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The don’t-touch-my-junk guy may have dodged a bullet.

As I reported last week, the state’s wiretapping law appeared to allow him to legally record his conversations with security officers at Lindbergh Field earlier this month.

But it turns out airport law seems to be another matter.

Another protester tangled with airport officers last Friday, stripped to his shorts at a security checkpoint and ended up being cited for trying to record the incident, among other things. The airport even confiscated his iPhone.

Within a couple days, the incident made a splash in the national media, although no catchphrases appear to have come out of it.

What happened? It turns out that airport regulations step in where other laws don’t.

The Transportation Security Administration — the agency behind all those new X-rays and pat-downs — doesn’t care whether you record video or audio in an airport. It has no policy against it. But the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority does.

The airport’s code says this: “No person shall take still, motion or sound motion pictures or voice recordings on the facilities and airports under the jurisdiction of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority (the ‘Authority’) without written permission from the Authority’s Executive Director or his or her designee.”

The code also bans any filming of airport X-ray equipment.

Why do the rules exist? “I think this is all about security,” said Ronald Powell, spokesman for the port district, which provides law enforcement services at the airport.

He said Sam Wolanyk, the man who stripped to his shorts, was handcuffed, driven to another terminal and taken to the Harbor Police substation at the airport. Authorities cited him with avoiding security screening, interfering with airport security and recording at the airport without permission.

His friend was cited with recording without permission and the airport confiscated her video camera. “This was strictly by the rules,” Powell said.

But are the rules legal? Terry Francke, head of the Californians Aware watchdog organization, said it’s doubtful that the recording regulation could survive a legal challenge.

A public airport must abide by the First Amendment, which protects both the right to free speech and the right to “gather information for purposes related to free speech,” he said.

“Normally when regulations are justified through limited control on time, place or manner, they have to serve a very important government purpose,” Francke said. He said the part of the airport’s rule that allows filming with permission raises questions about who could legally record and who couldn’t.

Powell, the port spokesman, said he couldn’t comment on the legality of the rules.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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