Patriot Act in Action
December 6, 2002 6:09 AM   Subscribe

The Patriot Act Abuse Begins

An amateur photographer named Mike Maginnis was arrested on Tuesday in his home city of Denver - for simply taking pictures of buildings in an area where Vice President Cheney was residing.

I reported, you decide.
posted by nofundy (55 comments total)
I'm not familiar with 2600, so I'm not sure about the source, but this story doesn't surprise me. This type of thing has been going on for a long, long time, especially since September 11. USA! PATRIOT! ACT! Booyah!
posted by mikrophon at 6:17 AM on December 6, 2002

When Maginnis refused to admit to being any sort of terrorist, the Secret Service agent called him a "raghead collaborator" and a "dirty pinko faggot."

Gee, was the agent twirling his evil moustache at the time too?
posted by stifford at 6:22 AM on December 6, 2002

When Maginnis refused to admit to being any sort of terrorist, the Secret Service agent called him a "raghead collaborator" and a "dirty pinko faggot."

Hmmm, I detect the unmistakable odor of bullshit.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:24 AM on December 6, 2002

crap. and stifford's line was better, too.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:25 AM on December 6, 2002

Our path is clear: we must immediately begin registration of all cameras in civilian hands; no lenses under 50mm; no film magazines over 12 exposures.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:29 AM on December 6, 2002

I did a search for Mike Maginnis, Michale Maginnis and Maginnis at the Denver Post website, and came up with nothing. It seems odd that the Post (which is a more tabloidish-type daily paper) wouldn't print something like this if it came to them. If Mr. Maginnis tried to contact the from jail, why not after his release?

I guess I would like more information and verification before I believe his story, as scary as it might be if true. Who knows what really happened. I don't trust 2600 as a very unbiased or reliable news source

On a related note, Cheney was addressing 1,500 Air National Guard leaders at the Adam's Mark, which would contribute to the apprehension of any policeman patrolling the area.
posted by thewittyname at 6:31 AM on December 6, 2002

Oh lord. Does this mean we're gonna start seeing "FREE MIKE'S CAMERA" all over the place now?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:35 AM on December 6, 2002

Mezzie Fizzilter anecdote:

I had my disposable camera forciby confiscated at a performance of Korea's most famous transgender celebrity; Harisu, and I didn't feel as if my human rights had been violated, because they hadn't been.

If Denver Maginnis is simply a misunderstood genius, then he should have the common sense not to snap secret pictures of Cheney during a period of terrorist war.
posted by hama7 at 6:38 AM on December 6, 2002

He was told that he would probably not get his camera back, as it was being held as evidence.

I wouldn't hold out much hope for the Creedence, either.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:43 AM on December 6, 2002

Denver Maginnis? Try 'Mike Maginnis' and try snapping pictures of a hotel Cheney happened to be at, a perfectly legal activity, rather than the man himself.

Period of terrorist war? Funny, I don't recall hearing about any attacks on the US in the past year, do you? When does the war end? When there are no more terrorists? You can't ever wipe out all the terrorists without wiping out the US as well. Furthermore, don't the Secret Service agent's actions strike you as just a little unreasonable, not to mention abusive and with clear intent to intimidate a citizen? This is the United States of America, supposedly with liberty and justice for all, not random and unreasonable searches, and certainly not with outright lies by officials.

Seriously, and with no disrespect meant here - were you drunk when you posted?
posted by Ryvar at 6:51 AM on December 6, 2002

I wouldn't hold out much hope for the Creedence, either.
posted by hama7 at 6:52 AM on December 6, 2002

hama7: What secret pictures? The guy (IF the story, and details, are true) was standing in the street snapping pictures. As ANY body has a right to do. Were there signs out saying "No pictures"? I doubt it. If you were out snapping pictures of a lakeside retreat, and you were picked up because an important person just happened to be staying there, would you shrug and think "fair enough"? This chap might have been less than sensible in snapping pictures of guys with rifles, but is that actually a crime? If it IS, why was this guy released and not charged with anything?
posted by kaemaril at 6:53 AM on December 6, 2002

Wasn't the secret service confiscating camera's around the Prez/V.Prez waaaaaaay before the Patriot Act was part of Donald Rumsfeld's wet dreams?
posted by PenDevil at 7:02 AM on December 6, 2002

I'd never been in the same city as a Pres/VP before a few months ago when Bush came to Dallas to speak at SMU promoting the Republican Candidates and the war on Terrah. As I de-boarded my train more than two miles from where he was speaking, I saw at least 15 of Dallas' finest standing around watching for something. I can't even imagine the hoopla around the area where he spoke.
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:07 AM on December 6, 2002

Some of you know that I run a photoblog using a cheap digital camera. Three times, since 9/11, I've been harrassed by police and security guards because of my "suspicious activities" : taking pictures outside various locations.

In Alexandria, VA, outside a federal court house - the one where many of the high profile 9/11 terrorist trials have taken place, a federal security guard allowed me to take pictures, once I allowed him to examine my camera.

In Fredericksburg, VA, the police were called because a store own thought I looked suspicious wile taking pictures near the train station. The cop and I talked, and I assured him I wasn't a spy. I gave him a business card, describing my site, and he sent me on my way, after warning me to stay away from the train station.

In Austin, TX, the rent-a-cop saw me taking pictures, and told me that it was against the law to take a photograph of a federal building. I pointed out that I was a tourist, and lived near Washington DC, and that I took pictures of federal buildings there all the time. He informed me that every time I did, I was breaking the law. I told him I'd stop taking pictures, and he sent me on my way.
posted by crunchland at 7:13 AM on December 6, 2002

he should have the common sense not to snap secret pictures of Cheney during a period of terrorist war.

Oh, right, the war on terror. Dont forget the war on drugs. Or the war on the African bees. Or the late night talk show wars.
posted by four panels at 7:16 AM on December 6, 2002

a period of terrorist war.
the above phrase represents the most egregious aroma of bullshit so far released by this thread.
posted by quonsar at 7:16 AM on December 6, 2002

If the story is true, and my skeptical self has no problem believing it in these times, then googling for the story probably isn't such a wise thing to do either.

From Harisu's web page:

She likes singing
She likes dancing with singing
She likes acting with singing most of all

You know what?
She is red wine has special color

All of your trannies are belong to us?
posted by BentPenguin at 7:41 AM on December 6, 2002

Has anyone else been able to corroborate this story anywhere else in the news?
posted by drstrangelove at 7:45 AM on December 6, 2002

four panels forgot the COLA WARS!
posted by blamb at 7:49 AM on December 6, 2002

You should listen to the actual interview, it's actually pretty interesting. He has been in contact with the Denver Post, the Post says that he has to prove this happened first. I don't know that this really happened, after hearing his interview I believe that it did. As for calling bullshit over the assertion that the secret service agent made comments about the alleged victim being a pinko faggot or a rag-head sympathizer remember that police in general use verbal intimidation to both catch you off guard and rile you into mistakes.

Hama7, this guy didn't have a concealed minox, he wasn't taking secret pictures. He had a fairly large piece of metal, a manually operated Nikon. Using film in this era for actual espionage in these circumstances would be assinine anyway. Better to use a digital camera and upload directly from the camera's memory onto an open wireless network. "Sure officer, here's my flash card. I think you're fucked anyway though, I put the images out on kazaa labelled as lesbian porn. I bet there's thousands of copies out there already."
posted by substrate at 7:50 AM on December 6, 2002

was against the law to take a photograph of a federal building

crunchland, do you know the law that pertains to this? I'm curious about when reporters stand outside of a courthouse. Or what about all those times that the White House shows up in photographs? Very strange.

a period of terrorist war.
Yeah, that pesky freedom of the press. Course if the government had it's way, all press except Fox News would be banned.
posted by benjh at 7:53 AM on December 6, 2002

Whether true or not I hope somebody has been able to begin logging all such incidents. I suspect there will be many. If patterns of abuse emerge then there is a real story to be told and to be told loudly. If not, then we will have an interesting record of the sociology or psychology of these strange days. Oh, and to my knowledge there is still no comprehensive list available in any readable form that tells us what is now, under the patriots act, against the law. If such a doc exists I would be greatful to know how to get hols of it.
posted by donfactor at 7:59 AM on December 6, 2002

do you know the law that pertains to this?

Frankly, I thought the guy was talking out of his ass, but since he had a gun, I wasn't about to tell him so.
posted by crunchland at 8:05 AM on December 6, 2002

There was a case not so long ago where someone was arrested for taking pictures of a nuclear plant under a law that forbade taking pictures of such buildings in a "time of war". No mention of the Patriot Act though--the photographer was arrested under a very old Vermont law.

My point? Patriot Act or not, photographers are always being hassled/accused of criminal activity. Whether or not this story is true, it is pretty commonplace for photgraphers to be threatened with arrest/confiscation of camera for doing things that are not illegal. Hell, the security guards in the building in which I work threatened to have me arrested for taking a picture of a tree in the lobby two weeks ago.

I think this sort of thing is terrible, but blaming it on the Patriot Act is a bit of a stretch.
posted by Fabulon7 at 8:10 AM on December 6, 2002

Sorry, here is a link to the story about the Vermont photographer at the nuke plant...
posted by Fabulon7 at 8:12 AM on December 6, 2002

"against the law to take a photograph of a federal building
... shoot, someone quick - go arrest the camera men of every X-files episode and every spy/CIA/FBI films ever made.
posted by dabitch at 8:33 AM on December 6, 2002

" told me that it was against the law to take a photograph of a federal building"

I'd also be very interested in knowing if anyone has more info on this. My research indicates that it's 100% legal and not even the tiniest bit improper. But that research was before 9/11. I take plenty of pictures of federal buildings.

I frequent many photo discussion boards and I've read about many people being stopped post 9/11 for taking pictures in a suspicious manner. All of those match closely with crunchland's experiences. None even come close to what Maginnis is saying. I'm pretty sure his story is bullshit. Reports about photographers being questioned by federal agents always indicate that the agents are anally thorough, but always polite and of a "just doing our job" nature.

Living in San Diego and taking 200-300 pictures a week I end up with *many* pictures of aircraft carriers, fighter jets, bridges, airliners, federal and military buildings, etc. I've never been stopped or questioned. I'm sure I will be at some point. But from what most people are saying I'm not too worried. If they expect me to stop taking pictures with aircraft carriers in them they'll need to stop parking them along Harbor Drive.

Maginnis's story just doesn't match up with reality. I have pictures of SWAT teams, police, etc. This is what photographers do. Especially photojournalists. I suspect there were dozens of people taking pictures in the same area he was in.

In fact I was planning on getting up tomorrow for some sunrise pictures of sailboats that might have two carriers in the background. We'll see what the FBI has to say about that.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:42 AM on December 6, 2002

the rent-a-cop saw me taking pictures, and told me that it was against the law to take a photograph of a federal building.

Yeah, right. I'd like to see this specious claim documented.

I suggest a new exhibit for you, crunchland: pictures of idiots trying to stop you from taking pictures of federal buildings and train stations! You'd get tons of good publicity.
posted by rushmc at 8:43 AM on December 6, 2002

Whenever someone says something is true, I try to ask myself if it's verifiable.

When I apply this rule to the Bush/Cheney administration I can reach all kinds of situations where I doubt the veracity of the information.

This story has similar holes. The total lack of verifiable information, makes this a slippery story.

You can't fight disinformation with more disinformation.
posted by AaronO at 8:49 AM on December 6, 2002

when did the word "pinko" reenter the vernacular?
posted by themikeb at 8:49 AM on December 6, 2002

Well, in their credit, the camera I use is as small as a Minox, so for people raised on Cold War Spy pabulum, I imagine they might see a spy where there was none. And, in fact, once I talked to all of the security people, they were very fascinated with my camera, even while they insisted I couldn't use it in the places they were guarding.
posted by crunchland at 8:51 AM on December 6, 2002

"a case not so long ago where someone was arrested for taking pictures of a nuclear plant"

Just wanted to point out the guy wasn't arrested and that the law he broke was Vermont law, so it doesn't pertain to other states. From the article, federal law doesn't prohibit taking pictures of power plants.

Being harassed I can deal with. But I'd like to know if I'm going to get arrested. It's going to really suck if I need to consult a lawyer to take pictures around town.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:55 AM on December 6, 2002

I doubt this article too but the fact remains that the Patriot Act goes against our guaranteed freedoms
posted by Degaz at 8:59 AM on December 6, 2002

when did the word "pinko" reenter the vernacular?

It didn't, that's why the story sounds so fishy. This guy would be right out of central casting under the title "1950s-era right-wing nut."

In order to swallow this story, you also have to believe that the Denver Police Department -- which purportedly did the arresting -- is in cahoots with the right-wing caricature Secret Service agent, and agreed to nefariously cover this up as if it never happened.
posted by pardonyou? at 9:11 AM on December 6, 2002

it was against the law to take a photograph of a federal building.

So what does this mean for all the pictures out there of the White House, Congress, The Pentagon. Technically, those are all federal buildings. If it's really against the law, does it mean that every tourist has to get approval before taking pictures?
posted by TNLNYC at 9:25 AM on December 6, 2002

It's going to really suck if I need to consult a lawyer to take pictures around town.

It's getting to where you have to know a lawyer in order to do anything but shut up, park your butt in a couch, and accept the daily television network brainwashing so you know how to behave and what to buy so that you won't be labeled a "terrorist".
posted by joquarky at 9:42 AM on December 6, 2002

A friend of mine recently photographed a french airline attendant who was indicted on charges of threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. nationals for France's equivalent of People magazine. The guy allegedly found a note threatening to blow up the plane on it's route from London to Orlando. This story has barely been reported here but is a big deal in France. The photographer, editors and the suspect thought it would be a good idea to photograph him in front of the federal building in downtown Orlando where his trial will take place. They were able to get about 5 frames off before security guards from the building came sprinting out and detained them briefly before telling them it was against the law to do what they were doing and told them to get lost. So, even though I'm skeptical of what 2600 may report I know that this type of thing is happening and it's bound to get worse before it gets any better.
posted by photoslob at 9:49 AM on December 6, 2002

I don't believe it's against any particular law to photograph a federal building. It is, however, against a particular law to "threaten" either the President or Vice President.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:01 AM on December 6, 2002

2600 is like the Penthouse Letters magazine of the computer "underground".
posted by abez at 10:18 AM on December 6, 2002

That's right your honor, I did aim at and attempt to shoot the President using a 35 mm automatic... er, point and shoot... or was it set on semi-automatic?
posted by Dick Paris at 10:20 AM on December 6, 2002

octobersurprise:I wouldn't hold out much hope for the Creedence, either

YOUNGER COP: And was there anything of value in the car?
DUDE: Huh? Oh. Yeah. Tape deck. Couple of Creedence tapes. And there was a, uh. . . my briefcase.
YOUNGER COP: In the briefcase?
DUDE: Papers. Just papers. You know, my papers. Business papers.
YOUNGER COP: And what do you do, sir?
DUDE: I'm unemployed.

posted by pitchblende at 10:27 AM on December 6, 2002

I agree that the photog is probably highly exaggerating the events. I do, however, have little problem believing it happened -- especially if, as seems clear from his own account -- he was photographing the security arrangements surrounding the vice president. The Secret Service has never been accused of having a sense of humor -- there were several incidents during the Clinton administration that had the freepers crying "police state! police state!", usually over incidents where someone was questioned and released. Since this photographer was not, indeed, arrested or charged with any crime, it's hard to see why 2600 (or nofundy) need to invoke the USA PATRIOT act, which to my knowledge contains no appropriate provisions. (It's long, but it does bear reading, especially if you don't want to look like a hysterical ignoramus.) If, for example, Maginnis had been arrested after the FISA authorized a secret wiretap of his phone and computer, that would be a possible abuse of the act.

By the way, there are rules governing photography on federal property:

Photographs for news, advertising or commercial purposes (41 CFR 101-20.310). Photographs may be taken in space occupied by a tenant agency only with the consent of the occupying agency concerned. Except where security regulations apply or a Federal court or rule prohibits it, photographs for news purposes, may be taken in entrances, lobbies, foyers, corridors, or auditoriums when used for public meetings. Subject to the foregoing prohibitions, photographs for advertising and commercial purposes may be taken only with written permission of an authorized official of the agency occupying the space where the photographs are to by taken. -- Guidelines for use of public space [on federal property]

Additionally, I found this thread from 2000 talking about issues of film confiscation and photography on federal property. There are also longstanding federal laws against photographing or sketching military or defense faciliities.

Finally, this is wartime, by the legal standard of the use-of-force resolution authorized by Congress on September 14, 2001. Even in World War Two, we were not under great threat of attack; it doesn't matter whether you can "tell".

I have my own experience with the Secret Service. When I was ~13, my parents took us to Washington. We were trying to find the Frick or Freer (one of those small galleries) when we came across a large conglomeration of officialdom. My dad asked a cop, who explained that King Juan Carlos of Spain was staying and if we stuck around we might get to see him. We found a spot where we could lean against the railing over a garden entrance (like British mews) and see the front stairway of his building. Like any kid, I was tired, so I sat down half-leaning on the railing and dangling my feet into the stairwell. Even though we were at least 20 yards from the King et al., an official immediately arrived and told me to stay completely behind the railing. At that time I had no idea of Spain's history with domestic terrorism. So 25 years ago, you could just as easily encounter this humorless attitude.
posted by dhartung at 10:30 AM on December 6, 2002

Who did the US declare war against, again?
posted by websavvy at 11:44 AM on December 6, 2002

all of em. wherever. whenever. Pinko.
posted by crunchland at 11:55 AM on December 6, 2002

2600 is like the Penthouse Letters magazine of the computer "underground".

I only buy it for the payphone pictures...
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:09 PM on December 6, 2002

A previous cover sums this up rather well.

Slightly o/t - did any MeFiers go to H2K2 this past summer?
posted by dr_dank at 12:15 PM on December 6, 2002

"there are rules governing photography on federal property:"

The rules here pertain to photographing *within* the building. And unless I'm missing something this only pertains to commercial photography. If I was commercial I probably would be consulting a lawyer, but since I have no intention of ever selling anything I seem to fall into a grey area. This has always frustrated me.

"I found this thread"

The discussion there seems to conclude that photographing federal buildings from a public street is legal. Which has been my understanding also.

"There are also longstanding federal laws against photographing or sketching military or defense faciliities."

Agreed. I wouldn't have a problem with the FBI questioning me and asking me to delete pictures of aircraft carriers. It makes sense to me that posting such pictures on the Internet might not be such a great idea. But it's hard to take photos around San Diego bay without getting some military ships in the frame. The place is a tourist destination. There's tons of great stuff down there.

I know I'm being anal about this, but it's something I tend to worry about a lot. For instance, I have several great pictures of the bay with navy ships in the background. Am I helping the terrorists? I don't think so. This area is always filled with tourist cameras. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that shots like these get taken 100 times a day.

I just don't want to get arrested, and I also don't want to alter my picture taking for no good reason at all. Such a quandary. IMHO if we try to go through life trying not to act suspicious or avoiding taking pictures of buildings, the terrorists do in fact win. Well screw that.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:27 PM on December 6, 2002

For instance, I have several great pictures of the bay with navy ships in the background. Am I helping the terrorists?

I wouldn't sweat it--they have plenty of cameras of their own.
posted by rushmc at 5:12 PM on December 6, 2002

"The Patriot Act Abuse Begins"

No - the allegations of Patriot Act abuse begin. Quite a different thing.
posted by MidasMulligan at 5:40 PM on December 6, 2002

I don't know if this incident is legitimate or not, but I wouldn't be surprised if such a thing did happen. While I was taking this picture at an airport last summer, a sheriff's deputy pulled up. We had a pleasant little chat about photography, airports, and "security issues" and then he sent me on my way.

Of course, I didn't volunteer that I was helping Marvin on his mission to zap as many towns and cities as possible with his Illudium Q-36 explosive space modulator, but perhaps that was for the best...
posted by solvent211 at 6:03 PM on December 6, 2002

Maginnis sounds pretty credible to me, but what's the big deal? He only lost his camera and his freedom for a couple of hours. Feel free to call me a "raghead lover" and "communist pinko" but let me just point out that others have been locked up in tiny cages for more than nine months without a fair trial. Of course, they aren't US citizens so very few Americans give a shit. Hypocrites.
posted by livingdots at 9:16 PM on December 6, 2002

livingdots - Good point! Most of the rest of the planet has been living out the effective equivalent of the "Patriot Act" for years. And the US has supported some of this: So the US is no longer a 50's era (imaginary) zone of perfect safety and domestic rectitude? Well Egypt, the recipient of around 4 billion a year in US aid, has a rather poor human rights record. Meanwhile, Palestinians have been living the "Patriot Act " - the ruthless use of state force - for quite a time, and the Israelis have been fighting a punishing "war on terror" with constant casualties (children blown to bits 0n buses, for example) for years.
posted by troutfishing at 9:43 PM on December 6, 2002


When I was a kid I remember going to take some pictures of Pintail ducks, which were extremely rare in my neighborhood at the time. A woman whose house was adjacent to the canal where I was taking the pictures called the cops.

It turns out that she had been robbed several times by groups of thieves who used children to scope their victims and take snapshots of possible robbery access points.

Was that an abuse of my human rights, or an "Abuse of The Patriot Act"? Absolutely not.

I fit the profile of a group of repeat criminal offenders, and I was more than happy to prove that my intentions were innocent.

Can the same thing be said for hotel papparazi? And if so, why is this worthy of news?

I repeat: news.
posted by hama7 at 3:43 AM on December 8, 2002

Rocky Mountain News reports that Secret Service and Denver Police categorically deny the incident ever occurred. Recall that Maginnis stated he was taken to a police station, where his camera was taken and he was roughed up. The police captain in charge has no record of the incident.
posted by dhartung at 1:32 PM on December 11, 2002

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