Citizen Journalist “Audits” The Right To Film At Newark Airport, And TSA Fails Badly

A citizen-journalist went to Newark Liberty International Airport (emphasizing ‘liberty’) looking for a fight. He went to test his ability to film there, which is (generally speaking) his right. He got the confrontation he was looking for, which makes for great social media. While just released this week, it appears to me that footage was taken at least 3 months ago.

But this is commendable, he is taking the heat in person, filming and promoting it, so that you aren’t harassed for your more ‘innocent’ behaviors.

  • He gets told “there’s no recording” at TSA checkpoints.
  • Port Authority police responded, told them filming wasn’t permitted, and demanded press credentials
  • Then the officer acknowledged they could film but not ‘make people feel uncomfortable’ however a sergeant was called, who (correctly) allowed filming
  • United Airlines employees are then shown objecting to the filming and a supervisor threatened to call the police
  • The responding officer, though, explained to the United staff that “what you want and what can be done are not the same thing.”

    When someone is entrusted to act under the color of law, they have a greater obligation to respect rights than an ordinary citizen – not a free pass to ignore those rights. And the last person who should be entrusted with that power is a hot head. The initial TSA agents handled this poorly, while the Port Authority sergeant handled matters well.

    While American Airlines officially forbids photographing employees on board and in areas of the airport it privately controls, United Airlines – post David Dao, natch – only forbids “photographing or recording that creates a safety or security risk or that interferes with crew members’ duties.”

    The TSA is clear that “photographing, videotaping or filming” is permitted at checkpoints provided ” the screening process is not interfered with or sensitive information is not revealed.”

    Interference with screening includes but is not limited to holding a recording device up to the face of a TSA officer so that the officer is unable to see or move, refusing to assume the proper stance during screening, blocking the movement of others through the checkpoint or refusing to submit a recording device for screening.

    Additionally, you may not film or take pictures of equipment monitors that are shielded from public view.

    Outside of a limited set of legitimate interests, government functions in publicly-owned airports are generally open to filming. Passengers can’t pass through TSA checkpoints without a ticket or other authorization, but prior to the checkpoint it’s generally not a problem as long as the activities don’t interfere with the function of the airport or screening activities.

    To be sure I wouldn’t want to be filmed in my workplace either. At the same time without documentary evidence of bad actors, a passenger likely has little recourse against TSA or airline employees who treat them poorly.

    (HT: Ken A)

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, 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. Back in August 2016, when connecting through Newark, I pulled out my DSLR camera to take a photo of the interior architecture. Literally within 5 minutes two airport cops showed up and demanded that I stop taking photos. I refused. They called a supervisor who wasn’t as informed as the sergeant here. After taking extra photos while they stood around me, I finally left. It was just absurd. Does anyone actually think a terrorist is going to use a professional DSLR camera? If you’re doing recon of a target you’re using something much smaller and more discreet

  2. iI would think by now the TSA has learned its lesson on picture taking. What have they got to hide that they do not want you to see? If nothing, why all the hubbub?

  3. TL;DR

    But I couldn’t figure out if this is this a right-wing nut, a left-wing nut, or just a nut?

  4. YMMV. Don’t try this in European airports, there are signs everywhere prohibiting filming or photographs, especially in screening, customs, and immigration areas.

  5. These guys filming are such douchebags…I wish one of the customers at the beginning would’ve ripped their phones out of their hands and threw them

  6. Then port authority needs to update its website accordingly –

    “The Port Authority operates John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia, Stewart and Teterboro airports. The Port Authority reserves the right to restrict videotaping and photography at its airports. Videotaping and photographing at security checkpoint areas operated by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration is prohibited without the consent of the TSA. Videotaping and photographing in areas controlled by individual airlines, such as check-in or gate areas, is prohibited without the consent of the airline.“

  7. I used to give tours of an airport to members of the public and we’d need to pass through the security checkpoint. The only thing the TSA forbade photographing was the screens of the screening equipment.

  8. Bob,
    As a journalist (somewhat more legitimate than the chaps in this video but the constitution doesn’t draw a line) I would love you to grab my equipment out of my hands and throw it on the ground. I regularly report in airports and would have you charged to the fullest extent of the law for damaging property and likely assault. Please never assault a journalist no matter how much of a douchebag you think they are.

  9. To be honest this I just plain and stupid harassment of Staff and people. I, as a passenger, wouldn’t like to be filmed especially for no valid reason at all. We have many rights but do we need to push them just for the sake of pushing?

    Enough stop the vanity and social media madness.

  10. In the video at 14:15, the United Airlines supervisors are exceedingly ill-tempered to passengers, deliberately disregard customer feedback, and refuse to answer questions. At 17:05, another United Airlines supervisor ignored the journalist’s inquiry and, before walking away, said, “You’re not talking to me.” The United Airlines management staff has apparently passed down their training to employees to be temperamental, hypersensitive, and grumpy while at work. Thanks to this video, I will consider flying on a different airline.

  11. I work with public entities to train them on how to handle first amendment auditors. Looks like some of the folks in the video need more training. The real key to dealing with these people is just to ignore them or welcome them to film away. Thanking them for defending our rights is another path.
    They are looking for reactions so they can edit it down and put the video on their social media channels. They are either after clicks, money, or both. They can also use this as evidence to file lawsuits against the agencies being “audited”.

    It can be very difficult to train a good response tactic with persons that power trip with their perceived authority.

  12. AV Geeks and travel bloggers know EWR is a pain to film / photograph at. You want to film TSA checkpoints? How about making an appointment to do so? And then all the supervisors will come out to get in the pictures / video. I regularly see news media filming at EWR. Not only do they film as they like (with tripods and lights), they are also allowed to park their media vehicles / live trucks outside the terminal.

  13. I love these guys. I just think they don’t pursue the “what are you hiding” perspective enough. We all know what they are hiding but the public can’t obtain the proof. Just try to get the video from their body cams. The only problem I see here is that this guy can go anywhere and be accosted within minutes by people with guns, badges, and zero respect for the constitution.

    And much like gus, please come grab and throw my camera. You will quickly learn the statutes regarding robbery, assault, battery, while committing felonies in a government controlled facility. Again as Gus suggested, everything will be pursued to the fullest extent of the law.

  14. What the hell are you people whining about? THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS PRIVACY IN A PUBLIC PLACE. You don’t want getting filmed? STAY AT HOME AND NEVER LEAVE. “wHat aBouT my pRiVacy???” WTF. Let’s be realistic here. Do you honestly think that you’re not already being filmed everywhere you go? This is not a conspiracy post or something. There’s nothing private anymore and that’s a fact.

    Don’t like being in a video or photograph? STAY INDOORS AND NEVER LEAVE. Welcome to the 21st century,

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