When in Vermont, don't photograph a nuclear plant.
November 30, 2001 8:05 AM   Subscribe

When in Vermont, don't photograph a nuclear plant. Or a bridge, road, telephone pole, or railroad. It could get you 10 years in the clapper.
posted by beagle (20 comments total)
Ahhh the joys of taking a trip to a nuclear power plant. Every so often we'll take a trip to Zion which is an hour or so north of Chicago. It's been shutdown for a while but you can still hear the high voltage lines buzzing all around you while you look at the tiny facility and marvel at how they made so much electricity.
posted by @homer at 8:31 AM on November 30, 2001

"I told him I wanted to talk to our attorney," Casa said. "He said, 'If you want to talk to an attorney, I'll confiscate his camera right now.' In my mind, that's harassment and it's certainly detention."

I see we also no longer have the right to an attorney without receiving threats from the police. Perhaps a little gentle torture is in order, too?

With every story added to the mounting pile of rights violations by overzealous law enforcement officials, I feel my heart sink a little lower and my freedom slip a little further away. God Bless America? Ha! God Save America.
posted by briank at 8:47 AM on November 30, 2001

Ten years in the clapper?

What... like “Clap on! Clap off! Clap on, clap off... the clapper!”

I think the vernacular is “the slammer.”
posted by jpburns at 8:52 AM on November 30, 2001

State: Photographer won't be charged: "...State's Attorney Dan Davis said he did not intend to press charges. "(Wheelock) wrote the incident up and sent it in for review," Davis said. "I've reviewed it and indicated to him there will be no charges based on Jason's activity at the plant on Nov. 28." However, Davis added, "I would hope the Reformer would do the responsible thing and publish only photos that did not jeopardize the safety of the plant, its employees or the people of the county." (via MediaNews)
posted by Carol Anne at 9:01 AM on November 30, 2001

This is what happens when you have stupid people electing stupid representatives: stupid laws.
posted by Witold at 9:02 AM on November 30, 2001

The link was broken for me. Here's a cureent link to the story.
posted by acridrabbit at 9:32 AM on November 30, 2001

any person who .... makes or attempts to make any map, drawing, plan, model, description, ...shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years.

"That's a mighty big power plant!"

10 years for you, and no soup.
posted by signal at 9:55 AM on November 30, 2001

does this photo look odd to anyone else?
posted by pup at 9:58 AM on November 30, 2001

Don't bother taking your own picture, just use Mapquest's groovy (or is it creepy?) "Aerial Photo" tab to take a peek at, say, the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corporation

Hours of fun!
posted by donovan at 10:05 AM on November 30, 2001

This just reinforces my fear about what America is becoming. For the past 3-4 years, I've been photographing airports. I do this without permission, whenever I'm traveling, sometimes taking routes with multiple connections and layovers just to get time in another airport. I've always found airports beautiful and fascinating, and was hoping to put these photos into a book. I doubt that will happen now, or not for a very long time. Since the 11th, I'm scared to take my camera out at an American airport (I did get some good shots at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport in October). Disturbingly, my last American airport photos were taken on September 10 at the Atlanta and Newark airports, less than 12 hours before the World Trade Center attacks.

I've also been photographing utility boxes. These days I'd probably be arrested if I was running around the suburbs at night with a flash taking pictures of all the anonymous boxes which keep things running.

There is an element of sneaking in both those projects, but it was about noticing a landscape that most people just don't see. I've always been fascinated by these sorts of things, in college I was constantly painting and photographing oil refineries. The streets around those places were always empty, I wonder how many police now patrol them.

I'm married and will become a father in March. As much as my instinct is to protest, I don't want to risk incarceration over a photograph. That this fear seems realistic and grounded should be a concern to all of us. I fear my government. I am not free.
posted by joemaller at 10:12 AM on November 30, 2001

That this fear seems realistic and grounded should be a concern to all of us. I fear my government. I am not free.
and you're not alone
posted by yesster at 10:17 AM on November 30, 2001

pup, The photo doesn't look especially unusual, just fill-flashed on a dark overcast day. They most likely used a pretty big telephoto lens to make the plant look bigger in the background. It also looks like it's been brightened in Photoshop which would enhance the synthetic visual artifiacts.

Question is, did the Police immediately arrest the photographer who took the photo of the arrested photographer?

(Probably not, as this photo was taken in New Hampshire, the "Live free or die" state.)
posted by joemaller at 10:19 AM on November 30, 2001

The real problem with nuclear power isn't people taking pictures, it's things like "House Approved Nuclear Industry Subsidy With Almost No Debate Allowed and no Recorded Vote" from a few days ago.

The more things change . . . . back in the day (as you young people say) I worked with a weekly newspaper in Harrisburg PA that tried to convince people from early on that a nearby nuclear plant named Three Mile Island was a) not safe and b) not being run properly.

Except for the plant owners, who tried to get the Nixon government to take away our mailing permit, nobody paid much attention until early 1979.
posted by LeLiLo at 10:29 AM on November 30, 2001

Casa said police told Henske he could be charged with treason for taking photos of the plant during a time of war.

Still no declaration yet. What's the limit, ninety days?
posted by trioperative at 10:33 AM on November 30, 2001

Still no declaration yet. What's the limit, ninety days?

Depends on if you believe that the War Powers Act is constitutional or not. Both parties seem happy to disregard it when they are in the White House and use it as a political club when they aren't, so no one has taken it to the Supreme Court to find out.

posted by jaek at 10:39 AM on November 30, 2001

While I'm glad that the photographer was not charged under this ludicrously worded statute, I'm afraid that someone will have to be prosecuted for a violation for enough noise to be made about it to make it go away.

What's more disturbing to me than the erosion of individual rights, is that the local yokel cops in question spoke to the newspaper and verified the photographer's reason for being at the plant. They still attempted to interfere with his ability to turn in the photos, and attempted to bully the paper into agreeing to kill the photo accompaniment to their story as a quid pro quo for his release. What, suddenly the first amendment doesn't apply in Vermont? What part of shall not be infringed does Chief Randy Wheelock not understand, exactly? It gets scarier and scarier.

I remember when we were younger and childless, my husband and I would drive up to a nearby power plant at night. It sits on the Ohio river and in the dark, the towers and spires and billowing steam look positively horrifying. We'd park our car in the lot of the diner across the road, and we'd sit facing the plant while we talked and whatnot -- it was just an interesting place to go when we'd go out for a drive with no destination in mind. Now, I fear that we'd be hauled in by some cop who would be sure that our 20 mile drive to another county just to sit by a generation facility must have terroristic implications.
posted by Dreama at 10:45 AM on November 30, 2001

Now, now.. the law was intended to prevent people from sneaking around bases and critical infrastructure areas and taking phots that could be used for terroristic purposed or to plan an attack.. much like we use spotters on the ground to direct laser guided bombs.

How do you think that the guys figure out where to guide the laser? Uh.. recon, photos, and so forth.

The thing the article does not mention is where he was when he was taking the photos. If he was set up trying to get a good angle and everything, then fine.. leave him alone. But if he was inside the gates or casing the place, taking close-in shots of the building, security laxes or other things that someone could use specifically to do something, then there is a case for preventing him from doing that in the current situation.
posted by rich at 11:58 AM on November 30, 2001

and don't photograph airports in Greece....
posted by alex3005 at 12:48 PM on November 30, 2001

JPBurns: Well, OK, the slammer. I swear I have heard clapper used as spoken vernacular (which always comes before first written usage). Comes from "clap you in jail."

Thanks for all the comments.
posted by beagle at 1:23 PM on November 30, 2001

Gee, it sure isn't hard to become a terrorist these days. I can think of three or four photo expeditions off the top of my head that would have gotten me tossed in jail if these cops had been around.

In fact I spent an afternoon two weeks ago at a photo shoot inside a power plant on an airfield. Now granted, I was in front of the camera, not behind, but if that isn't a big I'm A Scary Terrorist, Arrest Me Now! sign, I don't know what is.

posted by Mars Saxman at 1:40 PM on November 30, 2001

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