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Homeland Insecurity

by written by R.V. Scheide, posted by another Friday, Nov. 02, 2001 at 3:25 PM

The article describes one journalist's adventure in the new airport security state. CALIFORNIA JOURNALISTS PLEASE NOTE: At the end of the article are statements about the limits on government agency rights to confiscate documents, including film.


The article ends:

According to Terry Francke, legal counsel for the California First Amendment

Coalition, no government agency has such authority. “There’s no law that permits

anyone to summarily confiscate a camera or film or order the destruction of that

film,” Francke said.

While Barker acknowledged that the guardsman was wrong to force the deletion

of the photographs, he knew of no pending disciplinary action in the case. “If

there was, I’m not sure we would release it,” he said.

Francke also said that the Guard and the LAPD may have violated a California

statute designed to protect the “unpublished information” of journalists. The law,

California Penal Code § 1524, prohibits judges from issuing search warrants for

“notes, outtakes, photographs, tapes and other data of whatever sort not itself

disseminated to the public through a medium of communication.”

“Clearly, they had no right to do what they did,” Francke said. “Under California

Law, journalists are free from search and seizure directed at unpublished

information.” He added that the guardsman and the LAPD officers also failed to

comply with federal law, which states that the U.S. Attorney must exhaust all

other means (such as issuing a subpoena) to obtain unpublished material before

allowing a law enforcement agency to seize it without a warrant.

While now might not seem like the ideal time to pursue such a case, Francke

said that in the long haul, it might be in the public’s best interest. “People caught

up in war fervor and the opportunity to express solidarity with national security

are probably going to see this story as a sign of reassurance--until they get

caught with a camera in their bag or staring at a plainclothes policeman too

long,” Francke said.

“If, as we all hope, this particular hijacking threat recedes and nerves return

closer to normal, I do think people will maybe turn their minds back on and

acquire some common sense.”
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