Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2004/07/16

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Subject: [Leica] Photo student harassed in Seattle by Homeland Security
From: bdcolen at (B. D. Colen)
Date: Fri Jul 16 16:31:22 2004

Yup. We know exactly who is likely to be a terrorist. A nice, white,
home-grown Army vet from Oklahoma who got some fertilizer, some heating
oil, and killed how many men, women and children? And then the Feds
initially ran all over hell looking for Arabs.

Of course our main threat right now are radical Islamists from somewhere
outside the U.S. of A....Of course there are also those millions of
black males locked away in our prison system - many of them locked away
for offenses that would get white suburban offenders probation - who are
ripe for recruitment by extremists.

And then there is the All American boy from Marin County - remember him?

So much for profiling. :-)

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of
Peter Klein
Sent: Friday, July 16, 2004 6:57 PM
Subject: Re: [Leica] Photo student harassed in Seattle by Homeland

All this reminds me of the joke about the drunk who lost his car keys.
He looks for them under a street light.  He didn't lose them there, but
he looks there because under the street light, he can see.

We know exactly who is more likely to be a terrorist.  But because we
don't "discriminate," those security people can't publicly single out
anyone of particular origin or religion (even though, of course, they
do--unofficially).  Since there are things that they can't do, they make
a show of doing things they can. Whether it's effective or legal is left
as an exercise for the reader.

There may be another factor involved, a slightly more enlightened
version of "because we can."  As someone who was a teenager in "The
Sixties," I remember well that police and authority figures could easily
do things that they weren't supposed to do, and get away with it.  The
Homeland Security agent who told the Seattle student he had broken the
law by photographing the Ballard locks is just a spiritual descendant of
the cop who hauled a 1960s kid in for "disorderly conduct," when the
real crime was having long hair or wearing an anti-war button.

I believe that cops were happy when such excesses were publicized,
because it made examples that kept others in line.  It made it easier to
spot those who were really going to make trouble. I don't think that
Agent Whatsis really cares much about photography.  He just wants as few
people as possible doing anything that *might* be suspicious, so it's
easier to spot something that is truly dangerous.

Remember that tough cop in your town who made even "good"  kids fear
that they might be sent to the slammer if they so much as looked at him
sideways?  He probably thought that he was doing public good by creating
fear that helped keep public order.  Ditto Agent Whatsis.  If a large
segment of the public is fooled into believing that photographing a
vulnerable waterway is illegal, it makes his job easier.

I don't say that any of this is right.  I also don't say that it is a
vast, monolithic right-wing conspiracy to suspend the constitution and
impose an Orwellian regime on us--though it does nudge things in that
direction.  Much of it strikes me as ordinary people bumbling along
doing the best they can in complex and contradictory circumstances.  And
a few power trippers taking advantage of the situation.  Regarding the
latter, thank God for the ACLU and a (sometimes) free press.


George wrote:
> Good points. However the times places and reasons, in my experience, 
> have become ridiculous. In the past, pre-9/11, I pretty much knew when

> and where I might expect a discussion with authority, or actual 
> confrontation, or possible arrest. My most recent experiences, 
> since-9/11, have felt strangely silly.  I'm adapting and my 
> sensibility is shifting to expect being approached by authority any 
> place and any time for any reason.  This doesn't feel good. The next 
> step is to be stopped and talked to even without a camera - just 
> because they can.

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Replies: Reply from msmall at (Marc James Small) ([Leica] Photo student harassed in Seattle by Homeland Security)
In reply to: Message from pklein at (Peter Klein) ([Leica] Photo student harassed in Seattle by Homeland Security)