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If Threatened With Arrest When Recording Video at TSA Checkpoints…

Nov 24, 20106 mins
Data and Information SecurityMicrosoftSecurity

If you are flying and record video at TSA checkpoints, then you should have the TSA public affairs number plugged into your phone: (571) 227-2829. It is legal as long as...

If you are flying and decide to turn on your phone to take video of TSA checkpoints, that is legal as long as you do not film the TSA’s monitors, or interfere with or slow down the screening process. However, if you do videotape TSA checkpoints, then you should have the TSA public affairs (TSA’s Office of Strategic Communications) number plugged into your phone: (571) 227-2829. Another important phone number to have with you is the TSA’s Office of Civil Rights at (571) 227-1917. It all depends where you are and if the police or TSA agents know the law.

At the Nashville International Airport, a man was not interfering but was openly videotaping the TSA checkpoint area from a distance. An airport police officer confronted him, told the man that filming the checkpoint was not allowed, and then the cop confiscated the iPhone. When the man started to speak, the airport police officer interrupted with, “I believe it is a security violation and I can arrest you for it.”

The iPhone owner knew his rights though and told the cop what is stated as policy on the TSA website.

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.

After the airport police took the iPhone, a uniformed TSA official informed the cop of the policy. The officer then returned the phone and apologized to the man. The quality of the video below is not great, but you may wish to see it for yourself.

In another case of filming, TSA officials at San Diego International Airport arrested the man. This is the same airport where the now famous “if you touch my junk” video was captured. According to the San Diego County Political Buzz Examiner: Sam Wolanyk refused to walk through the backscatter image machine and was told he would be patted down. Wolanyk responded by stripping down to his underwear.

“It was obvious that my underwear left nothing to the imagination,” Wolanyk stated. “But that wasn’t enough for the TSA supervisor who was called to the scene and asked me to put my clothes on so I could be properly patted down.”

After San Diego Harbor Police arrested Wolanyk, he was handcuffed and paraded through two separate airport terminals in his underwear. This is when he videotaped TSA officials with his phone which was quickly taken from him. He was charged with two misdemeanors, “failing to complete the security process” and “illegally recording the San Diego Airport Authority.”

The same TSA policy on shooting video does apply to taking photos, but Steven Frischling, the writer at Flying With Fish, was not quite so fortunate after he photographed the TSA checkpoint at Hartford’s Bradley International Airport. A trooper informed Frishling that he was being detained and was in “big trouble.” Frischling said the key to these situations is to stay “calm and polite at all times” and to have the right phone number to make a call to the TSA officials who can straighten out the mess. Frischling was apologized to and free to leave within 20 minutes after calling TSA’s Office of Strategic Communications.

I’m not suggesting that everyone should record videos of TSA checkpoints, just pointing out a few cases of people who did. We sure have learned a great deal though by people who have taken videos of TSA. Stripping down to your underwear probably doesn’t help the situation. If you opt-out of the body scanners and are waiting your turn for an “enhanced pat down,” then perhaps you could pass a bit of time being amused at Concurring Opinions where fun with Playmobil, TSA airport security playset was posted. Long lines and still waiting? Perhaps you can come up with a few more TSA bumper sticker ideas as were posted at FamousDC?

If you choose to drive to your destination, to avoid flying and TSA drama/trauma, then use care on the road. Wild things can happen there too. Some people may be offended by the strong language in the following video and shouldn’t watch it. An American cop pulls over a German tourist who was driving 98 mph and warns that the man could be thrown in jail and raped for speeding. There seems to be two main schools of “outraged” thought here, ranging from the California Highway Patrol officer had no right to talk to the driver like that, to the driver avoided a $400 speeding fine but then turned around and paid back the cop by posting the video.

Sometimes it seems like America is turning into a police state where privacy is dead and buried, but thankfully we are not there — yet. In some corners of the web, I’ve read dark whisperings that something “terrible” may happen to convince the American public that these TSA procedures are working, are valuable, and are needed. I certainly hope not. I’d like to believe that America is still the land of the free where we have rights. As some of us grew up, every day in school we would put our right hand over our hearts and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I’m grateful for that because I still believe in liberty and justice for all. I’m also thankful to and greatful for you, the readers of this blog who also believe in privacy and civil liberties. If we make our voices heard, we can have security without making privacy extinct.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Like this? Check out these other posts:

  • All of today’s Microsoft news and blogs
  • FBI Spied and Lied, Misled Justice Department on Improper Surveillance of Peace Groups
  • EFF Warns of Untrustworthy SSL, Undetectable Surveillance
  • Traveler to TSA: If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested
  • TSA: Show Us Your Body Or We’ll Feel You Up
  • ACLU Report: Spying on Free Speech Nearly At Cold War Level
  • Full-Body X-Ray Scanners Driving Down A Street Near You?
  • Police State of Wiretapping the Web: Who Do THEY Want to Watch?
  • DHS to Launch SAR Database. In Suspicion and Surveillance We Trust?
  • TSA Secure Flight: The Next TSA Privacy Threat?

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ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.