It’s been almost four years since the United States Department of Justice agreed to a settlement where it was required to publicly acknowledge that citizens not only have the right to record federal buildings from federal property, they are also allowed to record at “building entrances, lobbies, foyers, corridors, or auditoriums for new purposes.”
Sadly, the memo doesn’t appear to have ever reached the guards we’re paying to enforce the rules on federal property.
Especially guilty is a company called Paragon Systems, who detained two men last week after they stood in front of a federal building recording in Tucson.
The two guards were apparently very sure of themselves, especially the one who knew everything about Raymond Rodden, one of the men detained, thanks to an intelligence bulletin they had circulated about him after his arrest last year for photographing a federal courthouse in Phoenix.
But the guards were forced to release Rodden and his friend 25 minutes later after a call to the U.S. Attorney’s Office determined that the men had not broken any laws.
But other than Rodden filing a lawsuit, which would require an attorney to even take the case, will the guards even be held accountable?
The problem is systemetic with Paragon, which has received more than $300 million in federal contracts since 2008, because two days earlier, another security guard harassed Rodden for photographing a Homeland Security car which was parked in front of a federal building in an area that was open to the public.
The guard kept drilling him about why would he even want to photograph the car, which is none of her business, before telling him he could only take photos from across the street, which is city property.
But that is a lie.
Rodden went home and did more research, just to be sure the law was on his side, before returning two days later with a friend.
They started recording the entrance to a federal building, but were told that it was illegal. Then one of the guards started spewing all kinds of personal information about Rodden, proving that he had done his homework on the 34-year-old man who has become a photo activist since his arrest, especially considering a cop snatched his camera moments after his case was dismissed from last year’s arrest.
So clearly the guard has the ability to retain information, so why hasn’t anybody insisted he understand the law about photography and federal buildings?
In Florida, Jeff Gray has had the same issue with Paragon Systems security guards, who insist that taking photos on federal property is illegal, so there seems to be a lack of training in this regard.
But with all the money we’re paying them, why should we allow them to make up their own laws as they go along?
Paragon Systems can be reached at (703) 263-7176.