig block, anyway?).

To bring this into meatspace so it seems more familiar, imagine if someone sent you a piece of paper in the mail that contained instructions dictating what you could and could not do with that paper. Would you give those instructions a second thought? Of course not.

Bob, why are you now refusing to allow my comments asking again whether photography of your search equipment is unlawful or simply a violation of the rules that people must follow in order to be allowed past your airport search stations?

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

George said...

@West: I know how frustrating that can be, it is just maddening to have that answer, but it is just as maddening sometimes to have to GIVE that answer over and over. I will tell you to trust me that Bob really cares, you should see some of the stuff he has to delete from these blogs!

For once, I will actually accept "trust me" as as a valid response from a TSA representative!

I honestly do have to respect Bob. I think he's doing .... (I don't want to say "a bang up job" for fear of setting off alarms) very fine work at an impossible job. His job is to absorb continual brickbats from people who are very angry and frustrated with the TSA. Some of the comments are from people who have genuine concerns, complaints, and even constructive suggestions for improvement. Others are simply angry and ill-mannered, and are best dealt with using the delete-o-meter.

But the pervasive secrecy surrounding most aspects of that agency's operation (along with the usual inertia and ineptitude that's the defining characteristic of any large bureaucracy) means he is extremely limited in what he can do to address the concerns, or even respond to them. And he is presumably also under pressure from the PR people to post an appropriate quota of official TSA spin, and possibly to deflect public outrage over things like the STL incident until the Official Press Release wends its way through the approval channels. That's an impossible task if you're representing an agency that's widely reviled for the "unpopular" things it has to do.

I also have to give Kip a lot of credit for originally opening up a forum that encourages free speech. As a loyal appointee of an administration that considered itself infallible and thus had no tolerance for disagreement or dissent, he showed true courage. The frustrating thing is that it seems to have turned into a "designated protest zone" where TSA critics can freely rant at each other, but otherwise make no difference at all. That may have been the intent all along. And, of course, Bob isn't to blame for that. Nor is he to blame for what we complain about the TSA.

Miller said...

From Anonymous:

From what I read above, that email was intended for you and you alone, not to be "publicly disseminated".

Why do you feel that that gives you the right to publish it? I would think that that alone would prevent some folks at TSA from responding to you.

April 9, 2009 11:29 AM


Hmmm, I've gotten a few emails with the 30 line sig as well. The way I read it is that since it was sent to me that I can do with it what I want and that nothing prevents me from sending a copy to the local newspaper, publishing it to a blog, or deleting it. Nothing even close to being a 'violation' of anything.

I've always looked at emails from the point of view that they can wind up in some unusual places and that you don't send an email with anything that you don't want publicized.

Anonymous said...

Quoted:
" Phil said...
Anonymous person: Such a notice carries absolutely no authority. Many recipients of e-mail never even see them (who reads a nasty 30-line sig block, anyway?)."

-------------------------

So Phil, In Your Opinion, "Such a notice carries absolutely no authority."? Even though it is stated in plain text?

Seems that this is what you keep trying to turn this blog into: "Your Opinion".

I really hope that TSA just plain stops respopnding to you.

RB said...

Anonymous said...
Quoted:
" Phil said...
Anonymous person: Such a notice carries absolutely no authority. Many recipients of e-mail never even see them (who reads a nasty 30-line sig block, anyway?)."

-------------------------

So Phil, In Your Opinion, "Such a notice carries absolutely no authority."? Even though it is stated in plain text?

Seems that this is what you keep trying to turn this blog into: "Your Opinion".

I really hope that TSA just plain stops respopnding to you.

April 9, 2009 12:27 PM

...........................
I don't have the references available but I think the courts have ruled that such notices on faxes and emails have no weight.

In this case Phil was the intended recipient so he is free to do as he wishes with the material once received.

Tomas said...

Just a random thought here about those warnings on the bottom of a lot of emails - most of them (including the one quoted in this topic) imply that if you are not who it was addressed to, you should discard it and forget you saw it.

There appear to be no limits if you ARE the intended recipient.

Beyond that, before I retired as a manager from a Fortune 500 company, we were always told to NEVER put anything in writing (including email) that we would not be comfortable with seeing on the front page of the NYT (or read aloud in court).

That really is good advise. :o)

Tom (1 of 5-6)

Anonymous said...

A Slate article on email disclaimers and another say the same thing: disclaimers are toothless.

This communication, along with any attachments, is covered by federal and state law governing electronic communications and may contain confidential and legally privileged information. If the reader of this message is not Phil, you are hereby notified that you should pay Habitat for Humanity $1.00. If you have received this in error, please skip it without reading this message.

RB said...

Bob, what with St. Louis, Logan, Orlando and others I understand that you've been a bit busy but you really need to clarify this subject before someone gets arrested for doing something that might be against some law.

You have clearly made two differing statements about pictures of certain TSA equipement.

"We ask you not to", does not have the force of law.

They both cannot be correct so plese if it is in fact against some law to photograph the monitor of an xray machine then just post the law that states such.
.................................


RB said...
Bob, you apparently missed this since you have not responded.

Law or Policy?
.............................

RB said...
Bob said...
Phil, for Pete's sake, I was trying to be friendly with my language, but if you really need me to spell it out:

Y O U
M U S T
N O T
T A K E
A N Y
P H O T O G R A P H S
O F
T H E
M O N I T O R S.

Now here is something that I probably could have explained a little better: X-rays, Explosive Trace Portals, Explosive Trace Detection Machines, and Explosive Detection Systems all have monitors and must not be photogrpahed.

Bob

EoS Blog Team

April 3, 2009 11:11 PM

..........................
Bob is this law or opinion?

If law please state.

April 8, 2009 1:50 PM

April 9, 2009 9:19 AM

Tomas said...

I remembered this from one of my old blog posts elsewhere. I felt it might be a nice humorous counterpoint to the side disagreement going on about the warnings tacked on to the end of many emails hoping to cow the recipients into doing things they are in no way required to do.

Tom

________________

READ CAREFULLY: By reading this blog post, you agree, on behalf of your employer, to release me from all obligations and waivers arising from any and all non-negotiated agreements, licenses, terms-of-service, shrinkwrap, clickwrap, browsewrap, confidentiality, non-disclosure, non-compete and acceptable use policies or rules ("AGREEMENTS") that I have allegedly entered into with your employer, its partners, licensors, agents and assigns, in perpetuity, without prejudice to my ongoing rights and privileges. You further represent that you have the authority to release me from these AGREEMENTS on behalf of your employer.
________________

RB said...

We also ask that you do not film or take pictures of our monitors."


"YOU MUST NOT TAKE ANY PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE MONITORS"

Bob which of the two statements above are correct?

If the latter please post a reference to the law stating this fact.

Jim Huggins said...

Ponter writes:

Just remember that there is a good reason behind every decision that a TSO makes-- and that your ignorance of it is actually beneficial, since it means the enemy doesn't know it either!

Two points.

1. We've seen numerous instances where what the TSO did wasn't motivated by a good reason, but instead by ignorance of their own rules (the $4700 money incident, Mr. Gel-Pack's incident, and so on). But that ignorance wasn't made clear until well after each incident occurred. Because the SOPs aren't published, there's no way to know if the decision being made by a TSO is motivated by "a good reason" or ignorance of the rules. This does not promote trust between the TSA and the traveling public as a whole.

2. My ignorance of The Rules does not mean that the Enemy doesn't know The Rules. The Enemy may have, in fact, already acquired The Rules. And if you assume that The Enemy doesn't know The Rules, when (s)he actually does, you are jeopardizing all of us. It would seem to make sense to assume that The Rules are already known to The Enemy, and develop defenses accordingly. (And then, there would be no harm in publishing The Rules.)

Anonymous said...

I think Bob has definitively answered the question of whether photography is permitted/prohibited at/near checkpoints: Your best bet is to call ahead and see what that specific airport’s policy is. I suggest you use the Got Feedback program to directly contact the Customer Support Manager at the airport you’re going to be traveling through.In other words, there are no actual laws or official rules on this subject. So it's entirely at the whim of whichever uniformed official happens to notice you taking a picture. That means it's completely unpredictable. If you do take a picture, you're taking a gamble. Anything can happen, ranging from nothing at all to having the uniformed official call the police who then arrest you at gunpoint.

Since Kip has repeatedly stated that Unpredictability is the TSA's Security Strategy for effective protection of aviation, I would have to say that the TSA is therefore providing its usual effective protection from whatever threat photography poses to aviation.

GSOLTSO said...

George said - For once, I will actually accept "trust me" as as a valid response from a TSA representative!

Hooooolllllyyyy Crap I never thought I would see those words on this blog...ever...

I agree that there is a great deal of secrecy involved with this organization, and that can be very frustrating to the travelling public (ESPECIALLY the group that travel almost daily!). I agree that there are instances where we get caught flatfooted with a black eye on situations (theft, abuse of power,, etc). One thing that I will point out is that this organization has over 40k personnel as TSO's! We are going to have bad apples from time to time, it is just the law of averages catching up with us. One problem we have had in the past (and even in some current situations) is that we have not gotten out ahead of the "bad" publicity and are seen as a reactive organization as opposed to a PROactive organization. We have begun to move in the right direction on this, but we will still get situation where it is impossible to get ahead of the newsies and bloggers and LEO community. We are doing a better job of admitting errors (on some fronts) and working to resolve those errors. I love this blog, and the naysayers here can snipe me all they want, but this is a gigantic step for us, it gives the public a forum to air their opinions regardless of whether it is a "good" or "bad" opinion.

West
EOS Blog Team

Jim Huggins said...

West writes:

One thing that I will point out is that this organization has over 40k personnel as TSO's! We are going to have bad apples from time to time, it is just the law of averages catching up with us.

While I'm sympathetic, that's not a viable argument. As I've said before, TSA expects passengers to be 100% compliant with the rules, 100% of the time ... and trumpets loudly on its homepage when it finds the rare passenger who doesn't comply (willfully or accidentally). If TSA is going to hold passengers to that standard of perfection, it has to hold itself to that same standard.

Having said that, I, too, appreciate when TSA and its employees are willing to admit their own faults. And TSA is getting better in this regard.

Des Moines Photographer said...

I guess I can see the reason behind it. I'm glad the TSA setup this blog to address peoples concern and answer questions.

GSOLTSO said...

Jim, I actually didn't mean for that to sound like an excuse. Let me speak more plainly - If a person working for this organization gets convicted of stealing, trafficking in illicit items, or other violations - they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. On the other side of that argument I also believe they are due the same right to process as any other citizen (the right to trial, proof, etc) and the same expectation of privacy (notice I didn't say right!). I think we could do a better job of getting out in front of things when they happen (positive AND negative). I want us to move forward on the problems we identify and keep the public better informed about the steps we are taking to address them. I will point out that in this organization, it is really difficult to inform the public on some things we do because of the SSI factor. That is why I work on this blog and type so many comments! This is a great tool for us to address and solicit constructive ideas. I will admit that I am not omnipotent and all knowing (that being said, I am pretty well versed in the SOP here!), and that sometimes while I am on here a comment will evoke that "oh yeah.... hey if I do this this way...." response that comes after minor epiphanies. Like the glove thing with RB, I like to learn things that I can do to better protect the public, myself and my coworks. I also love to learn things that I can do to make the trip through my checkpoint easier on ALL passengers.

West
http://www.tsa.gov/blog/2008/01/meet-our-bloggers_29.html

Phil said...

Bob, assuming that your later statement takes precedence over your earlier one, could you please be more specific? Is it unlawful for people to photograph computer monitors that are visible from publicly-accessible areas of TSA's airport checkpoints, or is it simply a condition that you place on people's ability to cross your airport checkpoints? If it is unlawful, please cite the law.If it is simply a rule that applies to someone who wishes to cross your checkpoint, then it must be lawful to take photographs, then leave before crossing the checkpoint. Why would you try to impose such a restriction that only affects people who voluntarily comply? Don't you think that anyone who really wants or needs to photograph your equipment will simply do so and disregard any disappointment it causes you?

Furthermore, why would you attempt to prohibit -- via law or via your super-secret rules that all your lowest-level staff are shown but that you hide from the public -- photography of something that thousands of people can see when they walk through an airport?--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Bob said...

Phil:

49 CFR Part 1520.5(b)(9)(vi)

Bob

EoS Blog Team

Phil said...

Bob, thanks for the reference to the definition of Sensitive Security Information which states that many things including "any electronic image shown on any screening equipment monitor, including threat images and descriptions of threat images for threat image projection systems" are SSI.

Is it unlawful for people to photograph computer monitors that are visible from publicly-accessible areas of TSA's airport checkpoints, or is it simply a condition that you place on people's ability to cross your airport checkpoints? If it is unlawful, please cite the law.

Why would you attempt to prohibit -- via law or via your super-secret rules that all your lowest-level staff are shown but that you hide from the public -- photography of something that thousands of people can see when they walk through an airport?

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Tomas said...

Bob wrote...

Phil:

49 CFR Part 1520.5(b)(9)(vi)

Bob

EoS Blog Team


________________

TITLE 49 - TRANSPORTATION

SUBTITLE B - OTHER REGULATIONS RELATING TO TRANSPORTATION

CHAPTER XII - TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

SUBCHAPTER B - SECURITY RULES FOR ALL MODES OF TRANSPORTATION

PART 1520 - PROTECTION OF SENSITIVE SECURITY INFORMATION

1520.5 - Sensitive security information.

(b) Information constituting SSI. Except as otherwise provided in writing by TSA in the interest of public safety or in furtherance of transportation security, the following information, and records containing such information, constitute SSI:

(9) Security screening information. The following information regarding security screening under aviation or maritime transportation security requirements of Federal law: (i) Any procedures, including selection criteria and any comments, instructions, and implementing guidance pertaining thereto, for screening of persons, accessible property, checked baggage, U.S. mail, stores, and cargo, that is conducted by the Federal government or any other authorized person.

(vi) Any electronic image shown on any screening equipment monitor, including threat images and descriptions of threat images for threat image projection systems.
________________

Phil said...

Bob, you still haven't answered. Are you aware of any law prohibiting people in an airport who are not TSA staff from photographing TSA equipment that can be seen from publicly-accessible areas? First you told us it was discouraged, then you told us it was prohibited. You've backed neither of your assertions with anything but your word, and you've still said nothing about the legality. Are you trying to mislead people?

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

IAH Flyer said...

Three times over the past two months I have posted at "Got Feedback" a request for ISP to state if there are any issues about photography. But I have yet to receive the courtesy of any response. What does it take to get a responsive answer?

This is rather important as that airport has above the screening checkpoint a sign that says "No Photographs."

Anonymous said...

"The "chilling effect" so beloved of Cheney and Ashcroft has been effective. I practice the responsible self-censorship that is essential for all patriotic citizens who want to help our Leaders achieve Victory in the Global War On Terror.
"

In that case it's not "self" censorship, you've been programmed buddy

Anonymous said...

The TSA are just public servants doing a public servant job.

The TSA works for us, just like any other government slob despite what they "think." Any other government slob may be photographed and the TSA thinks it is exempt from accountability so they try to outlaw the simple act of photography on public property, which is a criminal act ("Freedom of the Press.")

It is past time for the citizens to take their country back and get rid of the TSA. Contact your Congressperson as there is a bill being reviewed to abolish the TSA and return the airports, OUR airports, to safer, pre-9/11 levels of safety and security.

Protex said...

I spend a lot of time traveling through LAX and I'm still surprised at the amount of photographing and filming that takes place near airport security entrances.

LAX has a very poor policy on paparazzi filming and you can even witness this any day by watching a single episode of TMZ.

In fact, may paparazzi staff will buy a cheap ticket just to get into LAX (not fly of course) and then just roam around the airport filming anything they want.

LAX and the TSA needs to take a stronger stand for this as it happens way to often. Do we have to wait until another terrorist attack for them to 'get it'?

Anonymous said...

New York Times, January 13, 2010:

"Mrs. Hicks said she wanted to take pictures of her son being frisked but was told it was against the rules."

Meet Mikey, 8: U.S. Has Him on Watch List

Alan said...

I live in LA and travel from LAX occasionally and that airport is insanely busy. That is an interesting point about people going to the airport just to catch celebs and film/take photos but in all honestly how could this be regulated?

Sentry said...

I think the TSA should outlaw this. I mean, why not? Do we need to let people freely photograph our checkpoints?

Anonymous said...

I've been harassed by TSA for taking a picture once of the airport screening zone. The screener told me it was illegal and made me delete the picture. Next time I will refuse, because it is my right, although I do not look forward to their response. Your employees need better training.

daniel said...

video is something that can definitely be taken in an airport due to security restrictions

Marc Weisberg - Pet Photographer said...

Being a photographer I'm pretty careful now where if photograph in open places, especially at government secure and operated facilities, heck, even public places sometimes. While i totally understand the reason for the increased security it still feels awkward or like I am drawing attention to myself, especially with a pro-body camera. Even though I photograph pets, I still like to take me camera with me when traveling.

Steve said...

I would imagine if you are not acting suspicious and not taking "surveillance type pictures" most people would not even think about taking pictures of government secure and operated facilities. (Just seems like common sense to me) Heck I totally understand the reason for the increased security. Seems like if you just carry on like normal and not acting in a suspicious way you probably won't be bothered.

fundraising ideas said...

I cant see why taking pictures would not be allowed. As long as it doesnt interfere with the duties of the TSA you should be fine.

Ray said...

I never had the courage to pull out my camera at airport.. Security personnel gives me the creep, and with many suspicious activity they have to watch, i don't want to add one problem for their days.
Thanks to this post i know it's fine to take photos. But i understand if some security has their issue against camera. Because camera can record many information. Sometimes it can be dangerous. :)

regards

matthew said...

airport transportation Irvine CA is a better way to travel but in getting yourself familiar on a particular street or city state use public transportation and get to know every inch of your trip and use them in your advantage and sense of direction.

California Fire news said...

Bob, please post the regulation(s) that makes taking a picture of a TSA Xray monitor or any other TSA equipment a violation of the law.

Waiting eagerly for your reply...

And #Ponter as an American citizen this made me nauseous: Your job is to comply and obey. Working together as a team, the TSA and the traveling public can win the Global War on Terror! I believe in Civil rights, I also believe we lost the war on terror years ago with the so called "Patriot Act" and I believe folks like you should move to a Soviet bloc state where you can get a large serving of such tripe daily.

Frank said...

Here at MSY (New Orleans), the rules for me as a press photographer, according to the airport PR, is I can photograph lines, people waiting & such, but can not shoot the actual machines they use. I've never asked, but I assume this has to do with security reasons.

California Fire news said...

Frank, that sounds very fishy, I am thinking that is not law just some administrators rule... as a Press Photographer Know your rights!

Tim Kjell said...

About 6 years back I was in school working on a photography task to document 24 hours of a certain location or person, and I went to the biggest airport in Sweden.
I wanted to capture all the wonderful "Welcome backs" and the busy life during the day and the quiet time during night.
I knew these things could pop up and taking pictures for 24 hours straight in an airport might look suspicious so I simply called the airport up, they bumped me through to the head of airport security to whom I explained what I wanted to do and he liked the idea.
The only catch was that he wanted copies of the pictures as well (he said it was because he thought the idea was cool but who knows).
Either way, I couldn't care less as it was a school assignment and I remained the owner of the pictures.

Last thing he said was "You're most likely going to have problems with someone asking you what you're up to so just tell them it's been cleared by me and refer them to Anders who is the man in charge that day and you'll be fine".
Did just that and it worked like a charm (I even had coffee with the security guys and they were great).

Anonymous said...

My god this is scary.

What a bunch of uneducated uninformed people!

Have any of you ever read the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution?

Specifically, take a look at the 4th amendment.

Herman, Seattle Town Car said...

If the public is afraid of everything and reports it to the Authorities, that might somehow stumble on a terrorist plot that evades ordinary "intelligence." And somehow photography is universally considered "unusual" enough to fit that definition, so everyone is specifically encouraged to be afraid of it.

Rebecca said...

Bob -

You may want to pass this along to the MSP TSA personnel. Once again, TSA employees are telling people they can't video.

http://www.valleynewslive.com/Global/story.asp?S=14287282

Frankly, if TSA is going to insist on patting down a toddler due to your rules, the mother should be videoing the encounter for BOTH SIDES' PROTECTION!

When is it ever going to get through to the TSA front line that videoing is permitted UNLESS it's of the equipment screens? The mother wasn't interfering and there's no reason TSA should be restricting an action that actually protects both parties!

Anonymous said...

Why are TSA Airport Security Screeners still trying to block cameras?

Anonymous said...

This is a lie. TSA repeatedly threatens people for doing what this post says is legal and nothing happens to the TSA agents who do this. http://youtu.be/SVfWCwvg88E That is video proof that TSA threatens to arrest people for filming, even if they stand out of the way. This is precisely why I refuse to fly in this country anymore.

Anonymous said...

It is quite apparent that the people working for TSA do not know the law or the TSA rules they are supposed to be implementing.

I'd like to know why TSA employees do not know the law and why their employer (The TSA) allows people to work for them that don't know the law?

I'd also like to know if those TSA employees accosting individuals and telling them that fiming is breaking the law have been counseled and educated to the extent that they are now currently up to date on the facts that have been presented in this blog that filming is NOT against the law?

Anonymous said...

Hey Bob,

I know it's inconvenient/embarrassing/etc. when folks get caught with their pants down (so to speak). However, a move to outright ban photography would certainly result in another media frenzy--and would almost certainly be challenged by press organizations. TSA has enough challenges without opening this can of worms.

I'm a bit disappointed that TSA didn't echo the comment of one of your screeners who pointed out (on the video I might add) that this family has a history of this sort of activism. The "hysterical woman" was completely staged and I think you guys would have been right to point that out.

Look, nobody likes being treated like a criminal when they aren't. I think with a little calm reason, you guys can refine some of your policies and implement some solutions that will put complaints to rest.

But to ban videotaping because you don't want another "screaming woman" video going viral isn't going to help anyone.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what the policy for photographing on the checkpoints is. But during a recent travel experience at LaGuardia airport I did notice signs that were clearly posted that stated that photography was not permitted on the checkpoint.Though I am not sure if it is a local ordinance or a state law prohibitting it since I am not from the area.

Anonymous said...

Phil,
You keep requesting that Bob speak with more specificity to your question regarding photography in airports. In your last post you even asked if he was misleading us. I think it obvious by his lack of any further response to your inquiry that yes, he is in fact misleading us and will/cannot admit it. It's just the way the government works. Would you please take this answer like the rest of us "Good and Upstanding members of American Society" as truth (smirk)and move on to something else of relevance? I would like to hear TSA's views on the un-consensual physical contact with minor travelers. That would be a good one. Oh, and by-the-way. It is never against the law to photograph anything in public. I believe the Supreme Court ruled on that years ago. (Sorry Bob)

Anonymous said...

At BWI airport, TSA clearly does not allow videos to be taken (and even confiscates/deletes them), despite the fact that it is not prohibited by Maryland law.

Need proof? Skip to about 2 minutes in and you'll see all the proof you need, straight from the supervisor's mouth - in HD even.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBAIAEUdGTM

Anonymous said...

Obviously TSA agents are disregarding their agencies policies. Who know which other ones that are ignoring as well...

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110714/13152115094/tsa-agents-continue-to-lie-say-you-cant-photograph-videotape-checkpoints.shtml

Amy Alkon said...

The First Amendment is not supposed to go away because people decide to legislate against it in a municipality. Federal law trumps local.

Here's the complaint I tried to leave on the New Orleans airport website about the TSA's violation of my free speech rights (and freedom of the press) at the New Orleans airport at the Delta TSA Fourth Amendment violation station. The N.O. airport site cleverly refuses to accept normal forms of punctuation (for "security reasons"-- hello?), so I was unable to clean out enough punctuation to post it while still maintaining readability:

My boyfriend was told he had to stop videotaping the TSA officer giving me a "pat-down" (ie, groping my breasts, hair, and near my vagina) at the New Orleans airport on Sunday, July 24, at approximately 6 am.

The man (who stopped him) was a dark-haired thin man standing on the other side (the exit side) of the screening. I am a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and I blog about TSA issues, and my boyfriend was taking the video to post on my site, and as evidence of the Fourth Amendment violation that goes on every time I am groped as a condition of normal business travel.

(The fact that I needed to go to a newspaper conference in New Orleans, and then fly home to Los Angeles, is not probable cause.)

Please note that this complaint is a vociferous objection to the officer's violation of my First Amendment rights, and the very necessary freedom of the press to protect what rights that still remain. Too many TSA workers seem to think they are members of an army in some banana republic.

I unfortunately was not able to get the officer's name because my boyfriend was disturbed because I was sobbing due to the vile touching of my sexual parts, inside my waistband -- and my HAIR! -- as a form of blackmail to be allowed to travel.

But, this officer should be clearly visible on videotape of the screening travesty, telling my tall, white boyfriend to put away his iPhone that he was using to videotape. (I'm a tall, pale white redheaded woman and I was all in black, in a short sleeve shirt and long pants, with my hair in a ponytail.) The screener was a short black woman. I wept as she violated me.

Mark said...

Today, I was detained for several hours because I attempted to photograph in JFK's Terminal 4. The TSA Officer in charge said that photography was prohibited in his SOP. This document, he claimed, was secret and that I could not see the rule I supposedly violated.

At his insistence, the police forced me to delete all content on my camera and then held me until every possible search they could conduct was completed.

Why hasn't this policy reached JFK's Terminal 4?

Mark said...

TSA:

The manager at JFK Terminal 4 says that photography is prevented by his SOP, a secret set of rules he would not allow to be seen. Video here: http://youtu.be/njJHh0JC2B0

If the TSA's policy really is that photography is permitted, why was I assaulted by a two-stripe TSO and then detained by the police as a result of this manager's claim that photography was not permitted?

Adam Smith said...

I was nearly arrested at the Heathrow airport trying to take photos of my mother going through the check out gates. Having my children around, saved me from the not so friendly policeman holding automatic rifle. Taking photos has become very suspicious activity. Take care....
Adam Smith

Steve Lubetkin said...

TSA officer shouted at me that photography was not permitted in security areas today at Philadelphia International, Terminal D. I was aware of this blog post and pointed out to him that my action was not illegal. I was already through security and waiting for a business associate, and took a picture of her that did not show any TSA monitors. He persisted in arguing that photography was not permitted, and I responded that it was not illegal, but I wish I had kept a printed copy of this blog post in my pocket. Not that he would have heeded it. I didn't want to impede my own or my associate's travel so I didn't make an issue, but if I had been alone, I might have. How do we get TSA to properly educate its officers about what is prohibited and what is permitted?

Steve Lubetkin
Member, National Press Photographers Association
steve@lubetkin.net

San Antonio Photographer said...

This policy is great information, as I know several people who have asked me if it is ok for them to do or not? I had no clue and I plan on keeping a copy of this post in my pocket clearly showing that it clearly came from TSA blog just in case.

Fotoboek said...

I think security is an important issue these days. Last year, after my trip around the world, I arrived at London Heathrow. Before I went back home I had to finish my photobook of my beautiful trip so I took my camera and made a few pictures at several places at the airport. Then a security officer asked me for what reason I was taking pictures and that it wasn't allowed to make pictures at some places. I think this is fair enough. I think security nowadays is very important, especially around airports.

Pentax K7 said...

The idea of using a camera in an area which has any kind of security requirement is pure stoopid.. The fact is that an image can give away a lot of information to anyone who wants to abuse our security systems. Think about it. If your camera has a lot of mega pixels then things in the background can be enlarged so a person can zoom in to elements of the shot and see up close and personal details of layout and perhaps the way the security is organised and so circumvent that security with ease. I fully understand that it seems a little too paranoid to stop people taking shots but if you want to fly safely then put up with this inconvenience. It's for our safety and the safety of people working in these environments. It's neccessary in these troubled times and I'm glad we have these rules.

Anonymous said...

just complained about the TSA at my local airport still attempting to stop photography of all sorts even though its legal. the response should be interesting, if i even get one.

Yucel said...

I'm a pro photographer... If I understand this correctly, the rule is, okay w TSA... maybe local government has a different stance... Isn't photography governed at Federal level, vis a vie freedom of the press and national security etc?

Or is this about property rights..?

Admin said...

Why was the page http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/taking_pictures.shtm taken down, this page clearly expressed the answer to this question.

Anonymous said...

This family was threatened when they videotaped the pilot sending a flight attendant to deny boarding to their Down's syndrome son:

A California family says they were kicked off a cross-country American Airlines flight because their 16-year-old son has Down syndrome.

Joan and Robert Vanderhorst, of Bakersfield, Calif., said they intend to sue American over the "humiliating" incident at Newark Airport, in which they were told their special needs son posed a "flight risk."

"It's defamation," Robert Vanderhorst told the Daily News. "It's a violation of his civil rights and its defamation."

Joan Vanderhorst pulled out her cell phone and started recording the incident on Sunday in which Bede is seen quietly playing with his hat and an American Airlines official warns that she was prohibited from filming "in a security-controlled area."

At one point, Port Authority police were even called on the confused family.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/teen-denied-boarding-american-airlines-flight-syndrome-family-article-1.1151439#ixzz28qMIVuxP

Anonymous said...

You can see the TSA-removed page here: http://web.archive.org/web/20100211213010/http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/taking_pictures.shtm

Anonymous said...

Some Officers may not want to be photographed..I was going to take a picture and the Officers asked nice that they would not like to be photographed... I respect that and the Officer has that right as if anyone asked u to stop u have to or they can take ur camera.. And said I can take pictures of checkpoint as long as it's not the monitors

Anonymous said...

I'd like to nicely say that I don't want to be patted-down. Why can't my nice request be honored?

So TSA agents can't be photographed/filmed, but if the facility say yes, and the municipality says yes, and the local cops say yes - I still can't have myself filmed being patted-down, because your TSA agent is in the frame.

Please suggest how I may film what your agents do, without them being in the frame. I'd like to know for next time.

Marshall said...

From what I have always seen at airports, there is no photography allowed. I can't recall how many times I've seen signs saying "no photography allowed." If you want to take a picture, make sure you can before snapping away.

GSOLTSO said...

Marshall sez - "From what I have always seen at airports, there is no photography allowed."

That is not quite correct. The TSA does not prohibit photography in the checkpoint areas, unless the person taking the photos/video are interfering with the screening process or taking images of the screens on the equipment (such as Xray, or other screening equipment). There may be some local laws or regulations that are enforced by local LEOs, but TSA does not prohibit photography/video in the checkpoints.

West
TSA Blog Team

Anonymous said...

How convenient that the "Got Feedback" page is down.

Anonymous said...

This is airport security people! It's not some indoor dog park! Just follow the rules and move forward. Is this really a question? Next time I fly I will make sure to stage a photo shoot! This is Ridiculous. If you plan on wasting your time reading these types of articles you might as well read about dog potty.

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4th Amendment said...

The TSA has never prevented a single "terror attack". They claim to be protecting us, but i feel as if they are spitting on the bill of rights and not to mention they are ineffective. If the terrorists they are claiming will be the threat, such as Al CIA-DA...maybe the federal government should stop supporting them, i mean they have created Al CIA-DA in 1979 and i guess they are protecting us by infringing on our rights? NOPE! When you trade your liberty and security for "SAFETY" you lose privacy and are left with tyranny. OPT OUT EVERY TIME!!!

Alin Steglinski said...

I've taken dozens of photos at TSA checkpoints and around them.

I was taking a picture of someones bags emerging from the X-Ray to show a friend of mine who has never flown a cool view, politely the TSA officer asked me to move to a different area (to the side of the machine) rather than in front of the belt. I politely told her that it wouldn't get the correct view so he offered me to get behind the machine nearer the control panel, I got an awesome photo that even showed what the controls look like along with the bag emerging the machine, with his permission i was allowed to photograph the monitor after he cleared a bag.

The reason they ask you not to photograph their monitors is because they rather have the police deal with a suspicious bag before allowing press to have at it. In most cases politely asking them "Can i take a photo of the monitor?" will yield you a go ahead. Don't be surprised if they ask you to only take one or follow a guideline of like "don't zoom in just a wide shot"

These are professionals dealing with thousands of rowdy passengers and some nice passengers. If you get on the right side of an officer and are nice to them they are more than likely to give you enhanced privileges.

Patrick Penticoff said...

Why do you need to take a picture in the first place? Can you just put your phone away for five seconds!?!

Sean Robinson said...

I think there is a reason why they are doing this for security purposes. Lets respect if its not possible, like them we also have our own rules sometimes that we need the same respect. Just giving my thoughts.

srinivas said...

i think its not possible to take photos or any film without proper permission from concern authorities

Mark said...

Do you know if these rules apply in other countries as well?

Eric Mathews said...

Sometimes the authority or airport doesn't permit to capture photos cause they may have some safety issues. How ever people can take photos if it is not harmful for anything though capturing photos is not harmful unless it is used for any crime.