Federal “Suspicious Activity” Reporting Initiative Threatens First Amendment Rights

September 20th, 2013 by Wills Citty and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“I observed a male nonchalantly taking numerous pictures inside a purple-line train.”

If this excerpt from a Federal “Tip and Lead” report out of Los Angeles doesn’t necessarily convince you that a crime is afoot then you’re probably not alone.  Nonetheless, that photographer, and many others like him, are now in a federal database under a plan to single out people who may be planning terrorist activity

The problem with the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (SARI) is that many of the activities it targets seem well, unsuspicious.  Worse yet, many of those questioned under the program were engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment.  Despite revisions to try to improve the program, people are still being added to the database who appear to have been doing nothing wrong.  The offense of a man recently added to the database: being “very unfriendly.”  Another was reported for buying a large quantity of cigarettes.  Both individuals were of Middle Eastern decent.  While the language initiative specifically prohibits racial profiling, a cursory investigation of what files are available suggests people are occasionally targeted for their race.   The measure also appears to have the effect, intended or otherwise, of targeting photographers in particular.

Today, in a continued effort to raise awareness of the program and improve its operational standards, the ACLU released a series of the federally collected reports online.  The NPPA joined the ACLU and 25 other organizations in a letter demanding reform. The groups also held a press conference in San Francisco addressing the impact of Suspicious Activity Reporting (“SAR”).

One of the central issues with the SAR initiative stems from confusion over what behavior falls within the programs purview.  The 2009 revised standard for the Director of National Intelligence Information Sharing Environment (ISE), one of a pair of programs that make up the initiative, defines suspicious behavior as observable actions “reasonably indicative of pre-operational planning related to terrorism or other criminal activity.”  Further, the revision makes clear that “the same constitutional standards that apply when conducting ordinary criminal investigations also apply to local law enforcement and homeland security officers conducting SAR inquiries.”  The media groups applauded this as an improvement over previous versions of the program, but note that “the failure to clearly state that ISE policy did not authorize the collection, retention or dissemination of personally identifiable information in violation of federal regulations . . . has led to confusion and abuse.”

In addition, The FBI’s eGuardian program, the other arm of the initiative, does not meet the higher standards of the ISE.  The continued reporting of non-threatening behavior suggests that this disjoint is one of the causes of the problem.

Today’s letter also observed that “Based on the SARs obtained thus far, photography and videography are frequently reported without additional facts that render these constitutionally-protected activities inherently suspicious. This reporting trend matches anecdotal reports from photographers who frequently complain that they are not only detained and questioned, but are also prevented from taking photographs and video and deprived of their equipment by police.”

The NPPA has been involved with dozens of similar incidents.  They are troublingly common, even without a federal program that enables, if not encourages their occurrence. “As part of the ‘See Something Say Something Program’ the NPPA is deeply concerned that these policies create an unnecessary climate of fear and suspicion throughout the country under the guise of safety and security for otherwise First Amendment protected activity,” said NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher.

Among the reforms suggested in today’s letter, the groups recommended the government “[re]move photography and other activities clearly protected by the First Amendment from inclusion in lists of SAR categories or other guidance criteria to prevent the unlawful stops, detention, and harassment of photographers, videographers, and journalists.”

Such a revision would be a step in the right direction to ensuring valuable First Amendment activities are not illegally obstructed, and that it’s the people who are monitoring the government, and not the other way around.

Posted in Access, ACLU, California, cell phone cameras, Department of Justice, DOJ, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording, SAR, Street Photography, Suspicious Activity, video cameras, Visual Journalists | 116 Comments »

116 Responses to “Federal “Suspicious Activity” Reporting Initiative Threatens First Amendment Rights”

  1.   we have all india database of mobile no and email id city wise Says:

    Usually I don’t study content upon sites, nevertheless i want to claim that this write-up incredibly pressured me to take a peek from along with apply it! Your way of writing has been pleasantly surprised my family. Thank you, very fantastic report.

  2.   los angeles security guard company Says:

    Somebody automatically assist to create significantly reports I will condition. Option very first time that We went to your online web page and thus significantly? We stunned together with the investigation you made to create this particular distribute amazing. Great job!

  3.   Newton Pilarz Says:

    I feel like I

  4.   Ellis Waldridge Says:

    some truly prize content on this web site, saved to favorites.

  5.   Horace Tensley Says:

    Greetings, super job, basically wasnt so busy with my looking I just read your full blog. I must say i’ve to express gratitude!

  6.   Edward Sevillano Says:

    Hi my loved one! I want to say that this article is amazing, great written and include almost all vital infos. I would like to see extra posts like this.

  7.   Roberto Mylott Says:

    I intended to draft you this little note so as to thank you as before for all the pleasing concepts you’ve featured in this case. It is really pretty generous with people like you to grant unhampered all a few individuals would’ve offered for an e book to generate some cash on their own, specifically considering that you could have tried it in the event you decided. Those principles additionally worked to provide a fantastic way to understand that the rest have similar eagerness the same as my personal own to find out somewhat more in respect of this matter. I’m sure there are a lot more fun opportunities up front for individuals who examine your website.

  8.   Candance Freiheit Says:

    You made some decent points there. I regarded on the web for the difficulty and found most individuals will go along with together with your website.

  9.   Brock Misra Says:

    Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive learn anything like this before. So excellent to search out someone with some authentic suggestions on this subject. realy thank you for beginning this up. this web site is 1 thing that

  10.   Adam Zuckerberg Says:

    I like this post, enjoyed this one regards for putting up.

  11.   Lon Heagy Says:

    Real informative and fantastic anatomical structure of subject material, now that

  12.   Christoper Dardy Says:

    Nice read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch as I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase that: Thank you for lunch! “He who walks in another’s tracks leaves no footprints.” by Joan Brannon.

  13.   Estefana Stoney Says:

    Outstanding post, I think people should acquire a lot from this web site its real user genial. So much superb information on here :D.

  14.   Josette Beatie Says:

    I’ve been surfing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will be a lot more useful than ever before.

  15.   Hank Danesi Says:

    Wonderful site. Lots of useful info here. I’m sending it to several friends ans additionally sharing in delicious. And naturally, thank you for your effort!

  16.   Michal Diller Says:

    you got a very great website, Gladiola I observed it through yahoo.

  17.   Corinne Hibert Says:

    After study a couple of of the content within your internet internet site now, and I actually such as your indicates of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark web site list and will also be checking back soon. Pls appear into my internet page likewise and tell me what you feel.

  18.   Al Rogala Says:

    Extremely clean web site, thanks for this post.

  19.   Mark Vesely Says:

    My mate and My hubby and i turned exclusively expressing a exceptionally dilemma, he

  20.   Alphonso Mcalphin Says:

    F*ckin’ remarkable things here. I am very glad to peer your article. Thank you a lot and i am having a look ahead to touch you. Will you please drop me a e-mail?

  21.   Arlen Staniford Says:

    Awesome post, I am going to spend much more time researching this subject

  22.   Ronnie Pundt Says:

    I completely realize everything you’ve got said. Actually, I browsed by way of your additional content articles and I believe you happen to be totally appropriate. Fantastic job with this online site.

  23.   Abdul Rinkenberger Says:

    Great beat ! I wish to apprentice although you amend your web site, how can i subscribe for a weblog website? The account aided me a appropriate deal. I had been just a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright clear idea

  24.   Kamala Minnick Says:

    Undeniably believe that which you stated. Your favorite justification seemed to be on the internet the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get irked although men and women consider worries that they plainly don

  25.   Julio Wohlert Says:

    As I web website possessor I believe the content material matter here is rattling great, appreciate it for your efforts. You ought to keep it up forever! Great Luck.

  26.   Marcelo Cheslock Says:

    This article is really detailed. I was seeking at the unique tips you shown here. But could you actually clarify something mainly because I was a bit mixed up? I didn

  27.   Liane Caruthers Says:

    Hmm, I never thought about it that way. I do see your point but I believe many will disagree

  28.   Bula Crystal Says:

    i can take for granted you are an expert on this subject

  29.   Mireya Beyda Says:

    An fascinating dialogue is value comment. I feel that it is finest to write extra on this matter, it could not be a taboo subject nonetheless generally individuals are not enough to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers

  30.   Selma Dominiak Says:

    I should say, as a whole lot as I enjoyed reading what you had to say, I couldnt help but shed interest after a even though. Its as should you had a amazing grasp on the topic matter, but you forgot to contain your readers. Possibly you need to take into consideration this from far a lot more than 1 angle. Or maybe you shouldnt generalise so considerably. Its much better in the event you take into consideration what other people may possibly have to say rather of just going for a gut reaction to the subject. Think about adjusting your personal believed procedure and giving other people who might read this the benefit with the doubt.

  31.   Nickolas Ode Says:

    Spot on with this write-up, I actually assume this website needs much more consideration. I

  32.   Kirsten Niday Says:

    Regards for all your efforts that you have put in this. very interesting information. “You can’t help someone get up a hill without getting closer to the top yourself.” by Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf.

  33.   Edmund Saffell Says:

    Should you are viewing come up with alter in most with the living, starting point normally L. a. Weight reduction cutting down on calories platform are a wide stair as part of your attaining that most agenda. weight loss

  34.   Marcelino Munzer Says:

    Some truly nice stuff on this website, I really like it.

  35.   Marcelo Cheslock Says:

    I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I

  36.   Eusebia Machover Says:

    Hello! Good post! Please do maintain us posted when we can see a follow up!

  37.   Monet Shenefield Says:

    Nicely picked details, a lot of thanks to the author. It

  38.   Gavin Labita Says:

    Hmm is anyone else having issues with the images on this weblog loading? I

  39.   Johnnie Ell Says:

    I enjoy your composing design, do carry on creating! I will probably be back!

  40.   Jerald Jaquez Says:

    I used to be recommended this internet site by my cousin. I am no longer sure whether this put up is written by way of him as no 1 else realize such precise approximately my trouble. You’re amazing! Thank you!

  41.   Tory Lehmkuhl Says:

    Can I just now say such a relief to discover 1 who truly knows what theyre dealing with on-line. You actually know how to bring a concern to light and earn it crucial. Lots much more individuals have to look at this and see why side with the story. I cant think youre not a lot more popular because you certainly develop the gift.

  42.   Drema Hogberg Says:

    I feel youve produced some genuinely interesting points. Not too many folks would in fact think about this the way you just did. Im truly impressed that theres so substantially about this topic thats been uncovered and you did it so properly, with so a good deal class. Excellent 1 you, man! Genuinely fantastic stuff here.

  43.   Oliver Donchez Says:


  44.   Adina Schille Says:

    I like this weblog so much, saved to favorites. “Respect for the fragility and importance of an individual life is still the mark of an educated man.” by Norman Cousins.

  45.   Austin Lockshaw Says:

    Absolutely pent written content, thankyou for selective information.

  46.   Sherrill Hinaman Says:

    I’ll immediately take hold of your rss feed as I can’t find your email subscription link or e-newsletter service. Do you have any? Kindly allow me recognize so that I may just subscribe. Thanks.

  47.   Ruben Dolfay Says:

    I was just searching for this information for a while. After 6 hours of continuous Googleing, finally I got it in your web site. I wonder what is the lack of Google strategy that don’t rank this type of informative websites in top of the list. Normally the top websites are full of garbage.

  48.   Phung Pires Says:

    After study numerous of the weblog posts on your personal internet website now, and i genuinely a lot like your indicates of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark internet web site list and are checking back soon. Pls look at my internet site as effectively and let me know what you believe.

  49.   Perry Birkenmeier Says:

    My wife and i have been fortunate when Louis could do his analysis with the ideas he made through the web page. It is now and again perplexing just to choose to be offering information that many others may have been trying to sell. And we fully understand we have the blog owner to thank because of that. The type of explanations you made, the straightforward website menu, the relationships you make it possible to engender – it’s many impressive, and it’s really letting our son in addition to the family feel that that content is satisfying, which is certainly incredibly vital. Many thanks for the whole lot!

  50.   Emogene Romrell Says:

    I like this weblog very considerably so considerably excellent information .

  51.   Cliff Biggar Says:

    After study just a few of the weblog posts in your web site now, and I truly like your means of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark web site listing and will likely be checking again soon. Pls try my web page as well and let me know what you think.

  52.   Willard Edgington Says:

    I have read some good stuff here. Certainly price bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how a lot attempt you set to create this sort of magnificent informative website.

  53.   Connie Sostre Says:

    I saw a lot of website but I believe this one has got something unique in it in it

  54.   Josue Carrozza Says:

    I agree with most of your points, but some need to be discussed further, I will hold a small talk with my partners and perhaps I will look for you some suggestion soon.

  55.   Deangelo Provenza Says:

    As I internet website possessor I believe the content matter here is rattling magnificent, appreciate it for your hard work. You ought to keep it up forever! Greatest of luck.

  56.   Antone Chiulli Says:

    A formidable share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a bit of analysis on this. And he the truth is bought me breakfast because I discovered it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to debate this, I feel strongly about it and enjoy reading far more on this topic. If doable, as you turn into expertise, would you thoughts updating your weblog with much more details? It is extremely valuable for me. Massive thumb up for this weblog submit!

  57.   Lacy Gabouer Says:


  58.   Malik Merritt Says:

    Thanks so a lot for sharing all of the awesome info! I am looking forward to checking out far more posts!

  59.   Tam Dack Says:

    HURRAY! can

  60.   Armandina Bevens Says:

    Discover how to deal together with your domain get in touch with details and registration. Realize domain namelocking and Exclusive domain name Registration.

  61.   Bob Barresi Says:

    A weblog like yours need to be earning considerably funds from adsense.

  62.   Estefana Broermann Says:

    I was reading through some of your posts on this website and I conceive this website is very informative! Continue putting up.

  63.   Seth Finland Says:

    The planet are actually secret by having temperate garden which are generally beautiful, rrncluding a jungle that is definitely certainly profligate featuring so several systems by way of example the game courses, golf method and in addition private pools. Hotel reviews

  64.   Rachel Nuhn Says:

    I as effectively believe thence, perfectly pent post!.

  65.   Philip Wear Says:


  66.   Val Hinrichs Says:

    *warning* Don

  67.   Renaldo Faire Says:

    As soon as I detected this web site I went on reddit to share some of the love with them.

  68.   Lawerence Zipse Says:

    As a Newbie, I’m always exploring online for articles that can be of assistance to me. Thank you

  69.   Casie Jackon Says:

    I appreciate your function, thanks for all the informative weblog posts.

  70.   Darrel Kiedrowski Says:

    Magnificent beat ! I would like to apprentice whilst you amend your internet site, how could i subscribe for a weblog website? The account helped me a appropriate deal. I had been a bit bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided brilliant transparent idea

  71.   Filiberto Gerchak Says:

    You completed several great points there. I did specific searches on the issue and found many men and women go in conjunction with along together with your weblog.

  72.   Hilario Villalouos Says:

    I agree together with your points, excellent post.

  73.   Kirby Hulsey Says:

    Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing slightly research on that. And he truly bought me lunch as I located it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thank you for lunch!

  74.   Palmer Hoga Says:

    some really interesting details you have written.

  75.   Guillermo Pappajohn Says:

    Wohh exactly what I was searching for, thank you for putting up.

  76.   Cristin Souphom Says:

    Greatful to discovered this weblog, I’ve been looking a lot of times about it. This is in fact what I’ve been seeking and I

  77.   Alena Beza Says:

    you’ve got got a fantastic blog here! do you want to make some invite posts in my weblog?

  78.   Kelvin Finnefrock Says:

    I’m glad to be a visitant of this gross internet blog !, regards for this rare information !.

  79.   Ronna Wilkowitz Says:

    Enjoyed looking at this, very good stuff, thanks. “All of our dreams can come true — if we have the courage to pursue them.” by Walt Disney.

  80.   Lulu Kriz Says:

    Thanks for some other great post. Where else might just anyone get that type of info in such an perfect indicates of writing? I

  81.   Quintin Lister Says:

    hello!,I really like your writing very so much! proportion we be in contact more about your post on AOL? I require an expert on this space to unravel my problem. Maybe that is you! Having a look forward to peer you.

  82.   Shena Larney Says:

    Hello actually awesome internet internet site!! Guy.. Beautiful.. Fantastic.. I

  83.   Lenny Flebbe Says:

    Thank you pertaining to giving this exceptional content on your web-site. I discovered it on google. I may possibly check back once more in case you publish extra aricles.

  84.   Katelin Girillo Says:

    Hello. Cool post. There

  85.   Barney Bucko Says:

    I don

  86.   Mary Labarbera Says:

    Its excellent as your other posts : D, regards for putting up. “Before borrowing money from a friend it’s best to decide which you need most.” by Joe Moore.

  87.   Gaston Yeargan Says:

    You’ve noted really interesting details ! ps decent website.

  88.   Jewell Gardecki Says:

    Every email you send should have your signature with the link to your internet web site or weblog. That typically brings in some visitors.

  89.   Barrett Truxon Says:

    Its great as your other posts : D, thanks for posting. “I catnap now and then, but I think while I nap, so it’s not a waste of time.” by Martha Stewart.

  90.   Arden Sapp Says:

    I really enjoy reading on this web site, it has got fantastic posts. “A short saying oft contains much wisdom.” by Sophocles.

  91.   Sal Muffley Says:

    This is a good blog i should say, typically i don????t post comments on others???? blogs but would like to say that this post truly forced me to do so!

  92.   Darrel Kiedrowski Says:

    Hello, i feel that i saw you visited my website so i got here to

  93.   Loree Foat Says:

    yay google is my world beater aided me to find this outstanding internet site!.

  94.   Woodrow Bottcher Says:

    The the next occasion I read a blog, Hopefully so it doesnt disappoint me about this. I’m talking about, Yes, it was my choice to read, but I actually thought youd have some thing intriguing to express. All I hear is really a great deal of whining about something you can fix if you ever werent too busy in search of attention.

  95.   Ervin Graminski Says:

    This weblog genuinely is great. How was it produced ?

  96.   Habibi Says:

    stays on topic and states valid points. Thank you.

  97.   Habibi Says:

    magnificent points altogether, you simply won a new reader. What might you suggest about your post that you just made a few days ago? Any certain?

  98.   Habibi Says:

    It’s really a nice and useful piece of info. I’m satisfied that you simply shared this useful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  99.   Habibi Says:

    Great post, I conceive people should larn a lot from this website its real user friendly. So much fantastic information on here :D.

  100.   Khadijah Tangen Says:

    Hey there would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with? I’m going to start my

  101.   Tresa Ginyard Says:

    Obtaining this internet site created all of the function I did to locate it appear like absolutely nothing. The reason being that this is such an informative post. I wanted to thank you for this special read with the subject. I surely savored every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

  102.   Thomas Sikkink Says:

    Generally I do not read article on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to take a look at and do it! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, very great article.

  103.   Theo Sikora Says:

    I am glad to be a visitor of this sodding site !, thankyou for this rare info!.

  104.   Myron Wendelberger Says:

    Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive learn anything like this before. So good to search out someone with some authentic tips on this subject. realy thank you for beginning this up. this web site is 1 thing that

  105.   Santiago Arocho Says:

    Hello, you used to write great, but the last several posts have been kinda boring

  106.   Maxima Lame Says:

    I gotta bookmark this web site it seems extremely beneficial.

  107.   Lucia Weatherholt Says:

    Excellent web internet site. Lots of useful info here. I’m sending it to several buddies ans additionally sharing in delicious. And of course, thank you in your sweat!

  108.   Maurine Glanville Says:

    Very excellent info can be found on weblog.

  109.   Billie Stepp Says:

    I have seen that service fees for online degree professionals tend to be a great value. For example a full 4-year college Degree in Communication in the University of Phoenix Online consists of 60 credits at $515/credit or $30,900. Also American Intercontinental University Online provides a Bachelors of Business Administration with a complete school requirement of 180 units and a worth of $30,560. Online degree learning has made having your college diploma been so detailed more than before because you can easily earn your current degree from the comfort in your home and when you finish from office. Thanks for all other tips I’ve learned from your web-site.

  110.   Leora Timbers Says:

    Nice blog! Only difficulty is i

  111.   Judi Ladakakos Says:

    I dont feel Ive read anything like this before. So very good to discover somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. thank for starting this up. This internet site is something that is required on the web, someone with just a little originality. Good job for bringing something new towards the internet!

  112.   Deloris Canada Says:

    Appreciate it for all your efforts that you have put in this. very interesting info.

  113.   Mui Warstler Says:

    This design is steller! You most surely know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own weblog (nicely, almost

  114.   Quincy Dearin Says:

    I conceive other website proprietors should take this internet site as an example, very clean and great user friendly style and design.

  115.   Santo Alexion Says:

    Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything such as this just before. So good to locate somebody with some original ideas on this subject. realy we appreciate you starting this up. this internet site are some points that is necessary on-line, a person with just a little originality. beneficial project for bringing new stuff to the world wide internet!

  116.   Sasha Pascall Says:

    The the next occasion I just read a weblog, Hopefully that this doesnt disappoint me up to this. I am talking about, It was my method to read, but I truly thought youd have something intriguing to express. All I hear can be numerous whining about something that you could fix should you werent too busy seeking for attention.

Leave a Reply