U.S. Border Patrol agents on the Canada-Alaska border detained a Boy Scout troop for four hours and threatened one boy with a loaded pistol to the head, all because one of the scouts tried to take a picture of the agents.
The incident involving Troop 111 from Iowa occurred over the weekend as the scouts re-entered the U.S. at Alaska after a camping trip to Canada.
Troop Leader Jim Fox told KCCI-TV in Des Moines, Iowa, the boy was threatened with a $10,000 fine and a 10-year prison term for taking pictures of a border-entry point, the accuracy of which many experts say is dubious, at best.
The incident apparently was touched off as the boy started to take a photo. As agents went on high alert, the boy complied with an order to stop, Fox said.
But as another scout was unloading luggage from one of the group’s vans to be searched, the heat got turned up.
“He hears the snap of a holster, turns around, and here’s this agent, both hands, on a loaded pistol, pointed at this young man’s head,” Fox told KCCI.
After being detained for four hours, the troop was allowed to re-enter the U.S. and arrived Sunday in Iowa.
Unable to avoid the contrasting image of a southern border in which U.S. agents welcome illegal aliens into the U.S. every day and don’t even return fire from heavily armed cartels, Fox was livid.
“I am outraged by the fact that, you know, we had 18 Boy Scouts that want to come home,” Fox told KCCI. “Yet, we have southern borders … we have all over our country border protection, but it’s like a sieve.”
Yet, some Boy Scout leaders had a completely different perspective on the incident.
Charles Vonderheid of the Mid-Iowa Boy Scouts of America said Troop 111 learned a valuable lesson.
“We want to make sure that they follow the rules and that scouts are good citizens, and it’s a great lesson in civics for that young man and for that troop,” Vonderheid said with a dutiful grin in an interview with KCCI.
Reason Magazine reported federal regulations allow for non-commercial photographs of federal facilities “only with written permission of an authorized official of the occupying agency concerned.”
But according to the American Civil Liberties Union, federal buildings and police in plain view fall under the definition of “public spaces” and can, therefore, be photographed when someone is “lawfully present.”
Federal courts have consistently ruled that anyone in a public space has no “reasonable expectation of privacy” and can be photographed or videoed by anyone.
However, photographers have been increasingly targeted since Sept. 11, 2001, by law enforcement across the country for taking pictures of federal buildings or other government property.
“There is a widespread, continuing pattern of law enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking photographs from public places, and harassing, detaining and arresting those who fail to comply,” the ACLU wrote in a guide to public photography rights updated earlier this month. “Taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right – and that includes federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties.”