Citizen Journalist “Audits” The Right To Film At Newark Airport, And TSA Fails Badly

A citizen-journalist went to Newark Liberty International Airport (emphasizing ‘liberty’) looking for a fight. He went to test his ability to film there, which is (generally speaking) his right. He got the confrontation he was looking for, which makes for great social media. While just released this week, it appears to me that footage was taken at least 3 months ago.

But this is commendable, he is taking the heat in person, filming and promoting it, so that you aren’t harassed for your more ‘innocent’ behaviors.

  • He gets told “there’s no recording” at TSA checkpoints.
  • Port Authority police responded, told them filming wasn’t permitted, and demanded press credentials
  • Then the officer acknowledged they could film but not ‘make people feel uncomfortable’ however a sergeant was called, who (correctly) allowed filming
  • United Airlines employees are then shown objecting to the filming and a supervisor threatened to call the police
  • The responding officer, though, explained to the United staff that “what you want and what can be done are not the same thing.”

    When someone is entrusted to act under the color of law, they have a greater obligation to respect rights than an ordinary citizen – not a free pass to ignore those rights. And the last person who should be entrusted with that power is a hot head. The initial TSA agents handled this poorly, while the Port Authority sergeant handled matters well.

    While American Airlines officially forbids photographing employees on board and in areas of the airport it privately controls, United Airlines – post David Dao, natch – only forbids “photographing or recording that creates a safety or security risk or that interferes with crew members’ duties.”

    The TSA is clear that “photographing, videotaping or filming” is permitted at checkpoints provided ” the screening process is not interfered with or sensitive information is not revealed.”

    Interference with screening includes but is not limited to holding a recording device up to the face of a TSA officer so that the officer is unable to see or move, refusing to assume the proper stance during screening, blocking the movement of others through the checkpoint or refusing to submit a recording device for screening.

    Additionally, you may not film or take pictures of equipment monitors that are shielded from public view.

    Outside of a limited set of legitimate interests, government functions in publicly-owned airports are generally open to filming. Passengers can’t pass through TSA checkpoints without a ticket or other authorization, but prior to the checkpoint it’s generally not a problem as long as the activities don’t interfere with the function of the airport or screening activities.

    To be sure I wouldn’t want to be filmed in my workplace either. At the same time without documentary evidence of bad actors, a passenger likely has little recourse against TSA or airline employees who treat them poorly.

    (HT: Ken A)

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