I have been aware of it for some time. I have ranted about it in several different places, not from a personal perspective, but just from reading about it from others. A simple example of overreaching in the post 9-11 world, where civil liberties are violated, and people’s rights are eroded all in the name of “National Security.”
Being aware of that, when I saw this weeks Instagram Project #WatchingWatchers (photographing security cameras), I wondered how many people would run into Security and or law enforcement personnel issues. Never once actually thinking that I would be one of them.
I don’t usually go out of my way for the Instagram Projects, but when I do happen to run across something that happens to fit, I join in. So while on my way over to the gym, I paused out in front of the Prudential Building and decided to grab a shot of the cameras. (Can’t you just see from this shot how I got all the “secrets” I needed?)
I started to realize that perhaps I might have an issue, when I spotted one of the security guards, comfortably sitting at his desk inside the building, sit up and watch me, as I moved side to side, looking for the best angle for my shot. I wasn’t there more than a minute, when I found my shot and took my picture. I paused once more at the corner of the building and fired one more shot (which didn’t come out as good), and went on my merry way. Leaving (I thought) the security guard satisfied that I did not linger too long.
It was about a block later, as I waited for the light to cross that I was tracked down by Aunt Betty (Well, she wasn’t my aunt, and I don’t know what her name actually was, but she just looked like an Aunt Betty), a short, maybe 4’10″ 210 – 220 lbs in a rather disheveled Rent-A-Cop uniform. She “informed me” that I was not allowed to take pictures of the Prudential Building, and that she was going to have to confiscate my phone to ensure the pictures were removed.
My first reaction was of course to laugh… which I annoyed her, and set the tone for our conversation, which went downhill pretty quickly. After chuckling, I very nicely stated, that I was most certainly within my rights to take a picture of the Prudential Building, or any other building that I could view from a public sidewalk.
She said, that I most certainly did not, and what was I doing taking pictures anyway? Now I was a bit curious, and I went on, “Well, I took a picture because I wanted to, and by the way, just out of curiosity, Do you think this simple line of questioning would have had worked, and I would have simply admitted that I was a terrorist looking to wipe out the infidels and plan on starting with this building?”
She now got loud, and again stated that she needed to take my phone, as was her right for “National Security.” OK, I tried to be nice (if a bit snarky), and now she is getting loud, so I got annoyed (and perhaps a bit more snarky), and asked, “Oh, does the FBI have offices in Prudential?” ”No!” “Well, I know the CIA has no right to act domestically, so then it must be the NSA?” “No!” “Well, then this is not a government building… not that it would be wrong for me to take a picture of a government either.”
“Look,” she now tried sounding tough, “it is illegal for you to photograph that building.” and actually reached out, as if she was going to try to take the phone from my shirt pocket. I started out, “Oh Hon,” which really made her look angry, “judging by the condition of your uniform, your grasp of the law is about is as good as your grasp on how to use an iron. Should you touch me or try to take my property again, I will call a real cop and have you arrested for theft. Now go back behind your little desk, go watch your soaps, or whatever it is you do to pass the time guarding a closed building on a Saturday, as I am no longer going to serve as your excitement.”
I turned to walk away, and Aunt Betty just stood there briefly, and (I could see her in the store window glass reflection) adjust her belt, and give that little hip shuffle as if she just gave me a “what for” and paraded back to her office. And I wondered… just how many people would have caved and turned over their phone and/or agreed to delete the picture in the name of “National Security” just because somebody wearing a (poor fitting and faded) uniform told them to so.