A 59-year-old Oregon man who likes to share his wildlife photography on Facebook and Tumblr was recently visited by an FBI agent who wanted to know why he had taken pictures of a local dam.
According to PINAC, Doug Tankersley, a grandfather who lives in Umatilla City, said an FBI agent and policer officer showed up at his door on Monday. He refused to let them in and documented his exchange with the men on his video camera. Five minutes later, the men were gone.
Tankersley insists he has a long history of being harassed for taking photographs at the McNary Dam. He said three years ago a security guard at the dam accosted him for taking a photo of a flower. He described the incident on his Facebook page:
“‘Hey! What are you doing?’ I looked up from the viewfinder of my camera to see an angry looking man in uniform stomping through the patch of wildflowers I was photographing. ‘Taking pictures.’ I replied to what appeared to be an officer of the law. ‘Of what?’, he demanded with a sneering tone. ‘Flowers.’ I said, as I continued to survey the individual. He was dressed in a black or very dark blue uniform, with a badge and shoulder patch and wore highly shined uniform boots.”
Tankersley said the guard instructed him to “not take pictures of the dam ‘especially the powerhouse,’ and if he caught me taking pictures inside the fish viewing room he was going to make me delete the pictures.”
The audio in the video is difficult to hear, but the agent tells Tankersley: “We are here to ascertain what your motives are with the pictures.”
Tankersley responds that there is no law against taking nature photos.
“Sometimes there are nefarious things behind photographs and taking pictures of our infrastructure and things like that, you know, perhaps not you, but perhaps other people with bad intentions to try and get some intel in different ways to let’s say, blow up a dam or something,” the agent explained.
Tankersley asked when photos of a dam were ever used to commit a terrorist attack, to which the agent responded, “Don’t you think photos were taken of the Twin Towers before those were dropped?”
It is difficult to tell whether the FBI is taking the “threat” of Tankersley picture-taking seriously or not. On video, the agent seems pretty laid back and leaves after Tankersley simply tells him he is not going to hurt anyone. It is definitely not what an American would likely see happen if the FBI really believed an individual poses a threat to national security.
“You’re going to cause any harm to anybody or anything?” the agent inquires.
“I don’t have to answer that, but I will. No, I’m not going to cause any harm to anybody.”
“Then we’re good. I appreciate you answering that,” the agent says before he leaves.
Tankersley believes the FBI showed up because the police department wants to retaliate against him for taking pictures at the dam. In the past, he has even used a remote controlled airplane with a camera to take pictures.
What is so special about McNary Dam? Nothing. It appears to be just an ordinary post-WWII hydroelectric dam. Construction began in 1947 on the 1.4-mile dam on the Columbia River, joining Umatilla County, Ore., and Benton County, Wash. It was completed in 1954. It was named for Oregon Republican Sen. Charles Linza McNary who supported forest conservation, farm relief and public hydropower projects. He supported the New Deal and the League of Nations. He died suddenly from a brain tumor in 1944.