An amateur photographer named Mike Maginnis was arrested on Tuesday in his home city of Denver - for simply taking pictures of buildings in an area where Vice President Cheney was residing. Maginnis told his story on Wednesday's edition of Off The Hook.
Maginnis's morning commute took him past the Adams Mark Hotel on Court Place. Maginnis, who says he always carried his camera wherever he went, snapped about 30 pictures of the hotel and the surrounding area - which included Denver police, Army rangers, and rooftop snipers. Maginnis, who works in information technology, frequently photographs such subjects as corporate buildings and communications equipment.
The following is Maginnis's account of what transpired:
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Listen to Mike Maginnis's first-hand account from the December 4th edition of "Off The Hook."
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As he was putting his camera away, Maginnis found himself confronted by a Denver police officer who demanded that he hand over his film and camera. When he refused to give up his Nikon F2, the officer pushed him to the ground and arrested him.
After being brought to the District 1 police station on Decatur Street, Maginnis was made to wait alone in an interrogation room. Two hours later, a Secret Service agent arrived, who identified himself as Special Agent "Willse."
The agent told Maginnis that his "suspicious activities" made him a threat to national security, and that he would be charged as a terrorist under the USA-PATRIOT act. The Secret Service agent tried to make Maginnis admit that he was taking the photographs to analyze weaknesses in the Vice President's security entourage and "cause terror and mayhem."
When Maginnis refused to admit to being any sort of terrorist, the Secret Service agent called him a "raghead collaborator" and a "dirty pinko faggot."
After approximately an hour of interrogation, Maginnis was allowed to make a telephone call. Rather than contacting a lawyer, he called the Denver Post and asked for the news desk. This was immediately overheard by the desk sergeant, who hung up the phone and placed Maginnis in a holding cell.
Three hours later, Maginnis was finally released, but with no explanation. He received no copy of an arrest report, and no receipt for his confiscated possessions. He was told that he would probably not get his camera back, as it was being held as evidence.
Maginnis's lawyer contacted the Denver Police Department for an explanation of the day's events, but the police denied ever having Maginnis - or anyone matching his description - in custody. At press time, the Denver PD's Press Information Office did not return telephone messages left by 2600.
The new police powers introduced by the USA-PATRIOT act, in the name of fighting terrorism, have been frightening in their apparent potential for abuse. Mike Maginnis's experience on Tuesday is a poignant example of how this abuse is beginning to occur. It suggests that a wide range of activities which might be considered "suspicious" could be suddenly labeled a prelude to terrorism, and be grounds for arrest.
We will continue to post updates to this story as we learn them.