Despite last year’s settlement that ensured that photography of federal buildings is legal, many federal officers are still not getting the message.

Ethan Klosterman is the latest photographer to get detained and threatened with imprisonment for photographing a federal courthouse.

On June 12, Klosterman was with his father when he snapped a photo of the federal courthouse in Dayton, Ohio.

Within 20 seconds, Federal Protective Service Officer Willard Hall (badge no. 863) told him it was illegal to photograph the courthouse under “UC-18 Code of Justice.”

Hall told Klosterman that it was to protect the courthouses from terrorists and yada yada yada.

The entire exchange was recorded by Klosterman’s father, which can be heard in the above Youtube video.

Hall demanded his identification – even though he had no right to do so – then proceeded to radio in his information.

Hall then allowed him to go on his way.

But Klosterman knew he had not been breaking the law, so he snapped another photo of the courthouse.

This is how we explains it on Flickr.

Knowing the possibility of having a FPS agent approach me again and stop me from photographing, I pulled up the NYCLU’s case from 2010 on my iPhone that affirmed photographers’ rights. I proceeded to walk towards the building, snapping pictures along the way. Within five minutes of snapping away, Office Hall came out of the building. He told me to turn around and put my hands behind my back. I complied and set my camera and bag down and put my hands behind my back as he got out his handcuffs.


Officer Hall radioed and the unidentified man asked if I was “still photographing the facility.” Officer Hall asked if he should “detain me or put me off the property.” The man on the other end of the radio said it was not his call and told Officer Hall to standby.

I politely asked if I could show him the Dept. of Homeland Security directive concerning photographing federal buildings. He said I couldn’t show him anything. While waiting on the man on the other end of the radio, he told me that federal time is a lot different than city. He informed me I may sit for 6 or 7 hours before someone even gets out here to process me. “It’s not a game, man. They don’t play.”

“Do not remove the subject from the property, nor detain him,” came over the radio. Officer Hall had a stunned look on his face. He told me the Dayton Police Department was on its way and that I could wait or go. I asked if I was free and he said yes. He said it’s one thing to be on the sidewalk, but another thing to be on federal property.

Klosterman has since filed a formal complaint to the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security.