Homeland Security warns the public that photography may be a sign of terrorism

Jul 13, 2018

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Homeland Security warns the public that photography may be a sign of terrorism

Jul 13, 2018

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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I’m sure many photographers have experienced unpleasant situations when they have been photographing particular structures, facilities, and places, even if they were on public land. But Homeland Security has taken this to a whole new level. It recently published a tweet in which it warns the public that photography may be one of the signs of terrorism.

The DHS warns the people to “know the signs,” adding that “photography and surveillance could be a sign of terrorism-related suspicious activity.” According to the DHS, people should make sure to report this to local authorities:

Taking pictures or videos, or a prolonged interest in personnel, facilities, security features, or infrastructure in an unusual or covert manner.

In response to this tweet, someone posted a link to an article on American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)’s website, stating photographers’ rights. The article starts with this paragraph:

Taking photographs and video of things that are plainly visible in public spaces is a constitutional right—and that includes transportation facilities, the outside of federal buildings, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties.

Personally, I’ve had problems so many times when photographing scenes like this, I can’t even count how many times it has happened so far. I’m sure many of you have been in the same situation. And an interesting thing I noticed is that no one gives a damn when you take photos with your phone, but the moment you pull out a DSLR, you become an object of suspicion.

Okay, I get that the DHS probably isn’t referring to smiling tourists snapping away photos during their walk through the city. But where exactly is the limit? What one person sees as perfectly normal, another may see as “unusual or covert.” They can report it to the authorities and put the photographer in an inconvenient and very unpleasant situation. As if we don’t get enough of that already.

[via FStoppers]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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57 responses to “Homeland Security warns the public that photography may be a sign of terrorism”

  1. W Douglas LeBlanc Avatar
    W Douglas LeBlanc

    DHSgov can suck a lemon. Really. Real lemons too. Suck, suck hard.

  2. Jonathan Tyler Avatar
    Jonathan Tyler

    By that logic, driving a panel truck is a sign of terrorism.

    1. Huge Dom Avatar
      Huge Dom

      You bet.

    2. Darla St Clair Sycamore Avatar
      Darla St Clair Sycamore

      could be

  3. Mark Nycz Avatar
    Mark Nycz

    DIYPhotography hate to break it to ya folks but this is nothing new and…its true! As a veteran I can recall being on the lookout for these signs but keep in mind its not ALL photography. If you got some random guy outside a military base or gov building recording then that can be subject to alarm. All this really means is be professional and if your confronted by military/gov/police then state your business and explain who you are and what your doing.

    1. jazzmsngr Avatar

      Really man?? It is our constitutional right to be able to take photos or video of ANY public building or personnel carrying out their duties…A RIGHT…..

      I shouldn’t even have to be questioned. Technically speaking, I don’t have to answer your questions either when working. and I won’t.

      I will say this….the next time I am out doing some work in public and a police or security or ANYONE for that matter approaches me, I will IMMEDIATELY start filming them and not stop until they walk away. The entire interaction will be documented AS IT SHOULD and IT IS MY RIGHT TO DO SO IN A PUBLIC PLACE…..A RIGHT….not a law, nor a privilege, an inalienable right given by me being born in a FREE NATION.

      This is fear mongering at the highest order and really is a direct violation of the 1st amendment, since the 1stA is specifically designed to limit the GOVERNMENTS INTERACTION WITH FREE SPEECH. Many people make the case for the 1stA wrong by saying they can say what they want….when in reality it is to protect against this very thing….the GOVERNMENT stepping in and stating when and where and how I can film the public.

      And lets not be silly here either…this just so happens to come at a time when large amounts of LAW ENFORCEMENT across the country are being caught ON CAMERA doing terrible things and getting away with it. And at the same time our President is calling the media “The Enemy of the American People” …..just go to a Trump rally with a DSLR and see how many people are “Open to civil conversations…..”


      1. JustChristoph Avatar

        If you were planning some nefarious activity, wouldn’t you be a little more circumspect about how you go about doing your recon? Just a thought.

        1. lewisfrancis Avatar

          Most of what you need to know can be answered by Google street and satellite view. Guess we better report Google, now. #securitytheater

    2. Khemraj Singh Avatar
      Khemraj Singh

      True but unless it’s illegal and signs are posted no one should really be questioned ask to why they are taking pictures in a public area.

    3. Mark Nycz Avatar
      Mark Nycz

      Khemraj Singh I’m just saying, we live in a world now where if you are out and about taking photos, just be ready to answer some basic questions. while yes you can be an asshole and not answer any questions then that just leads to more questions and it goes downhill fast. Lets be honest, this won’t effect most people or photographers tho…

      1. suruha Avatar

        Defending one’s rights against illegal search and seizure hardly makes one an ‘asshole’, now, does it? No one questions a person walking down the street – yet. Put a camera in their hand and their rights go out the window? NO!

  4. lewisfrancis Avatar

    Ugh. I’ve been chased down by over-zealous security guards over *iPhone* shots from public streets — of a site that was slated for demolition! I fully expected a pointless visit from the FBI after that one, but luckily either the report never made it up the chain or the Bureau decided it had bigger fish to fry.

    I’ve been approached many times by security guards presumably told to shoo-off photographers whether on solid legal ground or not. It’s kind of pointless to argue, so I move on.

    Once I was told on a tour of a power plant the reason why photos were restricted wasn’t due to security risks, rather they didn’t want OSHA breathing down their necks should some hatch be shown in a Facebook photo unsecured.

    1. JJtoob Avatar

      Then freaking secure it!

      1. lewisfrancis Avatar

        It’s not that the station guide thought site personnel were lackadaisical about safety, but that such photos are w/o context — a hatch could be open while a worker out of camera view worked in the area. I just thought it interesting that terrorist activity was lower on their risk assessment than OSHA. ;)

  5. Nathalie Jeglin Avatar
    Nathalie Jeglin

    Fewer pictures = less incriminating evidence. Keep shooting, keep documenting!

  6. Iván Camilo Ospina Avatar
    Iván Camilo Ospina

    It is on a country that does terrorism and expects people to do it there as well.

  7. Ilkka Alavalkama Avatar
    Ilkka Alavalkama

    I think the terrorist are using pre-paid cellphones ?

  8. Dan Cannella Avatar
    Dan Cannella

    Are you kidding me.

  9. Scott Valentine Avatar
    Scott Valentine

    This warning comes around every few years…

  10. Nick Galazoudis Avatar
    Nick Galazoudis

    Meanwhile millions of people everywhere take photos using their cellphones and (almost) no one seems to care. Then again, if you happen to raise even a simple film camera to shoot a specific something you are about to be considered weird by anyone in a second.
    Who said we don’t live in a strange world?

    1. Joshua Beaman Avatar
      Joshua Beaman

      It’s even more interesting when you think about what you would do if you were a real secret agent terrorist. That game is all about blending in and not drawing any attention. Having a big camera draws looks. Snapping cellphone pictures of things or looking like a tourist doing a little panoramic video or selfies gets completely ignored.

      Yeah, the person to be on the lookout for is totally a person with a camera.

    2. Nick Galazoudis Avatar
      Nick Galazoudis

      True story. For a street photographer (focusing and shooting photos) will always be indicated by the finger of the non-connoisseur.

  11. Gene Harriman Avatar
    Gene Harriman


    1. Brian H Lewis Avatar
      Brian H Lewis


    2. Alexander DiMauro Avatar
      Alexander DiMauro

      War is a $1.5+ trillion per year business just in the US alone. No way it’s ever going to end.

      1. James West Avatar
        James West

        Remember Ike’s line about the “military industrial complex”. How right could he be!

  12. Cynicaleye Avatar

    Our descent into fascism continues.

  13. Kryn Sporry Avatar
    Kryn Sporry

    Well, on the other hand, we know who’s saying this, so I’m not particularly taking offence.

    But other than that, it’s the same the national socialists said in the roaring thirties about Jews. We all know what happened after that.

    Besides, by far the majority of terrorist strikes on US soil have been committed by white US citizens.
    If homeland takes that into consideration you should be ok as a non white photographer.

    1. Daniel Scott Avatar
      Daniel Scott

      Hear hear!

  14. Matthias Avatar

    And don’t forget, questioning the wisdom of Homeland Security is a sign of terrorism. Be sure to report it to local authorities!

  15. Juan Gabriel Andrade Avatar
    Juan Gabriel Andrade

    WTF? This will get end up in people getting unnecessarily hurt at best ?‍♂️

  16. Valerie Malinowski Avatar
    Valerie Malinowski

    Often it feels like homeland security are the ones doing the terrorizing. We’re not in constant danger and personally I feel it;s getting ridiculous.

  17. Derrick Terrell Williams Avatar
    Derrick Terrell Williams

    Reminds me if that Twilight Zone episode when the neighbor hood listened to a boy saying aliens invaded their town and you never know who it is. Then when things started happening they were calling each other the alien mean while the aliens watched from a distance controling all the lights and cars in that town and they said we can’t land here these earthlings are violent and they will kill themselves. All this fear but how many of the DHS making these decisions have even ever been in the military and fought against actual terrorists? SMH

  18. Sergi Yavorski Avatar
    Sergi Yavorski

    We’ll soon be required to go through background check before we can buy a camera?

    1. kenn murrah Avatar
      kenn murrah

      But not a gun, of course, because we Americans are nothing if not idiots.

      1. Andrew Wolf Avatar
        Andrew Wolf

        You do have to have a background check to buy a gun, but not to steal a gun. Then again the banks do background checks on you to buy a camera, they just call it a credit check to pacify us.

        1. James West Avatar
          James West

          You don’t have to always do a background check to buy a gun. In some areas you can buy them off kijiji or at gun shows.

      2. Glenn Newman Avatar
        Glenn Newman

        You are an uninformed snow flake . You do need a background check to buy a gun.

  19. Darren Ramsey Avatar
    Darren Ramsey

    Imagine as a terrorist if there was a way you could have a device in your pocket that was small, slim and inconspicuous. It would be able to photograph potential targets without eliciting a glance from passers-by. Ideally these devices would be common to ensure one using them would blend in to the background… If it could double up and allow you to perform other tasks with it too, like contain a map, or allow you to contact co-conspirators…

    Instead you have to make do with a full frame DSLR with a 300mm f2.8 glass on it… Curses foiled…

    You couldn’t make this s**t up…

  20. Richie Vela Avatar
    Richie Vela

    That FEAR-MONGERING agency is Full if shit.

  21. Regina Moneypenny Avatar
    Regina Moneypenny

    Well no, not in an of itself ? as a former agent of the department of homeland security and now a full time photographer I can assure that this is simply not true. There are numerous things that lead to a level of suspicion and just simply taking photos is not what they’re talking about at all. What they are taking about is someone taking photos of employees at airports, whilst monitoring and recording shift change and having a detailed map in their pocket with notes. That’s when things raise an eyebrow ?

    Enjoy shooting ?

    1. Jesse Watson Avatar
      Jesse Watson

      Also, avoid carrying your gear in Pelican cases…..lol. 21 questions and secondary whenever I do.

    2. suruha Avatar

      Oh? Really? That isn’t working! People are having the cops called on them on a daily basis, NOW, for moving IN to their own homes, staying at an inn, driving down the street, um, I CAN go on!!

  22. Wan Lotfi Avatar
    Wan Lotfi

    Tell google to stop taking, keeping and sharing photo of streets, home and places in the internet it’s also a violation.

  23. Sean Avatar

    Real terrorist are NOT going to be skulking around with a DLSR and 70-200 lens on a tripod. THey will USE THEIR PHONES, or better yet, Google Pics and Maps. LOL. Dumb ass DHS fear mongers.

  24. suruha Avatar

    This is just another effort to frighten us into submission. Instilling fear, make us afraid of everyone, including those who are as innocent as you and I, is this administration’s plan! Then, no more USA!
    One by one, we are losing our rights. Soon, the Constitution won’t be worth any more than toilet paper!

    1. Joseph Morris Avatar
      Joseph Morris

      Have you priced toilet paper (in the US) recently???

  25. VV Avatar

    This is amazing… more prejudice to photographers. Thanks big brother. /sigh

  26. Cody Avatar

    For real?!? #livingwhilephotographing
    This is the dumbest thing ever. Do you know how much disrupt and chaos this is going to cause now.

  27. Dick Durham Avatar
    Dick Durham

    You Americans are insane. It’s like you look for any minor excuse to lock up your own population. The USA represents 4.5% of the world population yet has 22% of the world incarcerated prisoners for goodness sake. Paranoia never ends well for the innocent. I’ve been watching a few first amendment audits on YouTube and it’s an eyeopener how your police walk all over you every time their jackbooted knees jerk at the sight of a camera.

  28. BossyBoss Avatar

    Regardless of the sensible responses read here, the Scaremongers DHS will succeed in implanting fear and division in the American communities since the message is directed at brainless individuals comprising the majority.

    1. manchopper Avatar

      Fear means big money for the DHS….Equiptment, overtime….Imagine if we were in a perfect world, I bet they would come up with something…

  29. George Gootee Avatar
    George Gootee

    Ive been stopped two different times taking photos of the White House.

  30. James West Avatar
    James West

    It should probably also mention that taking photos while brown is another sure sign you’re a terrorist.

  31. William Douglas Avatar
    William Douglas

    I actually had myself reported a few years back. I was working in downtown Atlanta and would often carry my DSLR as I love shooting street photography. I was waiting for my bus home one evening and someone working at the Sam Nunn Federal building reported me and I had DHS roll up on me. I showed them my ID and asked if they wanted to see my photos, they said “No, nothing wrong with photographing a federal building from outside”, although I never shot the building I simply walked by it with a camera in hand. I also had the FBI come to see me the next day and they said I was fine as well.

  32. Nick Nitro Avatar
    Nick Nitro

    Intelligent surveillance is the stuff a terrorist could use against the station not available on Google.?We Need to “Keep Fear Alive” to Justify Their Terror Budgets…. Members of the public, including the press, have a First Amendment right to observe, take photographs and record video in any public place where they are lawfully present. Photography and the recording of video are common activities and are neither crimes nor indications of criminal activity,in themselves. Neither photography nor the recording of video, standing alone, can form the basis for a detention, arrest, or warrant-less search.

  33. Jay Bee Avatar
    Jay Bee

    “I noticed is that no one gives a damn when you take photos with your phone”
    Could you be more ignorant? Try educating yourself by watching 1A Audit videos. Most use smart phones and they get harassed constantly doing exactly what you’re talking about