Posts Tagged ‘Robert W. Kastenmeier United State Courthouse’

Round and round we go…

September 16th, 2010

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.

Representative Baldwin letter February 12th 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.

DHS to Baldwin 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.

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Homeland Security knows my name.

September 16th, 2010

So a few things have happened since I wrote my last update on my experience at the Robert W. Kastenmeier Courthouse.

First, on December 4th I was interviewed live on the radio by Sly on Sly in the Morning 1670 WTDY-Madison.  You can hear the segment here.

I’d like to thank Dylan the Executive Producer of Sly in the Morning.  He converted the recording of my encounter with the guard into a WAV file and tweaked the volume so it’s easier to hear.  You can find it here.

I’ve also received a follow up letter from Representative Baldwin’s office.

GSA to Baldwin It seems that the GSA is not responsible for the security of federal courthouses, that task belongs to the Department of Homeland Security.  So Ralph Conner, Acting Associate Administrator of the GSA has forwarded my letter to Phillip McNamara, Executive Secretary of DHS.

GSA to Homeland Security And lastly I received a copy of a letter sent by Senator Russ Feingold to Chani Wiggins, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, who is also with the Department of Homeland Security.

Feingold to Homeland Security I particularly like the Senators letter for phrases such as “street view photographs” and a request for a “response detailing any restrictions on the photographing of federal buildings”.

One interesting piece of trivia I found when researching the Department of Homeland Security was this organizational chart.

Homeland-security-orgchart-2008-07-17 It appears that Mr. McNamara is only two steps away from the Secretary of Homeland Security, and Ms. Wiggins is only one step away.  Since the Secretary of Homeland Security reports directly to the President I can’t go much higher.

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“I’ll get a hold of Madison PD, they’ll come talk to you.”

October 15th, 2009

“I’ll get a hold of Madison PD, they’ll come talk to you.”

That’s a threat that I received from a security guard at the Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse in Madison, Wisconsin.  Here’s the story.

I rented a Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 APO G SSM lens to shoot a wedding on October 3rd.  This is the second time I rented this lens and I’ve taken thousands  of pictures with it but they’ve all been wedding pictures.  I wanted to try some other things with it and since I wasn’t able to find any models available I decided to go to downtown Madison.

I started my journey in front of the Madison Municipal building.  They were hosting an exhibit of photography from Chernobyl by Michael Forster Rothbart.

Afterwards I walked the two blocks north to the Wisconsin Capitol.  About the only attention I got was from this guy.

Squirrel on the Capitol Grounds

Squirrel on the Capitol Grounds

I entered the Capitol building through one of the public entrances.  There are at least 4, one on each end of the 4 wings, none of which are guarded or secured in anyway.  I say at least 4 because I think there are upper and lower entrances on the stairs between each of the four wings.  The first “official” person that I saw that day was one of the guides at the information desk in the Rotunda.  I was able to walk freely and photograph throughout almost all of the Capitol.

Liberty Mural

Liberty Mural, one of four murals just below the dome.

I didn’t go into any of the private offices but I was able to enter a small conference room.

Small conference room

Small conference room

And the North Hearing Room with it’s wonderful murals by Charles Yardley Turner.

Detail of Mural in the North Hearing Room

Detail of Mural in the North Hearing Room

After leaving the Capitol I walked down State Street.  Not seeing anything that interesting I turned towards the Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse.

Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse

Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse

Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse  Main entrance

Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse Main entrance

As you can see the Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse is a very visually interesting building.  First off, it’s blue.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a blue building.  Designed by architect Kenton Peters of Madison, it’s covered in blue metal, with red accents, some of which are neon.

So I started to photograph the building.  Some wider shots, some close ups, from all different sides.  On the west side of the building there’s a small alley between it and the City of Madison Overture center parking ramp.  (In the picture at that link, the blue line just above the head of the two gentleman is the back of the courthouse).

Courthouse on the left, parking ramp at right

Courthouse on the left, parking ramp at right

There are no fences, no signs, nothing limiting access to this area as being off limits.  I walked straight ahead in this picture and come out on the other side where I took this picture.

Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse - Rear

Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse - Rear

I turned a little to my right and snapped this picture

Wisconsin Capitol Dome

Wisconsin Capitol Dome

when I heard someone calling “Hey, Hey, Hey”.  A security guard was approaching me.  At this point I turned on the voice recorder in my iPhone.  Here’s a transcript of our conversation.

Guard:  Hey Hey
Guard:  Hi how you doing?
Me:  Pretty good
Guard:  What you shooting pictures of?
Me:  Whatever I want
Guard:  Well yeah I understand that.  For what?
Me:  Just ’cause I was out today
Guard:  Ok. What’s your name?
Me:  Why do you need to know?
Guard:  This is the federal courthouse, we like to know why you’re shooting pictures around it.
Me:  There’s…
Guard, interuppting me:  Relax man, no one, no ones in trouble.  We just, we like to know.
Me:  There’s no law that says I can’t take pictures.
Guard: No there’s not.
Me:  So, what’s your deal?
Guard:  I want to know why you were taking pictures and what you were taking pictures of is all.  That’s it.
Me:  Well.  (I shrug, looking at him)
G:  Okay, have a nice day.
Guard walks away, I shoot a picture.  He turns around.
G:  But you won’t take one of the building.
M:  What was that?
G:  Don’t take one of the building.
M:  Why not?
G:  Because…..security procedures.
M:  What security procedures?  There’s no law that says I can’t take pictures.
G:  I’ll get ahold of Madison PD they’ll come and talk to you.
Guard walks away.  I stick around shooting pictures of the building for another ten mintues, no police ever show up.

Guard:  Hey Hey

Guard:  Hi how you doing?

Me:  Pretty good

Guard:  What you shooting pictures of?

Me:  Whatever I want

Guard:  Well yeah I understand that.  For what?

Me:  Just ’cause I was out today

Guard:  Ok. What’s your name?

Me:  Why do you need to know?

Guard:  This is the federal courthouse, we like to know why you’re shooting pictures around it.

Me:  There’s…

Guard, interuppting me:  Relax man, no one, no ones in trouble.  We just, we like to know.

Me:  There’s no law that says I can’t take pictures.

Guard: No there’s not.

Me:  So, what’s your deal?

Guard:  I want to know why you were taking pictures and what you were taking pictures of is all.  That’s it.

Me:  Well.  (I shrug, looking at him)

G:  Okay, have a nice day.

Guard walks away, I shoot this picture.

Robert W. Kastenmeier United State Courthouse

Robert W. Kastenmeier United State Courthouse

He turns around.

Guard:  But you won’t take one of the building.

Me:  What was that?

Guard:  Don’t take one of the building.

Me:  Why not?

Guard:  Because…..security procedures.

Me:  What security procedures?  There’s no law that says I can’t take pictures.

Guard:  I’ll get ahold of Madison PD they’ll come and talk to you.

The Guard then walks back towards the building.  At this point I’m not sure if I’m standing on Federal or City propery so I walk to the sidewalk but continue to take picture.

Robert W. Kastenmeier United State Courthouse

Robert W. Kastenmeier United State Courthouse

Robert W. Kastenmeier United State Courthouse

Robert W. Kastenmeier United State Courthouse

I stick around shooting pictures of the building for another ten mintues, no police ever show up.  On the way back to my vehicle I spot this outside the Central Library.

On the sidewalk outside the Cental Library, Downtown Madison

On the sidewalk outside the Cental Library, Downtown Madison

Lets just hope that someday the federal government will learn to trust it’s citizens.

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