Friday, July 29, 2005

The Bridge and Tunnel Crowd

According to an exclusive story in the New York Daily News, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has been keeping a secret database of people stopped and questioned for taking photographs of New York City bridges and tunnels. The MTA uses the information to determine if the photographer is just a tourist, or a terrorist on a reconnaisance mission.

In one instance, a man was stopped for filming on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge (which connects the boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island). According to the Daily News he was "questioned and released." A few days later authorities in another state stopped a man filming on a bridge in their state and asked the MTA's Interagency Counter Terrorism Task Force if they had any information on the person. Apparently that person was using the same vehicle that the Verrazano Bridge photographer was using.

As if keeping a database on mostly innocent vacationing photographers (a secret one at that) taking pictures of New York City landmarks is not enough, all of the film and video is reviewed. Worse yet, in some cases, the film is confiscated.

Apparently they have some sophisticated test to determine if they person is just a tourist or a terrorist. It's called "cluing in."

"By reviewing the film you can tell if they are tourists or if they are cluing in, and you can see on certain films they are cluing in on beams, they are cluing in on security checkpoints," one source told the Daily News. "Those are the ones that appear to be more than just casual filming."

Maybe. Or maybe the poor tourist from Kansas hasn't gotten the hang of the zoom on his video camera yet.

It leads one to wonder if the MTA pays to have the film developed before reviewing it. Of course, with the prevalance of digital cameras, it makes their jobs that much easier. I wonder if they ever "accidentally" erase any images they find objectionable.

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