Michael Connor spent years working as a photojournalist for the Washington Times where he became accustomed to overbearing police officers threatening to confiscate his cameras.
He didn’t expect that to happen as a wedding photographer.
But on June 16th, after he photographed a wedding in Georgetown, he was confronted by military police for taking pictures near the Marine Corps War Memorial just outside Arlington National Cemetery.
The soldiers threatened to confiscate his cameras because there happened to be a military checkpoint in the vicinity.
But even if there was a checkpoint, it is unlikely that he would have been banned from photographing it, according to Mickey Osterreicher, attorney for the National Press Photographers Association.
“You have to have something clearly posted that photography is not allowed,” Osterreicher said. “It has to make some reference to some valid justification.”
Federal law does state that photography of “certain vital military and naval installations” is illegal unless one obtains permission from a commanding officer.
But these vital installations must be classified as “top secret”, “secret”, “confidential”, or “restricted,” according to U.S. Code 18 – Section 795.
A military checkpoint in the vicinity of Arlington National Cemetery, arguably the most photographed cemetery in the country, would hardly fall under this classification.
“It just seems that people are getting carried away,” said Osterreicher. “There is no common sense.”
“Did they think terrorists purposely dressed up as a wedding party to secretly take pictures?”