There's A Train A Comin'--A Tale of Homeland Security
The Sunday column tells the story of Preety Gadhoke, a 32-year-old resident of Anne Arundel County who commutes up to Baltimore every day via the MARC train and took advantage of her morning commute to take some photographs for a class she's in at the Smithsonian. Next thing she knew, she was being detained by the police--she'd been reported by her fellow commuters as a suspicious person.
Was it because she was taking snaps of the wrought-iron lampposts at this suburban train platform? Or was it because she's dark skinned and Indian-born and was taking snaps of the wrought-iron lampposts at this suburban train platform?
Those questions are explored in today's column, and here's some additional background for you:
When New York City's transit system moved to ban photography in the subways following 9/11, riders and artists protested. They sent the MTA hundreds of pictures showing what an essential architectural resource the train system is for artists.
Here's the folly of the decision to ban photography in many transit systems: The train stations and trains are among the most widely and extensively documented public places in our country, and the transit systems themselves proudly distribute photos free, online, to anyone.
And what's not distributed by the transit systems is available in an infinite number of forms in every possible medium.
So with all those images out there in the public domain, is there any possible excuse for spending tax dollars sending the police around to try to stop tourists and artists from snapping some pix of a beautiful train station or a sleek train?
And has anyone ever figured out the basis for the post-9/11 obsession with checking photo IDs at building entrances? Is there any possible security advantage to that practice or does it persist solely to justify hiring all those security guards?
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