War against cameras, the ABQ edition
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New Mexico made some national news this past week when a man from Seattle fought the TSA at Albuquerque’s international airport — Sunport — and won.
It took a jury less than an hour to acquit Phil Mocek of four misdemeanor charges when, back in November of 2009, he videotaped himself going through the TSA checkpoint and refused to show his ID. Mocek was arrested on charges of tresspassing, disorderly conduct, concealing his identity and refusing to obey an officer.
Mocek is a software developer and affiliated with a movement called “Freedom Flyers,” which challenges the government’s authority to enact restrictions on air travel, such as ID requirements at TSA checkpoints.
I don’t really have a strong reaction against showing identification when flying. After all, flying is a privilege — not a right — and in an age where it’s clear that terrorists have and will target airplanes (and in the case of Europe, trains), it seems reasonable to me to have some measure to screen potential threats.
However, like most Americans, it seems the TSA process is pretty screwed up and too often shows little regard for common sense and respect for American citizens.
But my real interest in the Mocek case goes back to similar stories I have posted (here and here) of public authorities in public places treating taxpaying Americans disrespectfully when they use cameras in public places.
Regardless whether you think Mocek is a civil liberties hero or a just guy looking for headlines, take a look at the video during his altercation at Sunport and it’s clear that he is calm, respectful and never raises his voice.
At one point on the tape, Mocek says, “I understand my rights.” The police report (which you can see here) describes Mocek as ”creating a disturbance and yelling.” A look at the tape certainly contradicts that. And if saying, “I understand my rights” constitutes creating a disturbance, well, we’re all in a lot of trouble.
But most importantly, Mocek was on the right side of the law.
From a story in Seattle Weekly:
According to the TSA’s website it’s possible to pass through security without showing a photo ID. Passengers, the website says, “will have to provide information” that verifies their identity and then they “may be subject to additional screening.”
Here’s the videotape:
If anything, the only people causing a commotion are the TSA officials confronting Mocek, especially the guy who keeps saying, “put it [the camera] down for now.”
Once again, this seems less a case of protecting the public and more a case of public employees who don’t understand that they work for the tax-paying public and that using a camera in a public place, built and supported by public dollars, is not a crime.
Could you imagine if the situation were reversed? Let’s say a citizen showed up at Sunport, walked up to the TSA checkpoint and demanded that all security cameras at the airport be removed because they were an invasion of the complaintant’s privacy. TSA officials would call that a ludicrous request. Yet, when a private citizen turns the tables and videotapes TSA officers, these public employees have a conniption fit.
I’m not saying we should remove cameras from public property.
But I am saying that if public officials and authorities are going to use cameras in public places (such as traffic intersections to hand out fines for violations), then they should instruct public employees to respect the right of citizens they work for to videotape their experiences in those same public places.
It’s not that tricky.