Mar 10, 2014
Seattle Man Says Homeland Security Officer Taunted, Photographed Him (Video)
Posted on Jul 27, 2013
A Seattle man says a Homeland Security officer provoked him Thursday by following him and appearing to take close-up pictures or video of him while a private security guard did the same. The disconcerting encounter was posted online.
This was privacy activist Phil Mocek’s second contact with uniformed authorities in as many days. He said that Wednesday, a plainclothes federal agent briefly seized his camera after he took a picture from a public sidewalk of what appeared to be unmarked or personal vehicles parked in a row of spaces reserved for law enforcement outside the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building in the downtown area.
Soon after taking the photo, a white truck that was parked in one of the spots drove by him, pulled a U-turn and parked crooked in the street, Mocek said. That’s when a man got out of the vehicle and grabbed his camera, he said.
The man identified himself as an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He began going through the pictures on the camera, Mocek said, as an officer from the Federal Protective Service of Homeland Security and a private security guard who works at the federal building watched. When the agent eventually returned the camera, one of the images was deleted, Mocek said.
It is not illegal to take photographs in public or to photograph federal facilities.
Mocek said that while walking to work Thursday, the same Federal Protective Service officer who witnessed the previous day’s incident took out his BlackBerry phone and appeared to be filming Mocek.
Their exchange, available in the three and a half minute video below, went like this:
The officer in the video does not seem to be “just taking pictures.” A private citizen taking photographs of a federal building—a legally protected activity—is one thing. A uniformed representative of the state, with the full prosecutorial power of the federal government behind him, taking photos of a private citizen for apparently no investigative reason and verbally taunting the citizen when questioned would be an act of state aggression.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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