Federal officials in Denver are suggesting that people who want to take photographs of the federal courthouse obtain a government permit before snapping away, the Rocky Mountain News reports. Legal experts say requiring a permit would violate the First Amendment.
Permits aren’t required but are offered as a convenience, says an official. “It’s not a Big Brother thing,” said Tim Horne of the U.S. General Services Administration. “We can’t stop you from walking up and snapping a picture of the building.” Getting a permit “allows us to manage what’s going on out there.”
The News asked about the rules after federal officers told several journalists that they couldn’t take pictures in some locations around the downtown Denver federal courthouse complex, or that they needed permits to take them. A television reporter said he was told that he couldn’t stand on the steps outside the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit and speak into a camera about what was going on inside.
First Amendment attorney and University of Minnesota professor Jane Kirtley said that government officials have overreacted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “This is a security concern, I think, that has run amuck,” she said. “To restrict what photographs you take from a public place – I can’t see what possible legal basis there could be for this.”