I sometimes wonder if this still a free nation. . .
- Truthout: Photographer arrested for taking pictures of Vice President’s hotel
- Photographer Arrested for Taking Pictures of Vice President’s Hotel
Thursday, 6 December, 2002 06:03:48 UTC
An amateur photographer named Mike Maginnis was arrested on Tuesday in his home city of Denver – for simply taking pictures of buildings in an area where Vice President Cheney was residing. Maginnis told his story on Wednesday’s edition of Off The Hook.
Maginnis’s morning commute took him past the Adams Mark Hotel on Court Place. Maginnis, who says he always carried his camera wherever he went, snapped about 30 pictures of the hotel and the surrounding area – which included Denver police, Army rangers, and rooftop snipers. Maginnis, who works in information technology, frequently photographs such subjects as corporate buildings and communications equipment.
The following is Maginnis’s account of what transpired:
As he was putting his camera away, Maginnis found himself confronted by a Denver police officer who demanded that he hand over his film and camera. When he refused to give up his Nikon F2, the officer pushed him to the ground and arrested him.
After being brought to the District 1 police station on Decatur Street, Maginnis was made to wait alone in an interrogation room. Two hours later, a Secret Service agent arrived, who identified himself as Special Agent “Willse.”
The agent told Maginnis that his “suspicious activities” made him a threat to national security, and that he would be charged as a terrorist under the USA-PATRIOT act. The Secret Service agent tried to make Maginnis admit that he was taking the photographs to analyze weaknesses in the Vice President’s security entourage and “cause terror and mayhem.”
When Maginnis refused to admit to being any sort of terrorist, the Secret Service agent called him a “raghead collaborator” and a “dirty pinko faggot.”
After approximately an hour of interrogation, Maginnis was allowed to make a telephone call. Rather than contacting a lawyer, he called the Denver Post and asked for the news desk. This was immediately overheard by the desk sergeant, who hung up the phone and placed Maginnis in a holding cell.
Three hours later, Maginnis was finally released, but with no explanation. He received no copy of an arrest report, and no receipt for his confiscated possessions. He was told that he would probably not get his camera back, as it was being held as evidence.
Maginnis’s lawyer contacted the Denver Police Department for an explanation of the day’s events, but the police denied ever having Maginnis – or anyone matching his description – in custody. At press time, the Denver PD’s Press Information Office did not return telephone messages left by 2600.
The new police powers introduced by the USA-PATRIOT act, in the name of fighting terrorism, have been frightening in their apparent potential for abuse. Mike Maginnis’s experience on Tuesday is a poignant example of how this abuse is beginning to occur. It suggests that a wide range of activities which might be considered “suspicious” could be suddenly labeled a prelude to terrorism, and be grounds for arrest.
We will continue to post updates to this story as we learn them.
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)
- For another op-ed piece on this incident, check out the following excerpt of a piece from Counterpunch.org
- . . . Maginnis was eventually allowed to make his phone call. Instead of calling a lawyer, he called the Denver Post and asked for the news desk. When the desk sergeant overheard this, he hung up the phone and put the photographer in a holding cell. He was released after three hours — minus explanation, arrest report, or a receipt for his confiscated photo equipment. He was told he probably wouldn’t get his camera back. It was evidence. When Maginnis had a lawyer call the Denver police, they denied ever having him in custody. It simply didn’t happen. It was like a scene out of a Kafka novel.
This is the America we live in now. You can be arrested for taking pictures, or for simply being the wrong place at the wrong time. The police can lie, the Secret Service can call you a faggot or make racist comments about Arabs, accuse you of being a terrorist or a “pinko” without any evidence, and there is nothing you can do about it. If Mike Maginnis had been less cooperative, or had resisted arrest, he might be in the hospital right now — or sharing a brig with Jose Padilla who, after all, did nothing more than engage in a thought crime and type the wrong words in the search query line at Google or Yahoo.
So-called “no fly” lists are now being used at airports to trample the civil liberties of antiwar and human rights activists, even innocuous Green Party members. They are on a “watch list” compiled by the CIA, FBI, INS and State Department under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, passed after 9/11. Federal agents have set-up “surprise” checkpoints to supposedly ferret out all the “strands of al-Qaida and Hezbollah and Hamas” in Michigan, according to the FBI. In other words, anybody who looks vaguely Arab, or has an accent, will be racially profiled, pulled over and searched, maybe end up in the aforementioned cell with Jose Padilla or approximately 1,500 other “disappeared” Arabs in America.
The people appointed by the rigged and corrupt “democratic” political system to “represent” us have passed laws allowing the same police who threw the photographer Mike Maginnis down on the pavement for the crime of operating a camera within a hundred yards of Cheney and the national security state to enter your house without informing you, to look through your underwear drawer, copy the contents of your computer — or simply take the whole computer with them — like a common criminal who sneaks through a window while you’re away (Section 213 of the Patriot Act). They can tap your phone or computer without probable cause (Section 216). They have essentially shredded the probable cause provision of the 4th Amendment. Who’s to say, if they consider you a “raghead collaborator,” they will not plant some drugs or blueprints for a dirty bomb in your house? Can you trust cops who steal cameras and then lie about it? Can you trust SS agents who envision al-Qaeda fifth columnists when they look at amateur photographers? All of this nonsense is encouraged now thanks to Bush’s undebated and expeditiously passed USA-Patriot Act.
Section 802 of the anti-constitutional and fascist Patriot Act creates the crime of “domestic terrorism.” In essence, this section criminalizes almost all political activity organized against the government — with the possible exception of writing letters to your bought and paid for “representative” or to the editor of the corporate newspaper syndicate in your town. Section 802 makes activities that “appear to be intended” to “influence the policy of the government by intimidation or coercion” or to “intimidate or coerce a civilian population” illegal and punishable. So much for the tradition of civil disobedience. If you participate in a sit-down strike or block traffic — or take pictures of public buildings — you’re a “domestic terrorist,” or maybe a “raghead collaborator” or a “dirty pinko faggot.” Seventy-three year old Methodist pastors protesting the School of the Americas get more time in federal prison than cops guilty of taking kickbacks from drug dealers. Ken Lay will get less time. If he gets any.
Put Section 411 together with Section 802 of this tyrannical bill and you get a government able to designate any activist group as a “foreign terrorist organization.” Any group or person who endorses so-called “terrorist activity,” which under 802 may be otherwise lawful protest activity, can be designated a terrorist organization or person. That means Earth First! co-founder Mike Roselle, who was arrested for failing to leave a building in Portland where Senator Mark Hatfield maintains an office (Roselle has been arrested more than fifty times for such things) could be designated a “domestic terrorist” and share a cell with Yasser Esam Hamdi or the Lackawanna Six.
America is swiftly morphing into a fascist nation and too may people are simply too complacent or frightened — that is if they even pay attention — to do anything about it. If a photographer can be abducted, have his camera stolen, be accused of political crimes by an SS agent who acts like a KGB interrogator, well then any of us can suffer the same. Now’s the time for more people — hundreds of thousands, millions — to fill the streets and tell the Bush junta they want their Constitution back. Nothing less than millions of concerned citizens marching on Washington demanding the Bushites return the government to the people will suffice. I might add that the Bushites should be run out of town lashed to poles, tarred and feathered — as our forefathers were inclined to do when gang-robbers attempted to run scams on the people or betrayed their trust in the name of profit and war.
But then, saying that, there’s a good chance I will be designated a “domestic terrorist.”