Albany Deputy Sheriff Sticks Up for the Right to Film at Security Checkpoints

Jonathan B. passes along a video of two people passing out flyers this past Friday about TSA opt out procedures. The Albany airport authority tries to shut down them and stops their filming. And the officer at the scene refuses to help.

When the airport authority is told by the police that the activists are within their rights, the tact changes to insistence that a permit is required along with $1 million in insurance, and then that the upstairs portion of the terminal is being closed except for ticketed passengers only.

I’m not sure what was accomplished here, except perhaps that the Albany airport may have been reminded that filming is permitted at the checkpoint, or at least that it is not against TSA policy to film there (as long as the screening process isn’t interfered with while doing so).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Great work by the deputy sheriff. I couldn’t believe when the PR gentleman (more like thug) asked for ID.

  2. The Alex Jones Show? So much for mainstream credibility. I have huge respect for Officer Lenic for standing up for the filmers though.

  3. Kudos to Deputy Lenic for his professional handling of this incident. As for airport manager, he needs retraining on professionalism and the law.

  4. If possible, is there any email address where we can give kudos to Deputy Lennic superiors. I suppose the email address for the airport authority asking why Doug Meyers was harassing the public?

  5. Wow ! What composure by the Deputy ! In other countries it MAY have meant the gulag for the youngsters. Gratefully we reside here.

  6. Definitely a good ol’ fashioned officer of the law who’s there to protect our rights rather than take them away. It’s only dirty cops that need to worry about being filmed.

  7. Right. Because I’m sure none of you would mind being filmed while you were simply doing your job while people were being told how horrible you are and how to make your job harder.

    If you want to protest, if you want to complain, fine, but don’t go to the poeple on the field who can’t help you-people don’t have a say in it-and harrass them. The people who are simply trying to make a living and feed their families. Go to the top, go to the policymakers, go to the voting booth.

    When there’s a pothole in the road I can yell at the pothole all I want, but that’s not going to fix anything.

  8. Ann, like I said earlier, if I was an upstanding TSA officer, I wouldn’t mind being filmed. The TSA officers at the Wichita Airport (my previous home airport), for instance, are extremely down to earth, friendly, and helpful. Filming them would not cast them in a bad light and I would be a bit surprised if they minded.

    Also, the flyers don’t “tell people how horrible” TSA agents themselves are, it just attacks the nonsensical TSA policies. TSA agents are people too and they know better than most people that some of the things they’re being instructed to do are moronic.

    Here’s the flyer: http://www.infowars.com/optout/

  9. @Ann – umm, what? They were handing out information to passengers who travel. Informing the people who travel, most of whom are probably eligible to vote. So there.

  10. Mixed feelings on this one. Certainly an excellent representation of what law enforcement should be. Kudos to that sheriff.

    However, I think the filming is counterproductive to the point the filmmakers are trying to make. They claim to be trying to protect the privacy of flyers, by having them opt out of the scans, but then film them and put their faces up on the internet for thousands of people to see? That’s way more of an invasion of privacy, in my mind, than going thru a nude-o-scope.

    @Ann: I’m not sure I follow your line of thinking. They weren’t filming the TSA at all, just the passengers walking through. I do agree that yelling/abusing people that are just doing their jobs for barely above minimum wage is inappropriate and has no impact on creating real systemic change.

  11. @Ann:

    These people didn’t go to somebody’s place of work. They went to an AIRPORT that belongs to the PEOPLE. It does not belong to the TSA.

  12. One thing I don’t get about this interaction: The airport is absolutely entitled to require an individual or group to obtain a permit to hand out leaflets.

    The Supreme Court has held that an airport concourse is not a public forum (ISKON v. Lee). Thus an airport authority may impose reasonable, content-neutral restrictions on speech. A basic permit requirement is consistent with such a restriction (as is a requirement that leafletting, etc. may only be carried out in designated areas).

    Provided that (1) the Albany airport had such a requirement (most airports do) and (2) that the leafletters did not have a permit (they did not appear to), the airport had the absolute right to stop the leafletting and/or evict the leafletters from the terminal building.

  13. As an attorney, I just wanted to clarify regarding Storm’s remark.

    Yes, airports are not a public forum according to ISKON v. Lee, but the legal analysis was actually incorrect.

    That’s probably due to the fact that there were actually 2 cases involving ISKON and Lee. The first case, ISKON v. Lee, 505 U.S. 672, decided that airports were not a public forum and hence, bans against “solicitation” (such as asking for money) were acceptable.

    However, in the second case, Lee v. ISKON, 505 U.S. 830, the court found that the airport’s ban on “distribution of literature” (here referring to distribution of religious literature) was found to be a violation of the First Amendment.

    Thus, there is a key legal distinction between “solicitation” and “distribution of literature.” Bans on the former are permitted, while bans on the latter are not. The passing out of flyers here likely falls under the “distribution of literature” category as opposed to solicitation and hence, would be protected by the First Amendment. Thus, the airport most likely does not have the right to stop the leafletting or evict the leafletters.

  14. btw, Storm, thanks for the excellent question: I was thinking the exact same thing myself. CardinalandGoldFan, thanks for the excellent explanation.

  15. HansGolden, unfortunately, malls are treated differently from airports. In addition, the rules for malls vary on a state to state basis. For example, in California, they are considered a public forum. In other states, they are not.

  16. I find it interesting the Mr. GreenShirt keeps his credentials tucked into his pocket.

    And who are YOU, sir?

    Props to the Deputies- professional, polite, and willing to actually think.

  17. Great video, and a great story. I’d love to know the follow-up… I hope that airport employee who is intimidating the civil rights protesters was fired, of course. Probably he’s part of the old boys network though and received no punishment at all. The airport authority requires a $1 million insurance policy? Why don’t they just set it to $1 billion? I think just about equally reasonable.

  18. According to New York’s Public Authority Law, this airport is not a government entity and is leased to the “Albany County Airport Authority”. The name is not indicative of being run by the County and the law indemnifies the County from any tort claims brought against the ACAA. No public funds are used for the airport, and if they were, that are considered loans and must be repaid. Here’s a court ruling of a case that could easily be applied to this video: http://www.aci-na.net/content/forty-wayne-airport-authority%E2%80%99s-rules-airport-expressive-activities-upheld-federal-court

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