Despite a settlement last year stating that photography of federal buildings is legal and new training memo reminding officers of this development, federal officers are still illegally harassing photographers.
And in one recent case, illegally deleting footage from a videographer’s Flip camera.
The incident occurred last week in Washington D.C. Photography activist Jerome Vorus, who regularly puts officials to the test, was taking pictures in the Capital Hill area.
The trouble started after he snapped a couple of photos of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
A Court Security Officer told him he needed to stop taking photos because he was breaking the law, even though he was standing on a public sidewalk.
The CSO then called U.S. Marshals, who also accused Vorus of committing a crime with his camera.
According to Vorus’ written account of the incident.
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”. They informed me that I was not being detained, but rather “being stopped for questioning.”
The problem is, they have no right to demand his personal information. And “being stopped for questioning” is no different than being detained because they are stopping him against his will.
Vorus pulled out his Flip camera and began recording, which was when they told him he was being detained for recording them.
Seconds later, they snatched his camera from him and deleted his footage.
Things didn’t get any better when a U.S. Marshals supervisor was dispatched to the scene and told Vorus that the officers had every right to detain him because he was photographing a “sensitive building.”
But the Department of Homeland Security has stated that “there are currently no general security regulations prohibiting exterior photography of and federally owned or leased building” and to “understand that this regulation does not prohibit photography by individuals of the exterior of federally owned or leased facilities from publicly accessible spaces such as streets, sidewalks, parks and plazas.”
The officers also told Vorus he was guilty of D.C.’s wiretapping law because he was recording them without their consent, but despite D.C. being a two-party consent district, it would not apply in this case because they had no expectation of privacy.
Vorus has sent the Flip camera to the manufacturer in an attempt to retrieve the deleted footage.