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July 14, 2010

Non-Security and Civil Liberties

Two Miami photojournalists, Carlos Miller and Charles Ledford, attempted to enter the Metrorail system to take pictures of stations and trains, but were instead banned for life from the transit system. Despite getting confirmation from the Head of Security of Miami-Dade Metro that photographing the transit for non-commercial purposes was allowed, the rent-a-cops on the ground that guard each station insisted that photography was banned due to “terrorism reasons”. In the end the police were called as the pair refused to stop recording video outside the station (a public area).

Apart from the obvious futility of banning photography in what is essentially a publicly-accessible environment (from a security perspective), what irks me most is law enforcement’s ignorance of the actual laws regarding photography both in that transit system and in public areas. We all know that anyone taking pictures of a transit system for the purposes of “terrorism” (or any other illegal act) would most likely do so regardless of restrictions, and would most probably do so in an inconspicuous way. In some ways this reminds me of the a message issued by the UK government a couple years ago, encouraging the public to report anyone taking pictures of CCTV installations, as this could be deemed ‘suspicious activity’.

The video below, filmed by Carlos Miller, shows the pair’s attempts at entering the transit system.

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