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Anyone with a camera should carry this document

  • Uploaded by Jordee on Aug 20, 2012
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SOURCE: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/27/see-officer-i-can-too-take-that...
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The public has the right to take pictures of public buildings from public spaces.
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In an ideal world, there wouldn’t be anything exceptional about this statement. But nothing has been ideal for photographers since 9/11. The mere invocation of “security” seems to trump every other consideration, including logic and the law.
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That’s why the New York Civil Liberties Union was so pleased with the settlement it reached in October with the Federal Protective Service of the Department of Homeland Security. (“You Can Photograph That Federal Building,” Oct. 18, 2010.) In the settlement, the agency pledged to inform its officers of the public’s general right to photograph the exteriors of federal courthouses.
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Now, the civil liberties group has received a redacted version of the directive that was sent out last year. Significantly, it embraces federal buildings — not just courthouses — nationwide.
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You might want to print out this version and tuck it in your camera bag in case you’re challenged in the future.
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“Given the many reports of harassment, we encourage photographers to carry this directive with them, particularly if they intend to take pictures where they’ve had problems in the past,” said Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the N.Y.C.L.U.
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The three-page bulletin reminds officers, agents and employees that, “absent reasonable suspicion or probable cause,” they “must allow individuals to photograph the exterior of federally owned or leased facilities from publicly accessible spaces” like streets, sidewalks, parks and plazas. Even when there seems to be reason to intercede and conduct a “field interview,” the directive says:
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Officers should not seize the camera or its contents, and must be cautious not to give such ‘orders’ to a photographer to erase the contents of a camera, as this constitutes a seizure or detention.
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The bulletin was actually issued last August, before the settlement was formally reached, evidently in anticipation of the final terms. But a copy of it did not make its way into Mr. Dunn’s hands until last week. He was still happy to receive it.
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“This directive is important,” he said, “not only because it recognizes that the public is entitled to photograph federal buildings from outdoor public places but also because it orders federal officers across the country not to interfere with that photography.”
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About the document itself, Mr. Dunn explained that any language overruled with red strike-through was effectively negated. Note, for instance, that the distribution ban — “At no time is any of this information to be provided to the general public or any individual or organization associated with a media affiliate” — has been stricken.
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On the other hand, several sentences and sections have been obscured by the government. Mr. Dunn said he did not know what was under the white redaction patches.



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