Federal agents question Seattle photo student

A Seattle-area photography student was stopped and questioned by Homeland Security agents and police officers, after photographing an old railroad bridge, writes the Stranger.

"The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook" by Carlos Miller
“The Citizen Journalist’s Photography Handbook” by Carlos Miller

Ian Spiers, 37, told the independent Seattle newspaper that police officers visited him at home and asked him for his ID so they could run a background check after receiving a call of “suspicious” behavior.

Spiers, who has set up a Web site — Brown Equals Terrorist — about the experiences, told the Stranger, “I thought it was a hilarious little misunderstanding.”

But weeks later, he was stopped again — this time by police officers and armed agents from the Department of Homeland Security.

Spiers was then questioned for a half-hour and photographed by federal agents, prompting the American Civil Liberties Union to intervene in the case, according to anAssociated Press story.

Agents had told Spiers there was a law against photographing a federal facility, which the ACLU is contesting in a letter to involved agencies.

“We’ve never seen such a law,” ACLU spokesman Doug Honig told AP.

The issue in Seattle happened around the same time the New York Metropolitain Transit Authority sought to ban photography in subways, an issue that had several area shutterbugs up in arms about the idea.

“It’s utterly the wrong way to protect the subway,” one photoblogger told the Village Voice. “If there’s anyone who won’t be deterred by a $25 fine, it’s an actual terrorist.” 

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