Count me among those who have encountered security hysteria for taking pictures. In 2004, I stood in a broad, traffic-free street in a river-adjacent industrial zone of my hometown of Memphis, seeking to capture the beautiful, auburn-streaked patina of a huge, unpainted storage tank.
An overzealous security guard called 911 to report a frighteningly skinny, 60-year-old white man in shorts, who might be a terrorist hell-bent on blowing up thousands of gallons of maybe cottonseed oil or rendered animal fat. Memphis police screamed onto the scene.
Eventually the unpleasant situation was defused. But I was later tracked down by the Coast Guard intelligence service, which refused to say whether Homeland Security had flagged my name.
The incident suffered by Toledo Blade staffers who photographed a General Dynamics industrial complex proves that such exaggerated paranoia is still a poison on the land.
Two years ago, I was in Caracas, Venezuela, on business. From the airport to the hotel, my taxi driver passed the presidential palace. While we were waiting at a nearby red light, I snapped a few photos.
Two guards noticed and started shouting and pointing their guns at me. "Why?" I asked the taxi driver. "It's illegal to take a picture of the president's palace," he said. I replied that such a thing would never happen in America.
Guess I was wrong.