Photos taken in airplane leads to interrogationBy Catharine Hamm
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 09, 2008
Question: Last fall, three friends and I flew from Lisbon to
Los Angelesby way of Philadelphia. On the flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, I was showing them my new camera and took a few pictures of our surroundings. A flight attendant came to me and told me to show her the pictures, which I did. On our arrival, armed officers escorted us off the plane, separated us and made us wait for the authorities. They asked ridiculous questions ("What's your eye color?"), and in the end they let us go with no apologies. Why would this happen? Did we do anything wrong?
-- Jose Silva, Lisbon
Answer: In taking photos, Silva and his friends didn't violate any Federal Aviation Administration or Transportation Security Administration rules, their spokesmen told me.
If the use of electronic devices was permitted at that point in the flight, they were in the clear.
In fact, if you look at the photos you'll see that the only thing they apparently did wrong was to use a camera without studying the manual.
Ansel Adamshe's not.
In a later conversation, Silva said his group complied with flight attendants and wasn't causing a ruckus.
Because the airline would not go back and research the details, we don't have its side of the story.
But assuming that Silva is correct, what could prompt such a reaction?
He said the authorities later told him that these are "sensitive times."
Indeed. But those pictures are hardly a threat to national security and are no different from the images you can find all over the Internet.
Just to see the spectrum,
Silva said the authorities also told him to be careful. One has to wonder how careful he would have needed to be if he didn't, in his words, look Moroccan or Egyptian.
Richard Derk, the photo editor for the Los Angeles Times Travel section, has shot many photos on airplanes, some of which have ended up in these pages.
I asked him whether he had experienced any problems on commercial flights.
"No, never," he said. "I shoot quickly and try not to get in anyone's way, but no one has ever stopped me."
Derk, we should note, does not look Middle Eastern.
Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Assn., also expressed surprise.
"It's hard to believe that somebody didn't call a timeout in the process and say, 'What exactly did this man do?' " Osterreicher said.
"At a certain point, somebody has to use some common sense."
Have a travel dilemma?Write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Honestly, at what point in time does it get a little too safe? Harmless pictures (even horrible pictures) that mean nothing on a plane. I'm glad the people didn't get arrested for having water bottles, or were even taken aback due to nail clippers. Seriously, if someone tried to threaten me with nail clippers, I'd be in more danger of laughing to death.
Sometimes people take it to an extreme level of safety when it comes to all things including investing. These are the same people that stand in line to buy the savings bonds and GIC's without prior thought to alternative solutions in which they could be more tax efficient, or perhaps say take into consideration the fact that it's not even keeping pace with inflation?
There's even an article out there that talks about how RRSP's could be detrimental to certain income levels of people - however people always want to do what is "comfortable" instead of what makes sense.
Be it a lack of education - or perhaps just plain ignorance, I hope to build Infiniti Point Strategies Inc. into the company that changes the education system for the better and start to show people about different options that exist as an alternative route. Join us on meetup.com to find out more about safety vs. comfort.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. Here's a great comedic skit on my take of the paranoia at the airports.
WARNING - gratuitous usage of course language in the video link.