So it’s been a few months since the last update on my Robert W. Kastenmeier courthouse experience. After not hearing from anyone for about 6 weeks, on February 10th, 2010 I called the offices of Representative Baldwin and Senator Feingold. Two days later I received a letter with a number of pages from Representative Baldwin. Click the picture to read it full size.
In it she recaps what has happened so far and then says that her office received a reply letter from the Department of Homeland Security on January 6th. Would have been nice if they would have forwarded it to me when it was received.
Apparently the Federal Protective Service, part of DHS, provides security at the vast majority of US courthouses but not Kastenmeier, which is protected by the US Marshall service. The current U.S. Marshal told an aide to Representative Baldwin that he considered the case closed because of Judge Crabb’s letter (page 1, page 2) from November 5th. It should be noted the the Marshal the aide spoke to is Mr. Steven Fitzgerald, who is different than the one interviewed by Bill Leuders for his Isthmus article.
The letter to Representative Baldwin from DHS is below, click to see it bigger.
First, the letter reveals that the Federal Protective Service has “no record or contact with Mr. Zytkiewicz". Well, that’s good because I never gave anyone my name, they’d only know it from the letters.
It goes on to say that while FPS provides security for 800 courthouses, the Robert W. Kastenmeier courthouse is one of seven pilot facilities where security is provided by the U.S. Marshal service. Well, isn’t that interesting. How many parts of our government don’t know what the hell is going on with other parts of the government? First it was GSA, then it was DHS, now it’s the U.S. Marshal service with is under the Department of Justice.
The letter then goes on for almost a paragraph about the often repeated lie that terrorist use photography.
“Therefore, as a precautionary measure, FPS personnel may approach individuals photographing Federal buildings in an attempt to ascertain their reasons for photographing the facility, so as to protect against security compromises.”
This is just so ludicrous. Much better writers than I have written pages and pages about why idea’s like this don’t work. Just a few days ago Stephen Haynes wrote a wonderful piece about Security Theater.
Now the last sentence of the paragraph is very interesting. It may even be useful to photographers to print out this letter and carry it with them.
“Unless there is a reasonable belief that criminal or terrorist reconnaissance activity is involved, FPS guidelines regarding this issue prohibit FPS personnel from taking any enforcement action, including detaining persons or seizing cameras or film.”
Now, I’m not a lawyer, and have no legal training. But I do know that reasonable belief, and reasonable suspicion are closely related. Meaning that FPS personnel and law enforcement officers must have specific evidence that would lead a reasonable person to believe that you have committed, are committing, or about to commit a crime. I highly doubt that taking pictures of a public building, standing on public property, making no attempt to conceal your actions would lead anyone to believe you are a criminal.
So now I guess I write some letters to the Mr. Fitzgerald, the U.S. Marshals service, and Attorney General Eric Holder.