James Prigoff is an 86-year old photographer whose work has hung in art galleries around the world. But now he finds himself on the FBI's suspicious activity list because of that very same love of photography.

In a post on the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) website, Prigoff explains how he became a target of the FBI. In 2004, during a trip to Dorchester, Massachusetts, near Boston, he tried to photograph a piece of public art called the "Rainbow Swash." This is a brightly colored painting on the outside of a 140-foot high natural gas storage tank. It was painted in 1971 by Corita Kent, and then recreated in 1992 after the original was torn down.

"I was confronted by two security guards who came through their gate and told me I could not because the tank was on private property," Prigoff states in the post. "I pointed out that I, being well outside the fenced area, was not on private property -- but they insisted I leave."

Months later, he found a business card on the front door of his Sacramento home. It was from Agent A. Ayaz of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. A neighbor told Prigoff that two men in suits had asked her about him.

"When I called Agent Ayaz, he asked if I had been in Boston recently. At that moment I realized that the security guards at the Rainbow Swash site must have taken down the rental car license plate number and reported me to a law enforcement agency. I never gave the guards any information about myself, so I must have been traced across country via my rental car record," states Prigoff.

In his post, Prigoff worries that something as innocuous as a photographer taking a photo of public art being misconstrued as terrorism is a return to McCarthyism, which he lived through.

"I know how false accusations, surveillance, and keeping files on innocent people can destroy their careers and lives. I am deeply troubled that the SAR program may be recreating that same climate of false accusation and fear today," states Prigoff.

Prigoff is one of five plaintiffs in a lawsuit by the ACLU to curtail the Suspicious Activity Reporting program that unfairly targets citizens of the U.S., Gill v. Department of Justice. Of the other four plaintiffs, one, Aaron Conklin has a similar story where he was photographing some industrial architecture in California. The other three plaintiffs were allegedly targeted due to their race or appearance.

"The plaintiffs are five U.S. citizens whose information has been entered into counterterrorism databases for engaging in lawful conduct, and who have been subject to unwarranted law enforcement and scrutiny," the ACLU stated on its site.

Prigoff notes that several photos of the Rainbow Swash can be found on Wikipedia (including Kevin Rutherford's photo, seen here).

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