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Right to photograph federal buildings upheld

By Ed O'Keefe

The federal agency responsible for protecting more than 9,000 federal facilities is reminding its security guards that the general public has the right to take photographs and shoot video outside the courthouses, office buildings and campuses they protect.

The reminder is part of a federal court settlement between the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service and the New York Civil Liberties Union. The group represented Antonio Musumeci, 29, of Edgewater, N.J., who sued after being arrested in November for videotaping a demonstrator outside a federal courthouse in Manhattan. One of Musumeci's cameras was confiscated during the arrest, but he managed to document the incident with another camera.

A settlement reached Friday required FPS to issue the reminder to its full-time inspector staff. But FPS guards may still approach and observe individuals photographing or filming the exterior of federal buildings to ask for identification and ask why they're taking photos or video.

The settlement "clarifies that protecting public safety is fully compatible with the need to grant public access to federal facilities, including photography of the exterior of federal buildings," FPS spokesman Michael Keegan said in an e-mail.

"There has been, for a number of years, what appears to be an exemption of federal buildings from the First Amendment right to take pictures," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of NYCLU. "This is a victory for freedom of expression and it means that photographers, including tourists, who are trying to take pictures outside federal buildings ought to be able to do so without interference."

Lieberman said she plans to remind other affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union and other First Amendment groups of the court settlement to ensure blanket enforcement nationwide. "Even with straightforward First Amendment victories like this, often they're in the abstract, unless we take steps to let people know about them," she said.

Friday's settlement comes as the National Park Service is also making it easier for small groups to gather at national parks. The change in policy follows a Justice Department decision not to appeal a federal judge's ruling that forcing individuals or small groups to obtain a permit for First Amendment activities at the parks was unconstitutional.

FPS protects about 1.5 million federal workers at 9,000 federal installations nationwide. Lawmakers have proposed legislation to bolster the agency's manpower and budget after a 2009 audit revealed serious gaps in its ability to protect major federal buildings.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | October 19, 2010; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments  
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Comments

Another rare instance of me agreeing with the ACLU. But should this be happening under Obama? Arresting Americans for photographing buildings?

Posted by: IamWright | October 19, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to the NY Civil Liberties Union for pushing back on the creeping and mindless march toward a police state. An open and transparent society is our best security.

Posted by: jlendvai | October 19, 2010 10:04 PM | Report abuse

this is not just under the current admin I was stopped from photographing the Coronado bay bridge in 2002

Posted by: sandwitch-13 | October 19, 2010 11:49 PM | Report abuse

=======
=======
someone asked:
"should this be happening under Obama? Arresting Americans for photographing buildings?"

It happened because Obama is just another lying 'piglican. He pretended to be Liberal so he could take advantage of everyone hating piggies after bush. Once in, he told us Liberals to shut up and then did every single thing McCain would have done.

Next will come president palin, another idiot front for rove's shadow government, like bush. She'll declare martial law and cancel the '16 elections, then we'll have a permanent right-wing police state and the rape of America by the rich will be complete.

--faye kane, homeless idiot savant
Read more of my smartmouth opinions at http://tinyurl.com/fayescave

Posted by: Knee_Cheese_Zarathustra | October 20, 2010 6:40 AM | Report abuse

Of course, this ruling of law won't have any impact on the rank and file building security officers. Just look at the pics from the Pentagon yesterday and you'll see several cops scowling into the lens.

Posted by: blasmaic | October 20, 2010 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Once again the ALCU is out there protecting the rights of all Americans.

Posted by: MarilynManson | October 20, 2010 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, ACLU! I was so embarrassed when my British son-in-law was harassed for inadvertently aiming his camera at the Pentagon while visiting the 911 memorial. The US is not a military state, and building security guards should not act as if it were.

Posted by: Cynthia11 | October 20, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

someone asked:
"should this be happening under Obama? Arresting Americans for photographing buildings?"

It happened because Obama is just another lying 'piglican. He pretended to be Liberal so he could take advantage of everyone hating piggies after bush. Once in, he told us Liberals to shut up and then did every single thing McCain would have done.

Next will come president palin, another idiot front for rove's shadow government, like bush. She'll declare martial law and cancel the '16 elections, then we'll have a permanent right-wing police state and the rape of America by the rich will be complete.

--faye kane, homeless idiot savant
Read more of my smartmouth opinions at http://tinyurl.com/fayescave

Posted by: Knee_Cheese_Zarathustra
_______________
Actually we would prefer not to read any more of your smart mouthed opinions. This is not an add board for your blog. I am sure "it is happening under the Obama admin" because you have some rent a cop security guy with a big ego trying to "enforce" policy and virtually nothing to do with who sits in the WH.

Posted by: cadam72 | October 20, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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