How My 35mm Camera Almost Became a Tool of Treason

by Kurt Nimmo

"I’ll confiscate your camera," the Customs officer growled.

I was walking down the pavement on the US side of the border a stone’s throw from Ciudad Puerto Palomas, Mexico. I was rewinding film back into the canister.

"Excuse me?" I said.

"If you take a picture, I’ll confiscate you’re camera," the officer repeated.

I don’t know how much Customs officers know about cameras. It was obvious I was rewinding film. Even so, I quickly stashed the camera in my bag. I’ve had the camera since 1986. It’s worked flawlessly over the years and I didn’t want to lose it.

I smiled but the officer remained grim. I walked past him over to the Customs station. The officers there were not much friendlier, but at least they were not interested in my camera.

Later, I read an article about a newspaper photographer in Vermont. He was detained for taking pictures of the Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon. Officials saw Jason Henske of the Brattleboro Reformer taking digital pictures and called the cops. Although the police insisted Henske delete the images from his camera, he felt it was his right, under the First Amendment, to keep them. "I was able to take my photos with me, and the images were published the next day in the Brattleboro Reformer, at the insistence of my editor, and under threat of being charged with a felony for treason," Henske
later said.

Apparently, under an obscure Vermont law, it is illegal to take pictures of nuclear power plants during a time of war.

Windham County State Attorney Dan Davis, according to an article published in the Times Argus, said he became aware of the treason statue after 911. "I don’t think it’s a good time to be publishing photos of Vermont Yankee," Davis said. "But I didn’t write the law."

Meanwhile, Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said there were no federal laws prohibiting photography of nuclear plants from public property, and he expressed surprise that Vermont had such a law on the books.

All of which makes me curious – when am I taking a potentially treasonous photograph? New Mexico has a lot of military installations, millions of acres of posted government land, even a missile testing site not too far away from where I live in Las Cruces. New Mexico’s where the first atomic bomb was detonated.

I don’t know if we have a law similar to Vermont’s, but if we do I wouldn’t really be surprised. I may have treasonous images on the hard drive of my computer and not even know it.

A lot of us may be traitors and not even know it. That’s how crazy things are since 911.

I don’t know if it’s an act of treason to photograph a Customs station. Not doubt it would look bad. No doubt the likes of Top Cop John Ashcroft would frown upon such reckless behavior. I mean, as an American, I should probably know better. We’re at war, after all.

For now, I’m just glad the Customs officer didn’t confiscate my camera. I imagine he would have had the right to do so if he thought I was compromising national security in some way. After all, I might we part of a sleeper cell. I might be casing the Customs office for an attack by al-Qaida. The last time hostile forces crossed the border was in 1916 when Poncho Villa attacked Columbus, New Mexico. He crossed not far from where the Customs officer threatened to confiscate my camera.

In the future, I’ll think about what I photograph.

I don’t want to be sharing a cell with Jose Padilla anytime soon.’

Kurt Nimmo is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He can be reached at: nimmo@zianet.com


Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 28, 2015
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz
July 27, 2015
Susan Babbitt
Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance
Howard Lisnoff
Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?
John Halle
On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears
Stephen Lendman
Cleveland Police Attack Black Activists
Patrick Cockburn
Only Iraq’s Clerics Can Defeat ISIS
Ralph Nader
Sending a ‘Citizens Summons’ to Members of Congress
Clancy Sigal
Scratch That Itch: Hillary and The Donald
Colin Todhunter
Working Class War Fodder
Gareth Porter
Obama’s Version of Iran Nuke Deal: a Second False Narrative
Joshua Sperber
What is a President? The CEO of Capitalism
Zoe Konstantopoulou
The Politics of Coercion in Greece
Vacy Vlanza
Without BDS, Palestine is Alone
Laura Finley
Adjunct Professors and Worker’s Rights
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode Three, Where We Thrill Everyone by Playing Like “Utter Bloody Garbage”
Weekend Edition
July 24-26, 2015
Mike Whitney
Picked Out a Coffin Yet? Take Ibuprofen and Die
Henry Giroux
America’s New Brutalism: the Death of Sandra Bland
Rob Urie
Capitalism, Engineered Dependencies and the Eurozone
Michael Lanigan
Lynn’s Story: an Irish Woman in Search of an Abortion
Paul Street
Deleting Crimes at the New York Times: Airbrushing History at the Paper of Record
ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH
Making Sense of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Geopolitical Implications
Andrew Levine
After the Iran Deal: Israel is Down But Far From Out
Uri Avnery
Sheldon’s Stooges: Netanyahu and the King of Vegas
David Swanson
George Clooney Paid by War Profiteers
ANDRE VLTCHEK
They Say Paraguay is in Africa: Mosaic of Horror
Horace G. Campbell
Obama in Kenya: Will He Cater to the Barons or the People?
Michael Welton
Surviving Together: Canadian Public Tradition Under Threat
Rev. William Alberts
American Imperialism’s Military Chaplains
Yorgos Mitralias
Black Days: August 4th,1914 Germany and July 13th, 2015 Greece
Jeffrey R. Wilson
“It Started Like a Guilty Thing”: the Beginning of Hamlet and the Beginning of Modern Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Star Whores: John McCain, the Apache and the Battle to Save Mt. Graham
Pepe Escobar
The Eurasian Big Bang: How China and Russia Are Running Rings Around Washington
Charles Larson
The USA as a Failed State: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Robert Fantina
Israel and “Self-Defense”
John W. Whitehead
The American Nightmare: the Tyranny of the Criminal Justice System
Leonidas Vatikiotis
Rupture With the EU: a Return to the Cave Age or a New Golden Age for Greece?
Murray Dobbin
Harper is Finally Right: the Canadian Election is About Security Versus Risk
Brian Cloughley
Meet General Joseph Dunford: a Real Threat to World Peace
Manuel García, Jr.
The Trump Surge and the American Psyche