Philly Transit Cops Add Photog to Terrorist Database

Carlos Miller

Philly Transit Cops Add Photog to Terrorist Database

While some of us celebrated the fact that the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged last week that photographing public buildings is legal, most of us are unaware that the DHS is creating a national database of people committing “suspicious activity.”

This, of course, includes photographers.

Pennsylvania photographer Scott Frederick reports on his blog that he was confronted on Tuesday by two Philadelphia Transit police officers as he was taking pictures on his way down the stairs into the city’s subway.

The officers demanded his identification, informing him that he was going to be added to the “Terrorism Data Base.”

I asked if it was against the law to photograph in the underground, and he said some song and dance about the Madrid bombings, etc. I figured I was going to receive a citation or a warning. I was asked for ID, and I cooperated with the officer. He then began to tell me how I was going to be added to the Terrorism Data Base. I couldn’t believe my ears, but I didn’t want to start any trouble.

This database is described in detail on the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Federal officials are closer to establishing what amounts to a nationwide database of so-called “suspicious activity reports” that describe possible evidence of terrorist attack planning. Reports will be submitted not just by state and local police and agencies within the Department of Homeland Security, but also private corporations that control economic and infrastructure assets considered high-profile targets for terrorists.
A required public notice surfaced one day before the nine-year anniversary of Sept. 11 confirming that DHS would be finished implementing its own internal database of suspicious activity reports by mid-October. Contents will flow in from DHS personnel at the Coast Guard, Border Patrol, Transportation Security Administration and other agencies housed in the department.

I guess the thing to do is to refuse to provide identification if you know you are not breaking the law.

This could get you arrested — even though there is no legal basis for it — but it could also overwhelm the officers into releasing you, as we have seen in the past.


War on Photography