TSA Sends Letter Assuring Photographers’ Rights

July 1st, 2011 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , ,

In response to concerns expressed by the NPPA the TSA has sent a letter regarding photography, videotaping and filming at airport security passenger screening checkpoints. Margot Bester, Principle Deputy in the TSA Office of Chief Counsel said, “please be assured that TSA’ s goal is to protect passenger’s rights, including the right to record at passenger screening checkpoints, while ensuring that passenger screening operations can take place in an effective and efficient manner. We will continue to strive to meet this two-part commitment.”

By way of back ground, on 6/3/11 TSA posted the following to their blog (

You may have seen the video of a woman at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport who was upset about her screening experience.

TSA takes all allegations of improper screening seriously and investigates each claim to the fullest. After reviewing this passenger’s time at the checkpoint, we found that our security officers acted properly and neither the CCTV footage nor this YouTube video support any of the allegations levied. Real violations of our protocols are worth every ounce of our energy to investigate, but this alleged incident does not meet that threshold.
This incident has also raised many questions about whether or not passengers can film at checkpoints. This topic is currently under review, but you can read this blog post on our current  policy for photography at checkpoints.

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

On 6/9/2011, NPPA general counsel, Mickey H. Osterreicher, faxed the attached Napolitano Letter 06-09-11 to Secretary Napolitano.  Later that day TSA posted the the following update:


***Update: 6/9/2011 – There have been many different interpretations of the photography portion of this post, so I wanted to clarify things a bit. We recognize that using video and photography equipment is a constitutionally protected activity unless it interferes with the screening process at our checkpoints. While our current policy remains the same, TSA is reviewing our guidance to officers at the checkpoint to ensure consistent application. Our goal is to protect passenger’s rights, while safeguarding the integrity of the security process. ***

On a related note from the Department of Homeland Security please go to: for the unclassified Federal Protective Service Information Bulletin regarding Photographing the Exterior of Federal Buildings

 ******UPDATE In response to a request please see the DHS reply Napolitano Response 06-22-11

Posted in Access, First Amendment, Photographers' Rights | 48 Comments »

48 Responses to “TSA Sends Letter Assuring Photographers’ Rights”

  1.   Max Says:

    Please publish a PDF of the letter.

  2.   Mike Says:

    please be assured that TSA’ s goal is to protect passenger’s rights, including the right to record at passenger screening checkpoints, while ensuring that passenger screening operations can take place in an effective and efficient manner. We will continue to strive to meet this two-part commitment.

    This is just mumbo-jumbo from TSA. Expect more “consistent inconsistency” from TSA on the pretense of security while nothing actually changes.

    Mike, Executive Director
    Travel Underground

  3.   Mickey Osterreicher Says:

    I have posted both the NPPA letter and the DHS reply in the story.

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