The New York Times’ Lens Blog is reporting that the Department of Homeland Security has recently issued a directive reminding its officers “of the public’s general right to photograph the exteriors” of federal buildings:
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:
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.
As an avid photographer, this warms my heart. I remember attempting to photograph the Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower) in downtown Chicago a few years after 9/11 during an architectural photoshoot of the loop and being chased away by security guards who claimed I could not take pictures from the public sidewalks. Personally, I haven’t run into too much opposition since then, but it will be nice to have documentation of my photographic rights on my person when I’m out shooting photos.