Friday, August 1, 2008

JMO - National Security

Is national security an oxymoron? No, it's not a joke. I was wondering after reading an article about a photographer who was stopped by police after taking some photos of an oil refinery froma public street (article). The photographer did nothing wrong let alone illegal, but he was stopped by a private security guard who asked to see the images in the camera. The photographer denied the guard's request and was threatened with arrest.

The article states the photographer was well within his rights to be there and photograph, and the guard while protecting the refinery likely overstepped his authority on public property to stop let alone question the photographer. But in the name of national security we'll give the guard the right to exceed their autority and violate an individual's right?

But the real question to me isn't the individual's right, and yes, I'll side with the photographer 99% of the time, but if the refinery was important to be protected under national security, why is everything so obvious to the public? Why aren't there better fences and more signs (there are none as cited in the article)? If the guard has the right stop, detain and question a photographer, are they doing the same to tourists, people just looking, and anyone else who seems interested?

My point is that our country is so big and has some much infrastructure and facilities, it's impossible to secure and protect everything. And letting corporations had off the security and protection to local, state and federal governments is unfair to the public who has to pay the bills. Where are the companies protecting and securing their facilities if they feel it's a national security target?

All they have in this case is one security guard who has little if any authority outside the refinery?

My other point is that we're creating a big conflict, not just security versus rights, but the reality that law enforcement is overstepping their authority in the name of policies and ideas and not laws. I'm not against securing and especially protecting places from terrorists, but let's have some common senses and let's have law enforcement do their job correctly.

This case isn't that much different than the two times I've been stopped after photographing on a Washington State ferry. Both times, first the captain and second a State Patrol officer, were within their rights to stop and question me and I shared my images with them (if would have been different if I had used film). But they didn't do anything else and even said the images weren't a problem.

This even after the Washington State Ferry System (WSF) released public statements that it's legal to photograph on a ferry, just not secured and protected places and equipment. But then the WSF released a public brochure advising tourists to report photographers. Why on earth create conflicting ideas, especially when the brochure alludes that photographing on ferries is illegal?

And that's my point too, law enforcement, and politicians too, are creating paranoia where it's not necessary or helpful. There isn't anything that will be photographed that hasn't been photographed and published somewhere. All the cows are out of the barn and protecting them in the pasture is too much too late. We're not a police state but we're rapidly getting there, not out of need or justification, but out of fear.

And that's where we've lost, and every citizen has lost, our rights to be citizens. We should not be driven be fear and paranoia. We're a better country and nation than that. We should be driven by pride in our country and nation, secure in the rights of citizens and in the protection of those rights by law enforcement. And not treat citizens as threats or terrorists.

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