Julio Rausseo, a journalist with We are Change, noticed that TSA agents were preparing to inspect railway passengers at Chicago’s Union Station on July 5. He began to video them, but the agents forced him to stop. A couple of weeks later, TSA agents cornered Rausseo at a nearby restaurant, which he videoed.
The agents claimed that Rausseo needed to get a permit to video them. Perhaps that is a local requirement by the TSA in Chicago, but nationally there is no such requirement as this TSA blog explains:
We don’t prohibit public, passengers or press from photographing, videotaping, or filming at screening locations. You can take pictures at our checkpoints as long as you’re not interfering with the screening process or slowing things down. We also ask that you do not film or take pictures of our monitors.
However… while the TSA does not prohibit photographs at screening locations, local laws, state statutes, or local ordinances might.
The same blog also said that while the activity is legal it might get the attention of the TSA.
It’s important to note that we know there’s a difference between someone taking a casual photo and someone doing surveillance, but if you are taking pictures at or near the checkpoint, don’t be surprised if someone (TSA, airport police, or a curious passenger) asks you what you’re up to.
What happened with Rausseo is a lot more than asking what he was up to.
He was told that he needed a permit because his picture taking could jeopardize security. When Rausseo brought up his First Amendment rights, the agents spoke about homeland security being more important. That is scary in itself. The First Amendment is being treated as nothing more than a scrap of paper.
You’re obviously a rookie journalist because any seasoned journalist would know that you follow policy and procedure. A normal journalist and a professional journalist would know to go to management office, get a permit, [explain] who you are, what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Then they escort you, and you are able to execute your First Amendment rights.
Is this what the nation is coming to? We need to get permits and then be escorted to where we can execute our First Amendment rights? Maybe next up will be a requirement for journalists and bloggers to screen their writings with the TSA before publishing them.
Here is a summary of the encounter by Luke Rudkowski of We are Change:
The full encounter with the TSA in the restaurant is here: