Spokane County employee run to ground by Feds for taking pic of weigh station

John sez, "This is from Spokane County's official transportation blog. The county employee who runs the blog was taking pictures of a weigh station that is going to be moved. Ten minutes later he was contacted by the state patrol on his phone."
I was out taking pictures this morning of sites of transportation projects to be completed over the next twenty years. One of those projects is to move of the weigh station near Stateline further east along I-90. I stopped at the pretty much deserted weigh station and took a couple pictures, then drove off. About 10 minutes later I received a call on my cell phone from Washington State Patrol asking why I had been taking pictures of the weigh station!
Link (Thanks, John!)

See also:
BB reader: "Two FBI agents just showed up at my door for taking photos in the Port of Los Angeles"
Taking pictures on LA's Red Line violates the "9/11 Law"


  1. I’m a little more frightened that they got his cell phone # that easily. From whom?

  2. The article says they got it from his license plate records. “It took just minutes for them to run my license plate and track down my cell phone number!”

  3. The sheer volume of these stories coming to light is getting to be ridiculous!

    I reject the oft-repeated maxims that security vs liberty must be a tradeoff, and that it’s worth trampling a few rights if it makes Law Enforcement’s job easier.

    I don’t care if their job is hard. I want it to be hard! And if it’s too hard for a few individual LEOs then we’ll have to get some others — others who are proud to do a difficult job and walk a thin line protecting citizens and the Constitution.

  4. “Run to ground”? Trying to shock readers BoingBoing? How about posting the other paragraph to that article?

    It took just minutes for them to run my license plate and track down my cell phone number! Everything was fine after I explained why I was taking pictures and I guess it makes me feel a little better to know that someone is watching the people who are watching our infrastructure. On the other hand, it kind of scares me that they could track me down that fast.

  5. Evil Jim – What about the fact that he wasn’t doing anything illegal in the first place? Am I correct in assuming this weigh station is a public area? Am I correct in assuming the photographer in question is a)a member of the public, b)pays taxes, and c)has rights?
    I would write this up as harassment, just like all the other photo related BB posts. If it’s a public place, a “terrorist” could just come LOOK AT IT if they wanted to. Also, if it’s a public place like a highway or a city park – then isn’t it called “public property” because the citizens own it?

  6. This is getting absolutely ridiculous.

    I am being ever more tempted to go out and deliberately start taking photos of vital infrastructure. Funny how the security industry is making us feel anything but.

  7. Not that it matters, but the headline says “…run to ground by Feds…”, but in the body it says it was he was called by the Washington STATE Patrol.

    I am also sick to death of all this photographer harassment. I’m just running out of good ways to express my disgust and derision.

  8. Their reaction simply don’t make sense.

    1. If he wasn’t a terrorist, there was no point in tracking him down.

    2. If he WAS a terrorist, they just made the mistake of calling a terrorist and detailing what methods they use to link data and the response times in their anti-terrorist detection methods. And they also just made the fatal mistake of tipping off a terrorist that they were under surveillance.

    What is the scenario where their actions were an intelligent response ?


  9. There’s only one way to answer a question like that:

    “Couldn’t you find an honest job?”

    I use it most frequently at airports. It has always worked well for me.

  10. Wow … this hits eerily close to home — within a stone’s throw of my doorstep, really.

    It’s utter tripe! And it bothers me too! It’s unnerving to think that someone doing the same that I do could be pulled over.

    Actually, that’s not what’s scary — it’s that everyone is suspected guilty until proven innocent.

  11. #6: Yes, it’s a shame that he was harrassed for taking a photo, but that’s not the point. It’s the stupid spin and outright lie in the headline.

    There were no Federal Government agents involved, and the photographer was NOT run to ground by them. It was cleared up in 5 minutes. Do I think it’s stupid that they even bothered him in the first place? Hell yes. Am I suspicious that they had his cellphone number that quickly? Of course, but it doesn’t mean this story doesn’t a level of “spin” on it on par with what FOX, CNN, do.

  12. things like phone number, address, etc. are all, and have been for a very long time, one your DMV records. That part is nothing new. I just don’t get how there’s an increasing amount of law enforcement types essentially trying to enforce a law that doesn’t exist. searched out a bunch of articles yesterday and the only one that made any sense was the guy documenting the construction on the WTC site getting permission for it. After all, photos of a building that is certainly a reasonably expected target while it’s still being build could be useful.

    But again, all of this seems to ignore that there;s ways to perform surveillance that don’t involve cameras. And that none of the terrorist attacks in the US in the last 20 years would have been prevented by doing this.

    Is there any security in the US that’s NOT pure theatre?

  13. Wake up people!!! This all part of a terrorist plot to photograph, then destroy inconsequential American targets.

    First they’ll take our weigh stations, then they take our public rest areas.

  14. Aren’t cars and trucks prohibited from entering weigh stations along highways when those stations are closed? And aren’t non-official cars just restricted from them generally?

    If you pulled your car into an area where cars are neither expected or permitted, got out of it, and started taking pictures, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if someone affiliated with the location you were photographing came out to talk to you and see what you were up to. This isn’t much different from a situation where you pull into a private parking lot and stop, and then the security guard comes out of his booth to see what you’re doing. In this case it’s public property, so the security guards are state police instead, and since they’re probably not actually based at the weigh station, they called him rather than approaching him in person.

    Unless this guy has a secret cell phone number that he never gives out, and didn’t include in his DMV records, it doesn’t seem like there’s much to worry about here. And if the guy had called ahead to the weigh station, or even just walked up to one of the staff members working at the “nearly deserted” (but apparently not closed) facility to let them know what he was doing, the police probably would never have even been involved.

  15. I agree with #5 and #15… the scariest part of this whole post is the misleading and propagandist title.

    1) It wasn’t the Feds.

    2) Nobody was “run to ground”.

    In fact, if you read the original post, the guy seemed OK with the whole thing, “Everything was fine after I explained why I was taking pictures and I guess it makes me feel a little better to know that someone is watching the people who are watching our infrastructure.”

    As someone pointed out in a post about the photographer being chased at the oil refinery… how does this fit in with the “directory of wonderful things”?

    The wonder here is that the Spokane County and Washington State government employees are actually doing something. They both seem to earning their tax dollars.

    You’re also assuming that he was confronted because of “terrorist fear induced mania”. Was there anything in the original blog post that mentioned 9-11 or the Patriot Act?

  16. I can’t believe somebody beat me to the “Spokane = crazy” comment!

    Are an overproportionate number of Boing Boing readers from Spokane?

  17. A number of years back I shot pics of the well armed motorcade transporting. Zacarias Moussaoui as it zipped past my office.

    About 10 minutes later my boss – who had no idea i had taken photos – informed us all the Feds & troopers were in the building looking for whoever had done it.

    Just six months ago one of my photographers was threatened with arrest for taking photos on a Metro platform in Falls Church VA.

    Scary ass time we’re in.

  18. First they’ll take our weigh stations, then they take our public rest areas.

    Absurd. Where would Republican senators conduct their erotic assignations?

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