Sep 252009
 September 25, 2009  Posted by  Court, Surveillance, U.S.

Laura Sennett is a photojournalist who covers political demonstrations and protests and often publishes her photographs under the alias of “Isis.”

On April 12,2008, Sennett was photographing protests in Washington, D.C. related to the spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The protests became violent, and Sennett claims that like others, she ran away after smoke-generating devices went off.

What happened next is the subject of a lawsuit Sennett has filed against the U.S. Department of Justice, Attorney General Eric Holder, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, Prince William County Police Department, Arlington County Police Department, and two individual detectives who allegedly acted at the direction of these federal entities and under color of federal authority.

Sennett claims that although she was not a target of any criminal investigation and there was never anything connecting her to causing or participating in any violence at the demonstration, the defendants subsequently ordered or conducted a general search of her home and seized and kept Sennett’s work-related equipment, including computer hardware and data, digital cameras and memory cards, a still camera, digital storage devices, and a digital voice recorder. They also allegedly seized and retained work product and documentary materials directly related to Sennett’s profession as a photojournalist, including photographs, other work products, and personal belongings.

Sennett claims that their actions violated the Privacy Protection Act of 1980, and the First and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

According to the complaint, the authorities did have a search warrant, but the warrant was issued on the basis of false and misleading information purposefully provided by the defendants. Specifically, the affidavit in support of the warrant signed by one of the detectives allegedly failed to state that Sennett was a photojournalist, even though Sennett cites other statements by the defendants that demonstrate that they knew she was a photojournalist engaged in photojournalism at the time they applied for the warrant.

Sennett was never charged criminally nor arrested in connection with either the protest nor any materials obtained via the search or seizure.

The entire complaint can be found here.

Hat-tip, Courthouse News.

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