Posts Tagged 'photographing federal buildings'

War … On Cameras (What Is It Good For?)

Absolutely nothing. takes on photography and the police in this great video, “The Government’s War on Cameras.” (I particularly like all the clips of misinformed and/or rights-trampling authorities.) We finally get to see Antonio Musumeci, he of NYCLU lawsuit against the government fame, and the main message is hammered home — photography is your right, but not even the authorities know that sometimes.

DC’s Most Detained Photographer Gets Detained Again

Last October, as a result of a pretty major lawsuit brought by the New York chapter of the ACLU, the federal government agreed to end the harassment of photographers outside all federal buildings. Sadly, not all federal employees have been apprised of the decision.

Here is photographer Jerome Vorus’s story of his encounter outside DC’s Superior Court, from our NPRO flickr group. (You might remember Vorus has been detained at Reagan National Airport and on the streets of DC in the recent past for his photography activities.)

On February 10, 2011, I was taking photographs around Capitol Hill and started to take photos of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (the corner of 6th and C Street NW), at which time I was stopped by a Court Security Officer (CSO) who told me that my actions of taking photographs were unlawful, and that I would need to stop taking pictures of the building even from the public sidewalk. The CSO (Gasser) then called for US Marshals for assistance and I was immediately stopped by deputy Torrance Wilson (4101) and Shanks (4475). I was told that I was being stopped for photography.

Both deputy Marshals began to enlist personal information from me, asking for my identification at which time I asked “am I being detained or am I free to go”. Both officers told me that I was not being detained, that I was “being stopped for questioning” I continued to ask “am I being detained or am I free to go” I was then told that I was being detained because I recording them. Deputy Wilson then called a supervisor for assistance because it was obvious that they were not knowledgeable of the law as it regards to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Continue reading ‘DC’s Most Detained Photographer Gets Detained Again’

Shoot Away, Federal Gov Says

As part of the New York Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit against the federal government stemming from the Antonio Musumeci incident, they were given the above directive. It states that photographers are allowed to photograph federal buildings nationwide, and the NYCLU is encouraging photographers to carry it with them in the event they come across a problem.

As Lens reports:

The three-page bulletin reminds officers, agents and employees that, “absent reasonable suspicion or probable cause,” they “must allow individuals to photograph the exterior of federally owned or leased facilities from publicly accessible spaces” like streets, sidewalks, parks and plazas. Even when there seems to be reason to intercede and conduct a “field interview,” the directive says:

Officers should not seize the camera or its contents, and must be cautious not to give such ‘orders’ to a photographer to erase the contents of a camera, as this constitutes a seizure or detention.

You can get your copy here.

Source: Lens/New York Times

UPDATE: There have been comments on the web stating you have to provide personal information or log into Facebook in order to download the federal directive.  We haven’t had time to look into the matter, but if the claims are true, that is unacceptable.  Which, is why we’re providing the directive here for you to download as much as you want free of Big Brother’s prying eyes.

Settlement Ends Harassment at Federal Buildings (We Hope)

Who wants to shoot some pics in front of a federal building? Because now the government has acknowledged, through a settlement with the New York Civil Liberties Union, that you are allowed to do just that. Funny, you say, I thought that was already my right? Well, it’s not that simple. The NYCLU sued the government on behalf of photographer Antonio Musumeci, who was arrested in November 2009 after recording a protest at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal Courthouse in Manhattan.

“Not only will this settlement end harassment of photographers outside federal courthouses, it will free people to photograph and film outside of all federal buildings,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, lead counsel in the case. “The regulation at issue in this case applies to all federal buildings, not only courthouses, so this settlement should extend to photography near all federal buildings nationwide.”

Sounds like a whole lot of government employees are going to have to be retrained.

Source: NYCLU

Photographers, Police Clash in DC

Photo by Joe in DC

A few weeks back Washington Post writer Annys Shin put the call out for photographers who’d been harassed while photographing federal buildings and landmarks in the DC area. This article is the result. Shin finds out what many of us have known for a while, and that’s while DC may be the country’s seat of power, its law enforcement and security personnel are often woefully lacking in knowledge about laws regarding photography.

This quote from the DC police union president is kind of troubling — and illustrates that, no matter how many articles are written, they still just don’t get it.

“When people see a camera, they get more into it,” said Marcello Muzzatti, president of D.C. Lodge No. 1 of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 11,000 officers in more than 100 D.C. and federal agencies. “Some people will figure, ‘I have a right to take pictures,’ and we are not arguing with that. An officer also has a right to his or her safety and to control the situation.”

Be sure to also look at this interesting compilation of the photos that got DC area photographers in trouble with the law.

Article from Washington Post

Seattle Weekly Harassed at FBI Building

Seattle Weekly photographer Steven Miller was just trying to take a photo of attorney Larry Hildes for a cover story on government spying when he got into a little trouble with the FBI. Despite being on a public sidewalk, Seattle’s FBI Building was serving as the backdrop, and that is really discouraged.

At first, security came out and told them not to shoot the building. Miller described their conversation:

He asked if we knew who was in the building. I answered, ‘The FBI and Washington Fusion Center.’ He asked what I had against the Washington Fusion Center. I declined to answer. He asked my name. I declined to answer that as well.”

Then an FBI agent appeared to get to the bottom of the situation. Miller said:

He asked for my ID repeatedly. I declined and we kept on shooting. He asked for my ID again. I said he didn’t have a right to it. He insisted he had a right to ask for my ID. I noted that I had a right to refuse. He said it again, and I told him I had a right to tell him to go jump in Elliott Bay, and pointed out the location for him.

Then there were three more FBI agents on the scene. I mean, of course. This was a four-agent incident. Miller says it got so stressful that he and Hildes left voluntarily.

When asked for comment, an FBI spokesperson said:

“We request people not take pictures. It’s a voluntary thing. People have the right to do so, but we do like to ask why as part of our security concerns.” As for the ID check. “I guess they wanted to know who they were.”

The thing that really bothers me about incidents like this is the self-important hysteria that goes along with it. It always make me wonder if law enforcement really don’t have anything better to do, or are they really dumb enough not to be able to distinguish between terrorists casing the place and a legitimate, or harmless, photographer?

And I’m not calling FBI agents dumb because I don’t think that can be the case, but I am honestly confused. Because government officials going after citizens doing legal activities does more toward eroding the fundamental tenets of American democracy than these outside forces we’re repeatedly told are trying to destroy our way of life are.

Article from Seattle Weekly

Photographer Sues Homeland Security Dept.

Software developer, amateur photographer and self-proclaimed libertarian activist Antonio Musemeci and the NYCLU are suing the Department of Homeland Security for what they say was an unlawful arrest during a protest at the Manhattan federal courthouse last year. The lawsuit challenges a “government regulation that unconstitutionally restricts photography on federal property, including public plazas and sidewalks.”

Musumeci was videotaping the arrest of protestor Julian Heicklen in November 2009, when officers approached and asked what he was doing. Because he said he was freelancing (which he does for Free Talk Live – for free), he was arrested under a code which prohibits news or commercial photography on federal property. The situation was classic — very similar to the dozens of ones we’ve reported on here. The agents took his camera and poked around on it, talked down to him, threw their weight around. Ultimately only Musumeci’s memory card was confiscated after he suggested that would be the only relevant information for the agents. While charges against him were eventually dropped, Musumeci never got his memory card back.

From the NYCLU:

“We understand the need for heightened security around federal buildings, but the government cannot arrest people for taking pictures in a public plaza.”

It will be really interesting to see how this turns out, as it could be a watershed event for photographers’ rights.

You can read all of the events leading up to the arrest here.

Article from New York Daily News and blog of bile

Harassed Photographer Speaks Out

Newspaper editor/photographer Kai Eiselein wrote an excellent editorial in The Eagle & Boomerang addressing his experience with law enforcement at the Thomas S. Foley federal courthouse in Spokane last week.

Eiselein admits he was a skeptic before his own incident, thinking somehow photographers must be provoking authorities. But after his experience, he understands how photography has been demonized in a way that is unnecessary, unfair and scary.

My test at the Spokane courthouse proved without a doubt that what some other photographers were claiming was happening was true.

And he also addresses those commenters, those wonderfully strident, angry commenters, who automatically accuse the photographer in these situations:

The comments were the most interesting part of the post, a large number of people praised my actions, but an equally large number, also photographers, vehemently decried what I did. Many of them stated I should have just backed down and apologized for taking photos, others called my actions underhanded, a set up, and that no real journalist would do what I did.

And on the practices of law enforcement:

Done often enough, to enough people, it can become a de facto change in the law, all without any public input or open debate. It runs directly counter to the tenets upon which this country was founded.

And some final thoughts:

Do we ban the photographing of children, buildings, aircraft, trains, bridges or anything else that might be used for some nefarious purpose?

Do we slice large chunks from the 1st Amendment in the name of safety and security?

Have we become so afraid as a nation that we see danger in every corner and shadow?

The fact is, bad people will do bad things no matter what kind laws or security procedures are put in place.

Article from The Eagle & Boomerang

Spokane Courthouse – Level 4 Nonsense

ICE man

Photo by Kai Eiselein

On his Flickr page newspaper editor/photographer Kai Eiselein details his run-in with the authorities at the Thomas S. Foley Federal Courthouse in Spokane, Washington. As is typical in these situations, a lot of fuss was made out of a lot of nothing.

Three security guards, two federal cops from the Department of Hopeless Stupidity, lights and sirens, all for one lone photographer.

Eiselein was harassed by security and police and told he couldn’t take photos of the building or the guards’ faces. Then they ran his ID and tried to intimidate him with some nonsense about what he couldn’t do on this “level 4”-ranked federal property. Eiselein stood his ground, explaining he was “standing up for my rights, because if I don’t no one else will.”

It’s unfortunate when our federal authorities don’t respect or understand constitutional rights (or public vs. federal property). How can we expect them to defeat real terrorism threats when this basic information goes ignored?

Read Eiselein’s account and see the photos here.

ACLU to DOT: Why Harass Photographers?

Photo by spiggycat

In April we posted on the consistent and regular harassment photographers, including families and tourists, have experienced outside the Department of Transportation headquarters in Washington, DC, and now the ACLU is getting involved. Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the National Capital Area chapter of the ACLU, wrote a letter to the DOT’s acting general counsel requesting explanation of what seems to be their no photography policy on the public streets surrounding the building. As Spitzer writes: “We are not aware of any law that imposes such a rule, and we do not believe DOT has the authority to impose such a rule.” See the whole letter here.

Flickr via Thomas Hawk’s Digital Connection

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