SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A local professional photographer has taken hundreds of thousands of pictures over his lifetime, but it was one of them that had Homeland Security agents knocking on his door.
The photo taken in 2004 is still raising privacy concerns today as the photographer is suing the federal government.
Jim Prigoff documents murals in his photography, and he has several books to prove it.
The 86-year-old retired Fortune 500 executive has documented countless murals around the globe, lecturing at universities and art museums.
In 2004, Prigoff says he tried to photograph a mural on a natural gas storage tank near Boston called the Rainbow Swash.
“It’s been photographed 1,000 times I’m sure,” he said.
But before shooting a single frame, he was stopped by security.
“I told them that I document murals and would like to take the picture and they said I couldn’t do that,” he said.
He moved farther away, but was stopped again.
“However, I went around the back which had poor lighting and I took the picture. I’ve never shown it,” he said.
Two months later, Prigoff says a counterterrorism agent had questions for his neighbors. While he wasn’t home, agents left a business card.
“And here’s the egregious part of this story,” Prigoff said. “He begins to question my elderly neighbor about me: What she knows about me, who comes visit me, etc.”
But how did the agents even know who he was or where he lived.
“They must have written down my license plate,” he said.
Prigoff called the agent on the card and was questioned about his visit to Boston.
“That pretty much ended the conversation,” he said.
That’s what concerns him 10 years later. He hasn’t heard from the feds since.
“Unfortunately fear and terror are a means of control,” he said.
Prigoff believes the federal government is using the threat of terrorism to snoop into the lives of Americans. He wants to know where his investigation record is, and how it is being used.
He’s now hoping to get answers through a lawsuit he and others filed last week through the American Civil Liberties Union.
“The most important is we want them to change the laws,” he said. “We want them to make it more stringent on what they can spy on and what they can do.”
CBS13 reached out to the FBI to get answers about the investigation and the lawsuit, but was told the agency could not discuss the matter.