An 86-year-old photographer and four other Americans who were entered into a massive “suspicious activity” database for innocent activities filed suit against the federal government on Thursday to challenge the legality of a practice that has never been found to have identified a single terrorist threat.
James Prigoff, a retired Levi Strauss and Sara Lee executive whose artwork has been exhibited by the Smithsonian Institution, was visited at his home in Sacramento by the FBI after he was stopped by private security guards in 2004 while taking pictures of a piece of public art called the Rainbow Swash, located on a natural gas storage tank in Boston.
“Given my age, I lived through the McCarthy era, so I know how false accusations, surveillance and keeping files on innocent people can destroy their careers and lives,” Prigoff said Thursday at a press conference in San Francisco. “I am deeply troubled that the SAR program may be recreating that same climate of false accusation and fear today.”
Prigoff said he was worried that he was “apparently in a government terrorism database for decades” and said the government “isn’t supposed to be tracking you if you’re not doing anything wrong.”