Florida man arrested for zapping Scientology cameras with laser pointer during "Cult City Tour"

Originally published at: Florida man arrested for zapping Scientology cameras with laser pointer during "Cult City Tour" | Boing Boing


With Mar-a-Lago serving as a sort of de facto Republican headquarters now, the stage looks set in Florida for a hit reality show: “Cult Wars.”


Nice, whoever loses that war, we all win…


Unless he was using one of those overpowered balloon-popping lasers, I’ll call BS. He was probably using to highlight all the cameras Scientology has in downtown Clearwater. “There’s one there, and there’s one there, and…”

Typical Scientology harassment complaint, like “Tom Cruise missiles”.



This made me curious why more people don’t just use green lasers on security cameras to black them out. But some googling makes it look like green lasers jack up the CCDS with dead pixels and lines, but most of it still works. Damaged but not broken.

I wonder if this guy actually damaged any or if they just saw laserp ointers going during the tour and claimed damage.


I’d believe it. Even a green laser pointer can burn out a focal plane array on a CCD camera. The lens tends to focus that laser energy nicely. The description of being “peppered with black dots” seems to fit what happens in real life.

I’d expect a CMOS camera to be more sensitive but I dont have much/any experience with laser damage on those.


I think Trump made some noise about having scientology taxed, but nothing came of it, and as one cult leader to another, largely extended professional courtesy to them during his administration. Gave them PPP loans, but that could have been incompentence, vs. intentional aid. He seems like he has some support from them, in terms that their areas voted for him, and some donated to him.


I’m not speaking as an expert; but I’d be unsurprised by laser damage even at quite low power levels.

All but the most awful laser pointers maintain pretty decent coherence at ranges where the user’s hands are steady enough to matter; and surveillance cameras feature optics specifically intended to concentrate incoming light onto a small, deliberately light sensitive, generally ill-cooled CCD or CMOS imager.

I suspect that you could get pretty substantial resistance(against the chosen laser type) if you added the sort of bandgap attenuation used by laser safety gear to the optics of the camera; but against a generalist camera that is deliberately pulling in all the light it can at least patchy kills at under 5w seem likely.


The optics are more likely to have some IR filter built in, just because silicon sensors tend to be a bit oversensitive to IR and drown out the visible light you actually care about a bit; but if those filters aren’t up to scratch I’d be extra scared by the greens because the cheap ones are terrifyingly built right down to price: commonly an IR laser significantly more powerful than the number on the box would suggest coupled with a none-too-thorough frequency doubler to produce the desired green.

The greens are often punchy enough to be of concern in the wavelength you can see; the ones also delivering several times more power in the wavelength that will cheerfully never trigger a blink response are plain unnerving.


You can also get damage if you later send a Sea Org member out to shine a more powerful pointer into your own camera to damage it. It’ll be interesting to see if they present the security camera footage of when the damage occurred.


And now, tour attendees Robert Harris,

There’s more than one of him? No wonder they caught him on CCTV so much.


Assuming the pointer actually damaged the sensors (a questionable claim), it’s surprising if the damage was to individual pixels - that would require holding the pointer with extreme stability. I’d expect streaks, not dots.


Trump made some noise about having Scientology taxed

Among bottom feeders, this is just a love note indicating that one is open to gifts and displays of (monetary) affection.

“Nice scam you got going there, shame if something happened to it.”


Does it? I would think it would rather satisfy your curiosity on that score: people don’t do it because they’re pretty much guaranteed to get caught, as this guy did. The owners find that their camera is damaged, so they rewind the video to the last undamaged scene, and in it is the perp pointing a laser at the camera.

It’s like the old stories of bank robbers spray-painting the lenses of security cameras (and thereby providing close-ups of themselve).

Dots are more likely than streaks. A streak requires a much higher power laser. A typical green laser pointed a camera for a few seconds will leave a dot.

Individual pixels can go bad on their own (and do). You can get around this with pixel binning but a laser spot makes a decent sized burn that binning can’t overcome it.


Better Call Saul included someone using this trick to disable security cameras but Mike Ehrmantraut’s wasp spray method in Breaking Bad had the advantage of being able to walk away quickly instead of having to hold the laser on the camera to keep it out of commission.



Lasers Impact on Surveillance Cameras Tested

By Derek Ward, Published Sep 25, 2019, 09:33am EDT

Hong Kong protests have brought global attention to video surveillance and the ongoing attempts of protesters to disable or undermine those cameras using lasers. But what impact do these lasers have?


If teenage me were to hear, “In the future, a science fiction cult will be under laser attack” he’d be disappointed that the battle involves more lawyers and less lasers and light sabers.