A citizen journalist in Albany, New York was visited and questioned by a member of the state’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) Thursday after legally photographing buildings at the local police academy.
Attempting to gather video content for a story, 22-year-old Matthew Grunert, a college student with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and computer science, was detained by three police officers Wednesday for alleged “suspicious activity.” Well within his legal rights, police let Grunert go after being detained for more than 20 minutes, unable to find any wrongdoing.
Incredibly, Grunert was visited at his home the following day by a New York State Police Investigator working for the FBI’s JTTF who claimed to be interested in the encounter.
“Do you have any identification on you,” the investigator asked repeatedly as Grunert requested a shield number. “Listen alright, you’re not in trouble, we just need talk.”
After providing Grunert with a business card, the investigator began asking questions completely unrelated to the events of the previous day.
“Are you part of the Sovereign Citizen Nation?” the investigator asked, attempting to link Grunert to the phantom label often used to paint any supporter of the Constitution as “extremist.”
“I will tell you this, I am not a Sovereign Citizen,” Grunert replied.
The investigator continued by asking for even more irrelevant data, specifically information on Grunert’s personal beliefs.
“Essentially what you do for a living, your occupation, your likes, dislikes, things like that,” the investigator asked.
Noting the absurdity of the questions, Grunert continued to invoke his Fifth Amendment right before the investigator finally left. Speaking with Infowars, Grunert expressed his disgust at the investigator’s attempt to tie him to extremism.
“I come from a very patriotic and American family. My mother was born and bred in upstate New York. My father spent twenty four years serving this country in the U.S. Army. I was raised with a healthy respect for the law that turned into fascination when I was in grade school. It is personally insulting and offensive to me that I would be associated with the Sovereign Citizen movement merely for exercising my constitutional rights. I am not a sovereign citizen; I am a citizen of the United States of America and I love my country,” Grunert said.
According to Carlos Miller of Photographyisnotacrime.com, the incident didn’t end there. Amazingly, the investigator continued his probe by tracking down Grunert’s mother as she volunteered at her church.
“Today he (Grunert) learned that Inspector Matthew Gilbert, the cop who visited his home and whose business card is below, paid a visit to his mother at the church she volunteers to further the intimidation process,” Miller wrote.
Although it is currently unclear how far the bizarre investigation against Grunert will go, his situation represents the continued demonization of law-abiding Americans.
The attempts by the federal government to link supporters of the Constitution to domestic terrorism are countless. Most famously, the 2009 MIAC Report, a document given to police in Missouri, absurdly ties supporters of the Constitution and Presidential Candidate Ron Paul to extremist groups.
Similarly, countless federal training manuals attempt to paint photography near public buildings as a likely sign of terrorism as well. While an inquiry by public employees into a photographers intentions is to be expected from time to time, countless encounters end in the abuse of the photographer’s civil liberties even though the practice is completely legal.
Despite the statistical fact that bee stings kill more Americans every year than terrorism, innocent people continue to be targeted domestically by seemingly paranoid government agencies.
This post originally appeared at Story Leak