tyrannical government is a threat to any individual. But I don't agree with your presumption that it is vandalism to use a photo as a starting point for an artwork that differs considerably from the original image. This is very very common in the art world, with no bad consequences normally.
Look at Warhol's Campbell Soup cans using copyrighted labels as well as other images with little change from the photo source material. Since most artists do not have
access to famous people, how can they create images without photo reference material? Can only official photographers or Court painters publish images of the elite?
The presumption that a photographer can claim rights to any subsequent use of the photo even with considerable modification flies in the face of common sense and common usage. People modify images constantly on the 'net and in artworks. It is normal, traditional even.
Perjury is another matter, and that was foolish behavior.