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Thursday, January 25, 2007

It's a rare day when the NFL pops up on my FOI alerts...

From Editor & Publisher:

A security video showing Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick surrendering a water bottle to a security screener at Miami International Airport was erased after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution requested it under Florida’s public-records law.

The Jan. 17 video was part of the investigation into the water bottle with a hidden compartment that an initial police report said contained a “small amount of dark particulate” and an odor consistent with marijuana.

Authorities this week said lab tests showed no evidence of drugs, and the bottle is no longer considered evidence in an investigation. Vick was cleared by police of any wrongdoing.

In a report on its Web site, the Atlanta newspaper said it requested a copy of the video on Jan. 18 from the Miami-Dade Police Department, under the state’s public-records law. Police spokesman Robert Williams said at the time that police had decided they would not release it because it was part of an open investigation.

On Jan. 23, after authorities said the case was closed, the newspaper said it again requested a copy of the video and was told that it had been erased.

Williams told the Associated Press yesterday that he had consulted with department attorneys about releasing a flash drive that contained video from a Transportation Security Agency camera at the airport. Those attorneys consulted with the TSA, which refused to release the contents of the flash drive because of security concerns and ordered that it be returned to the TSA, Williams said.

The matter became moot anyway, Williams said, because he then discovered that the investigating officer had erased the flash drive after being informed by the State Attorney’s Office that there would be no criminal charges against Vick.

Williams said the newspaper would have to take up the matter of releasing the videotape with the TSA.

According to the newspaper, Williams wrote in an e-mail: “That information was shown to the State Attorney’s Office and it was determined by them that no criminal act was committed, and no charges were filed. Therefore this video was deleted from the flash drive since it was not being used in a criminal case.”

...OK, so I may have to write more on this one. An airport video is maintained to do what, exactly? I'd think, among other things, to isolate individuals who pose a threat or even commit crimes. So the immediate desctruction of a tape seems to serve no purpose at all -- except prevent scrutiny of the system.

This is fascinating: is Vick's privacy at stake here? Certainly not. He was walking throuh airport security! Have you done that lately? Feel like anybody is really worried about your...privacy?


Anonymous said...

It strikes me that this is a classic case of government officials willfully forgetting that security video belongs to us, not them.

If the AJC had a standing public records request for the video, the instant the case became closed it should have been filled.

Another reason, I guess, why public records laws need to have serious penalities for violations.

National Freedom of Information Coalition said...

It also makes me wonder....what good are videos of such public security stations if they are erased immediately? So what happens if some bad guys on the other end of the world turn out to have passed through Miami? Oops -- erased it?