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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Legality of Shooting A Military Base/School
Nic Coury, Photographer
Monterey | CA | | Posted: 12:58 AM on 04.03.13
->> I was detained today while taking photos of a military school in town for a story we're putting together on the school.

I was on public property the entire time—the city sidewalk—and the places I was photographing could be seen by any passer-by, etc. I was shooting photos of the main gate where cars and military personnel enter and exit the campus after they check in with a gate guard, who I think it an MP.

I was asked by the gate guard to follow him and was told to sit in the guard house while the guard called his supervisor and I asked why I was being held, to which his answer was, It's "very illegal" to shoot photos of the school. It's a national security issue."

I explained my position of shooting from a very public place and asked if everyone who shot a photo of the school was detained and he said yes.

I was eventually let go after they determined I wasn't a threat and my editor called they school's PR folks whom we have been working with for a few weeks on the story and they confirmed who I said I was and what my press ID and driver's license said I was.

All in all, it was like 30 minutes of my time.

~

I'm curious on the legality of their claims that it's "very illegal" to photo a military base/school, even from a totally public place.

Thanks,

~ Nic
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Victor Biro, Photographer
Toronto | ON | Canada | Posted: 1:39 AM on 04.03.13
->> Just curious, was it an actual U.S. Military facility, or just a school that has a military-centric curriculum and style?
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Nic Coury, Photographer
Monterey | CA | | Posted: 1:52 AM on 04.03.13
->> It was the Naval Postgraduate School. So yes, a real school that is U.S. Military.
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Kent Nishimura, Student/Intern, Photographer
Honolulu | HI | USA | Posted: 6:50 AM on 04.03.13
->> Nic, are you a NPPA member? send Mickey Osterreicher an email.
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Brian Blanco, Photographer
Tampa / Sarasota | FL | USA | Posted: 8:49 AM on 04.03.13
->> Nic,

He's mistaken. Absent any criminal intent, there's nothing illegal about standing in a place at a time where you're legally authorized to be and photographing the gate to a military property. There are VERY FEW exceptions to this and those fall under 18 USC 795 and are beyond rare (POTUS has to designate it) and suffice it to say those designated properties cannot be seen from a public sidewalk.

Now, that being said; you can, and should, expected to be approached and questioned but it is not, as the M.P. (or D.O.D. police officer) told you, "very illegal"... or even slightly illegal.

Of course I'm not a lawyer and, as Kent has suggested, a quick email to Mickey is always a good idea, but I am a former law enforcement training officer for the Defense Department where my duties were to train and evaluate military and Federal police officers and instruct them on State, Federal and Military laws (UCMJ) and unless there's a local city or county ordinance against "blocking the sidewalk", it sounds like you were in the right.

Of course, the gate stander was likely well-intentioned in approaching you and asking your intentions and identifying you provided that he did not detain you against your will or by using any force. I do feel confident in saying that you're fine and knowing you I'm certain you handled it professionally.... unless of course you were riding that silly red miniature bike of yours... in which case, I'd have stopped you and shaken you down too.

-Blanco
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Patrick Fallon, Photographer, Assistant
Torrance | California | USA | Posted: 12:42 PM on 04.03.13
->> Maybe use the word "photography" instead of "shooting" when in regards to activity at military locations, also...
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Philip Johnson, Photographer
Garland | TX | USA | Posted: 3:07 PM on 04.03.13
->> Nic,

It sounds like you need to work closer with the Public Affairs Office and let them know several days in advance, what day and time you will be there and where you will be. Then they can let the appropriate people know so when they ask you about what you’re doing they will know about it. Even better would be to meet with someone from the Public Affairs Office and have them as a guide even for areas you think are public property.
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Jeff Brehm, Photographer, Photo Editor
Salisbury | NC | USA | Posted: 5:34 PM on 04.03.13
->> Wait a minute. I have a problem with the whole track this seems to be following. Why is this being accepted with a shrug? Nic is a citizen, standing in a public place, on public property, taking photos of nothing more than can be seen with the naked eye by any passerby. It doesn't matter what the facility is, or what his purpose was. He was behaving in perfectly legal fashion and he was unlawfully detained by someone who had no authority to do so.

I realize that this happens all too often these days, and some overzealousness on the part of security is understandable in light of the way the world is today. And from a practical standpoint, it probably will save photographers some headaches if they do let someone on the other side of the fence know what they're up to. But in my opinion, not making at least some fuss is equally wrong. It just makes it more likely it will happen again, and perhaps the next time the MP will feel more empowered to overstep his bounds.

I feel like I need to close with some good quote from history, like "Liberty, once lost, is lost forever." "Give me photography or give me death!" Or "Damn the harsh backlighting -- full shutter speed ahead!"
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Nic Coury, Photographer
Monterey | CA | | Posted: 6:09 PM on 04.03.13
->> Update is that I checked with the public affairs office and the Executive Director of Institute Planning and Communication informed me that I have all the right in the U.S. to photograph the gates and the fence and anything of the school from a public place without needing permission from any authority.

First amendment rights for the win.
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Steve Ueckert, Photographer
Houston | TX | | Posted: 8:09 PM on 04.03.13
->> http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/27/see-officer-i-can-too-take-that-pi.../

--------
http://www.nyclu.org/news/nyclu-settlement-ends-restriction-photography-out...

--------

Last graph from the second link:

“Not only will this settlement end harassment of photographers outside federal courthouses, it will free people to photograph and film outside of all federal buildings,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, lead counsel in the case. “The regulation at issue in this case applies to all federal buildings, not only courthouses, so this settlement should extend to photography near all federal buildings nationwide.
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Jeff Stanton, Photographer
Atlanta | Ga | USA | Posted: 8:10 PM on 04.03.13
->> Make sure your editor, perhaps even publisher, passes that information along to the people at the school, Nic.
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Mark Loundy, Photo Editor, Photographer
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 11:19 PM on 04.03.13
->> Why did you go with the MP if you weren't on the base property? He has no authority over civilians. He could affect a citizen's arrest, but he could not use force to do so unless it was to prevent imminent harm to somebody.

The Naval Postgraduate School might be a very prestigious institution, but it's hardly a national security installation.

Tell Mickey Osterreicher and also tell Carlos Miller at
http://www.photographyisnotacrime.com/

--Mark
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Mark Kauzlarich, Photographer
Washington | DC | | Posted: 12:46 AM on 04.04.13
->> Personally I would leave Carlos Miller out of this. Mickey would be a good call, but Carlos, despite never really being wrong, tends to be more confrontational and sensational for the sake of being confrontational and sensational sometimes, and I don't think thats needed.

I would say though that this not something you "shrug" off either. You shouldn't have gone with him, but its possible that you were lead to believe you were detained, and were detained illegally. That could be of great legal concern.

MPs, as was said before, had no right to tell you anything, let alone "detain" you or tell you to go somewhere. This is concerning to hear. The fact that they would take issue with photos is not surprising, but having you sit down inside one of their facilities, is.

At the very least this is a big learning opportunity for everyone involved, especially the person who confronted you, and he should be held accountable.
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Brian Blanco, Photographer
Tampa / Sarasota | FL | USA | Posted: 2:52 AM on 04.04.13
->> Mark L. and Mark K.,

Let me say, again, for the record that, based on Nic's very brief account of the incident (and the fact that I trust Nic) I DO NOT agree with what this officer told him and I DO NOT agree with this officer's detention of Nic.

If this detention, albeit brief, was against Nic's will or if it were brought about through intimidation or the misrepresentation of an invented violation then I can see where a reasonable man, in Nic's shoes, would not have felt that he were free to leave... which is essentially an arrest. It should NOT have happened. Period.

Now, having said that, I'm not sure I'd be so quick to fault Nic for having complied with the officer's request or demand. Again, I'm not an attorney but I am familiar with complicated laws regarding military properties and I'm not sure it's as black and white as you guys appear to believe it is.

Yes, Nic did nothing wrong, we all agree on that, but saying that an MP (if that's what this officer indeed was) "has no authority over civilians" and "had no right to tell you anything" well, I think it's actually MUCH more complicated than that and you might find yourself surprised at what authority MPs and DOD police officers have in, around and even off their properties... even with regard to civilians.

First, we don't know if this was a military member M.P. or a civilian federal police officer working on the property. To know whether or not this person actually had any jurisdiction to stop Nic (IF Nic had done something wrong) we'd have to know who this officer was and how he derives his authority, and with the military this is BEYOND a complicated issue. Some federal police officers have nationwide arrest powers while some simply derive their power from the base commander and their "jurisdiction" is limited to the confines of the property (actually it extends slightly outside the gates to be honest).

Either way, again, we all stipulate that they likely had ZERO probable cause for an "arrest" or "involuntary detainment" (which is essentially an arrest in most cases) but the officer, whether civilian or military, certainly can REQUEST information from Nic and can ASK him to come with him at which point they should honor Nic's refusal to comply with that request and leave him alone. That being said, I don't believe it's accurate to lead readers of this archived forum to believe that an MP or a DOD police officer is powerless outside of their property or when it comes to civilians.

Respectfully,

-Blanco
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Brian Blanco, Photographer
Tampa / Sarasota | FL | USA | Posted: 9:01 AM on 04.04.13
->> Oh, and just for clarification, I just noticed we're talking about Navy property so he'd likely be an MA rather than MP (same thing essentially), or he could be ASF (Aux. Security Force) or he still could be D.O.D. or a Dept. of the Navy police officer... see what I mean... clear as mud.
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David Hungate, Photographer
Roanoke | VA | United States | Posted: 9:34 AM on 04.04.13
->> Not knowing if it was DoD, ASF or an MP or MA makes this whole thing FU. Good thing no one went MIA or they'd bring out the M-16's and and call NCIS (which is on CBS) and soon the NRA would be involved. NORAD would launch the ICBM's and NATO would have no choice to offer support.

In the end, peace reigns and there would be a wonderful homecoming. And guess what band would play at the fundraising concert on HBO? You guessed it.....

AC/DC!
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Matthew Bush, Photographer, Photo Editor
Hattiesburg | MS | USA | Posted: 10:13 AM on 04.04.13
->> Nic were the gate guards actual MP's or were they contractors. At Shelby they are contractors and are not military personel. This could explane they ignorance of the law. Were they wearing ACU's with an armband or a polo ?

If it was truly an MP It's odd that they came off post to come talk to you. Most of the time if its past the gate it is not their problem.
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Victor Biro, Photographer
Toronto | ON | Canada | Posted: 10:47 AM on 04.04.13
->> What mountain do you want to die on?

It sounds like Nic was working well with the base commander and their public affairs team, and they seem to 'get it'. They seem to understand that Nic was well within his rights to take pictures of the the base from a public location, and in fact had authorised those pictures.

What seems to have happened is an over-zealous, and ignorant, MP/MA/Security Guard or contractor has done something stupid.

What is the desired outcome of contacting the NPPA or - God forbid - Carlos Miller? To generate awareness with the commanders of the base? Well it sounds like they already get it, and have probably communicated it to the necessary group. If not, maybe Nic would be more effective by directly requesting that the base commander and the public affairs officer make that clear to the relevant groups.

Given the existing relationship, and that the commanders are aware of Nic's right to take photos, the only thing that could come from escalation to the NPPA lawyers is the public humiliation of people that are already on Nic's side.
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Nic Coury, Photographer
Monterey | CA | | Posted: 12:08 PM on 04.04.13
->> Thanks for the comments everyone.

I imagine it was an uninformed gate guard sort of thing. I'm not sure what his title is MP/MA/whathaveyou, but he said students leaving the campus saw a person taking photos and they reported it, which makes sense.

I probably do look suspicious, which my long, twirly mustache and all...

I probably should have resisted more initially, but I'm not one to make a scene, especially when it may hurt our relationships with a public affairs office we've been working with to build good contacts, etc at.

I'm good, but learned that next time I can state my rights to photograph.
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Jeff Brehm, Photographer, Photo Editor
Salisbury | NC | USA | Posted: 4:39 PM on 04.04.13
->> For the record, my indignation is not with Nic. He was more civil and patient than I would have been. It was with the tone of resignation to this kind of behavior by authorities that had crept into the thread.

On the other hand, Nic does kinda look like Snidely Whiplash.
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Bradly J. Boner, Photographer, Photo Editor
Jackson | WY | USA | Posted: 4:59 PM on 04.04.13
->> I disagree with Philip J.'s comment that Nic "should work closer with the Public Affairs Office and let them know several days in advance." One should not have to notify anyone several days in advance to photograph on public property.

Regardless, it sounds like Nic's been working with the institution's Public Affairs department, and it sounds like they're on Nic's side. That being said, there's an obvious disconnect between Public Affairs and the goons at the front gate. It's commendable that Public Affairs has admitted the goons wrongdoing, however Nic's publication should press Public Affairs for details on how they plan on making sure something like this doesn't happen in the future.
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Nic Coury, Photographer
Monterey | CA | | Posted: 8:57 PM on 04.04.13
->> Ok, I was detained a second time today with threats of arrest and confiscating my camera.

Sorry for the cliffhanger, I have to run to another assignment right now. I'll update everyone later tonight. it's good stuff.
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Ting Shen, Student/Intern, Photographer
Chicago | IL | U.S. | Posted: 10:26 PM on 04.04.13
->> lets see how this goes down. going to go get the popcorn!
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Nic Coury, Photographer
Monterey | CA | | Posted: 2:01 PM on 04.05.13
->> So there's this too:

http://www.photographyisnotacrime.com/2013/04/04/california-photojournalist.../
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Dan Megna, Photographer
Coronado | CA | USA | Posted: 4:22 PM on 04.05.13
->> Perhaps their paranoia and inappropriate response to the sight of a camera may be in part rooted here...

http://www.cnic.navy.mil/Monterey/OperationsAndManagement/ForceProtection/C...
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Victor Biro, Photographer
Toronto | ON | Canada | Posted: 5:17 PM on 04.05.13
->> Dan, I think you nailed it:

"It is a crime under 18 USC 795 to photograph defense installations without first obtaining the permission of the commanding officer of the military installation. It is also a crime under 18 USC 797 to reproduce, publish, sell or give away any photograph, picture or graphic representation of a defense installation without first obtaining the permission of the commanding officer of the military installation. Finally, 18 USC 1382 makes it a crime to enter a military installation for any purpose prohibited by law or lawful regulation."

18 USC 795 (
http://law.onecle.com/uscode/18/795.html) is pretty explicit, but it sounds like it refers to photographing and mapping the interior of a base, or at least that sounds like the intent.

I am curious if there are any legal precedent on the application of 18 USC 795
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Nic Coury, Photographer
Monterey | CA | | Posted: 5:23 PM on 04.05.13
->> @Victor and Dan

From oncele:

"the President defines certain vital military and naval installations or equipment as requiring protection against the general dissemination of information relative thereto, it shall be unlawful to.."

is quite different from:

"It is a crime under 18 USC 795..."

I asked the commanding officer to send me the law in writing they have. There website isn't specific enough. He's sending it next week.
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Mark Peters, Photographer
Highland | IL | USA | Posted: 6:24 PM on 04.05.13
->> So what's the story on part 2?
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Dan Megna, Photographer
Coronado | CA | USA | Posted: 6:35 PM on 04.05.13
->> Nic- I'm in complete alignment with your thinking and interpretation. Those charged with enforcing many of these laws, military and civil, have vague (at best) understanding and guidance as to their latitude and boundaries when initiating an enforcement action.

Those of us who work with cameras have become targeted as some sort of "threat" to all sorts of businesses and installations. But the fact remains, in almost every instance of photographer vs cop, it's usually the cop that is overstepping his authority, and often, their enforcement actions are themselves illegal. Often however, a shooter who might be perfectly in the right can (and often do) "step on it" by being disrespectful or down right stupid when contacted by law enforcement. I can't defend that....

I should also point out I recently retired after nearly thirty years as a cop with a major SoCal law enforcement agency, so I'm not a cop hater. But if I'm in the right, I do expect fair and responsible treatment if cops contact me. I simply and politely ask for a legitimate explanation for their contact with me. So far I've managed to dodge any unfortunate BS but I know I also may be tempting fate.
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Nic Coury, Photographer
Monterey | CA | | Posted: 7:10 PM on 04.05.13
->> @Mark, it's coming, I'm just trying to iron out all the details. It's been a busy day with phone calls and emails on this whole thing aside from a regular work day...
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Victor Biro, Photographer
Toronto | ON | Canada | Posted: 9:39 PM on 04.05.13
->> Nic,

I think Dan would agree that laws as written can have little resemblance to how they are enforced at the street level, and how they are judged in a court.

Judicial opinions and precedents are going to be more help than a printout of 18 USC 795 or whatever piece of legislation the security staff *think* they are enforcing.

The problem is that when a cop with a fuzzy understanding of a law makes a decision on how he wants to treat you, all bets are off: he is going to do what he wants to control you.

What this results in is him originally arresting you for 18 USC 795 and then dropping that in favour of charging you with resisting arrest, assault police, and/or obstruction of justice.

This is my problem with Carlos Miller's approach: he may be completely correct about the legality of what he is doing, but how he chooses to do it, and how he reacts when confronted, results in trouble. He may be right, but he still ends up in jail,and with cuts, bruises and a ton of legal bills.

All working photojournalists will have run-ins with cops. With some cops it doesn't take much:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGMTm3QRwEc
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Brian Blanco, Photographer
Tampa / Sarasota | FL | USA | Posted: 10:49 PM on 04.05.13
->> Nic,

As much as we're all eager to know what happened, it sounds like your editor has retained legal counsel for the situation so don't feel obligated to update here if it's going to make his/her job more difficult man.

-Blanco

PS> Nic, you really are an asset to your community man. Seriously, your dedication to local community journalism is inspiring and I wished you worked for my local paper.
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Bradly J. Boner, Photographer, Photo Editor
Jackson | WY | USA | Posted: 1:19 AM on 04.06.13
->> Victor - Carlos Miller's approach is not the problem. The problem is that there are many who are charged with upholding the law who don't even know what the law is. If those charged with upholding the law would have clear knowledge of the law, Carlos Miller would not need an "approach."

While I might not handle every situation like Carlos Miller does, I'm glad there are Carlos Millers in the world to bring attention to cases where those charged with upholding the law are completely ignorant of the laws they are charged with upholding.
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Nic Coury, Photographer
Monterey | CA | | Posted: 2:23 PM on 04.06.13
->> Nah, I'll update everyone on here after it's all said and done next week. I figure it's a good learning experience for both journalists and the military folks over there.

I haven't done anything illegal as of now, so I can share.

The legal counsel was more for advice on the situation more than anything.

I haven't been arrested and none of my equipment has been damaged yet, and I'm still waking up every day and going to work, so that's all I can ask for. I prefer to handle thing professionally and not escalate situations if they can be handled in a civiled manner.

More later.

Also, Blanco is the man. A huge mentor and good shooter.

Have a nice weekend everyone.
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Ting Shen, Student/Intern, Photographer
Chicago | IL | U.S. | Posted: 3:24 PM on 04.06.13
->> for some reason that link for photographyisnotacrime.com is not working for me...
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Scott Mapes, Photographer
Jackson | MI | USA | Posted: 5:49 PM on 04.06.13
->> @ Ting Shen...Use google chrome, IE wouldnt work for me either, chrome worked.
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Bradly J. Boner, Photographer, Photo Editor
Jackson | WY | USA | Posted: 8:01 PM on 04.06.13
->> Ting - Go to YouTube and search for Carlos Miller or Photography is Not a Crime. Many of his videos are up there.
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G.J. McCarthy, Photographer
Dallas | TX | US | Posted: 8:47 PM on 04.06.13
->> The best part about this thread was the reference to Carlos Miller and his website, neither of which, I'm afraid, I'd ever heard of before.

I'm going to buy a whole shit ton of those "Photography Is Not a Crime" t-shirts and hoodies and wear them to ALL my assignments, especially the more non sequitur ones like business portraits, centenarian birthdays at retirement homes, and of course, any wedding I shoot.

Just because ...
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Bradly J. Boner, Photographer, Photo Editor
Jackson | WY | USA | Posted: 9:07 PM on 04.06.13
->> G.J. - There is another dude, Jeff Costlow, who pushes the boundaries like Carlos does, albeit a little less articulately. Go to YouTube and search for "Jeff Costlow photographer" and you'll find a bunch of videos where he's questioned by various Washington D.C. security officials.
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Thread Title: Legality of Shooting A Military Base/School
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