FBI questions man for taking a photo of a cloud

"You’re not a threat and you are doing a public service but just be careful next time,” FBI Agent David Pileggi to Michael Galindo, who took a photo of a thundercloud over an oil refinery near Houston, TX. (Via The Agitator)


  1. “Nice job with your cloud pictures citizen. We must remain vigilant of all threats, pourin’ or majestic…”

  2. Do they make google fuzz out all such potential targets?  I mean if photographing potential targets is in anyway a threat to national security, I hate to brake it to law enforcement, but the ship has already sailed.   The interwebs already contains several pictures of everything there is.

  3. So what are the rules if the FBI comes by and starts asking you questions like “have you traveled overseas recently”?

    1. Know your rights. Ask if you are being detained or if you have a right to terminate the questioning. If you are being detained, immediately assert your right to remain silent (it is necessary to do this, otherwise they can make character judgements in court).

      ACLU Know Your Rights

        1. No. The police must stop the interview when you assert your rights unless the police obtain a valid waiver from you to continue questioning.

          I would also recommend viewing the video from a police detective on how to talk to police. An important note is that the police can lie to you during questioning. This is among the many reasons why a lawyer is essential for criminal cases. But they can’t continue questioning. Ref Berghuis v. Thompkins. 130 S. Ct. 2250 – 2010

    2. Tell them there are 7 seas and they need to be more specific. If they say “The Atlantic” then tell them that’s an ocean, not a sea. Go have a coffee.

      1. There are much more than seven seas. I remember scouring an atlas at primary school after the teacher told us there were seven seas, and we named eight without any effort.

        I’m sure we found over thirty.

  4. A lot of the blame for this likely rests on the refinery worker who decided to call the FBI because someone was taking pictures near their property.   The FBI are professional paranoids but what was that worker’s excuse?

  5. what is the problem here? no harm, force or coercion. agent was responding to a call for help, not initiating contact himself. he was even polite and complimentary to person being interviewed. carry on.

    1. We’ve determined that your comment is not a threat and you are doing a public service but just be careful next time.

    2. no harm, force or coercion.

      Every interaction between law enforcement and civilians is intrinsically coercive, regardless of content or benevolence of intent. It’s basically the same principle that says that an 11 year-old can’t give consent. The power imbalance precludes it being an act of free will.

    1. You can’t see a problem when the great engine of state power is hauled out to intimidate people who photograph clouds?
      Forget the polite agent doing his job, and think about the political pathologies that made his job what it is.

  6. I was walking home one night. Police stopped and questioned who I was, where I was going, and then left, saying “OK, but don’t do it again.”

    It’s those parting shots that get you.

  7. Hello, police, there is an islamic terror communist outside taking photos of a fence. I have a gun, should I shoot him right away or wait for you guys?

  8. One night walking home from my friend’s house, I was stopped by a police officer on Main Street.  (The central road in the small town). He asked me if I had any business there. I answered “Yes, and I’m minding it”. He got quite pissy and suggested I could be arrested for “obstruction of justice”, I responded that the police department could be sued for false arrest and he could be fired for stupidity.

    We agreed to disagree and went on our separate ways.

    This was 30 years ago. Today I’d probably be cuffed and writhing on the ground from a taser shot while waiting for the police wagon. 

    My, how times change.

    1. > Today I’d probably be cuffed and writhing on the ground from
      > a taser shot while waiting for the police wagon. 

      Same here.  I’d have been OK if the post-photography encounter had ended at “You’re not a threat and you are doing a public service”, but when it got to being careful next time and its implied judgment of wrong-doing, I’d be like wait, what do mean, be careful of what? And so on, and then the tasers and the screaming.

      Like DewiMorgan said, it’s those parting shots that get you.

  9. Well, I’m against the police as the next guy, but the article is BS.

    That “For taking photo of a cloud” title? Why, when the article itself contains the true story: “who took a photo of a thundercloud over an oil refinery near Houston, TX.”.

    It doesn’t sound that far-fetched to question a guy taking pictures next to an oil refinery. How should they know in advance he was taking pictures of the clouds or whatever? Because his camera was sometimes pointing upwards? They would have to be close enough to see this, and they would have to also know that those where the times that he pressed the shutter.

    1. So? Who cares if he took a picture of an oil refinery. The oil companies manage to blow the things up themselves rather regularly. Scarcely any need for terrorists to bother.

        1. How many have been blown up by terrorists? It seems to me the oil companies are far more effective at blowing them than Al Qaeda is.

          1. All I’m saying is that if you need to blow an oil-refinery then the regularity with which oil companies do the job isn’t enough. Sure, they can do it, but they don’t do it very well. They’re a tad erratic and unpredictable. In short, unreliable. Even if they were effective, it’d be to their schedule and hidden agenda, not yours.

      1. “””Who cares if he took a picture of an oil refinery”””

        The oil refinery guys that called the police? I mean, duh!

        My point is, you might considering someone taking pictures of an oil refinery as a priori OK and not worth checking out. That’s a perfectly fine approach.

        But if an oil-refinery is involved, don’t go title your post “police questions man for taking photo of a cloud”, because that’s just link-bait. 

    2. DISagree. When you take pictures of your friends at a party do you consider those as pictures of your friends or pictures of the drinks they’re holding? If your friends weren’t standing there it would be unlikely that you’d ever take a photo of just their drinks (unless you’re at a wanky art student party) and as the same goes for this guy who would not have taken the picture *at all* if a cloud was not there. He took a picture of a cloud and the oil refinery was incidental.

      1. Well, using the same logic you used here, a cloud can be considered even *more* incidental.

        An oil refinery is something valuable, and a potential target (maybe not in the US as of now, but *lots* of refineries have been attacked abroad). 

        Compared to that a cloud is far more “incidental”.

        Even if you’re photographing just for the fun of it, if next to you is an oil refinery, it’s far more possible to take a picture it and/or the surrounding place, than of just the clouds above it. Especially if the refinery is in a relatively remote area. Clouds, you can find everywhere. Why go out of your way to take a picture of them?

        1. If the intention was to photograph the cloud then everything else is incidental. You can’t re frame someone’s intention as is convenient for your argument.

          Why go out of your way to take a picture of them?
          Who could possibly think of a reason why the National Weather Service might want to photograph clouds? It’s a real conundrum!

  10. In university a friend asked me to be in their film. We went to this Sydney bridge to shoot it. While sitting alongside the camera on the bridge’s main deck capturing a long shot for the purposes of time lapse a anti-terror security dude came along and told us we couldn’t be there shooting stuff as it was a security risk. I wanted to (but didn’t) tell him he’s hopeless at doing his job because the day before we had jumped a fence to access the main supporting pylon. In a pile of old boats I found a 20m ladder which I had used to climb onto the base of the bridge’s supporting pylon. No one asked any questions. No one found us there. We were there for hours. All this security bs is merely theatre to scare people into behaving exactly as our masters want.


    1. So, the main idea is: because security is not 100% effective, it should be abolished altogether, even if it’s 60% or 70% effective?

      1. Funnily enough, he didn’t say that. Security should be titrated to threat level. Taking a photo of an oil refinery should get zero response.

  11. A couple years back my dad got hassled by some cops for bird-watching. It happened to be close to a sewage treatment plant in the marshlands. (Though he was on public land far from the plant, his telescope was pointing in its general direction). SO SUSPICIOUS.

  12. Wow!  First they sent men in black.  Then came the black helicopters.  Now they are sending black clouds.  The apocalypse is near.

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