Arrested for Videotaping a Building


A report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer tells the story of a Nepalese man who was thrown into prison under the PATRIOT Act for accidentally videotaping the building in NYC where the FBI has its HQ.

NEW YORK — It took no more than a week for James P. Wynne, a veteran FBI investigator, to confirm the harmless truth that only now, more than two years later, he is ready to talk about. The small foreign man he helped arrest for videotaping outside a tall office building in Queens on Oct. 25, 2001, was no terrorist.Yet Purna Raj Bajracharya was swallowed up in the government’s new maximum-security system of secret detention and secret hearings for three months, and his only friend was Wynne, the same FBI agent who had helped decide to put him there.

Bajracharya, 47, was a Buddhist from Nepal planning to return there after five years of odd jobs at places such as a Queens pizzeria and a Manhattan flower shop. He was videotaping New York street scenes to take back to his wife and sons in Katmandu. And he had no clue that the tall building in his viewfinder happened to include an office of the FBI.

When Wynne filed his FBI report a few days later, the Nepalese man, who spoke almost no English, had been placed in solitary confinement at a federal detention center in Brooklyn just for videotaping.

The article gives a pretty good picture of how Ashcroft’s JD is using–or mis-using–its new powers and how ‘byzantine’ the system has become. And what do they use to excuse this malfeasance? You guessed it:

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said that although he was unfamiliar with the case, the system of secrecy that Bajracharya encountered is lawful and necessary. “The idea that someone who has violated our immigration laws may be of interest on a national security level as well is an unfortunate reality, post- 9/11,” he said.

Bajracharya was jailed for three months ‘in a 6-by-9-foot cell kept lighted 24 hours a day.’ Welcome to neo-America, Baj.

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