NEW YORK -- The Blade, a newspaper based in Toledo, Ohio, may file a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Army after two journalists were detained Friday for photographing the exterior of a tank plant that’s visible from the street.
Dave Murray, managing editor of The Blade, told The Huffington Post “it’s pretty outrageous to us that our journalists would be treated this way.”
Murray said The Blade, one of the nation's oldest newspapers, is considering suing over violations of the journalists’ civil rights.
The Blade reported Tuesday night that the newspaper, along with reporter Tyrel Linkhorn and photographer Jetta Fraser, had already filed complaints with the FBI related to the incident four days earlier.
On Friday, the two journalists traveled an hour and a half to Lima, Ohio, to cover a Ford news conference and take photographs of local businesses to have on file for future news stories. The pair was stopped by military police after taking photographs in the driveway entrance of the General Dynamics tank plant.
Despite identifying themselves as journalists and providing documentation, the police handcuffed Fraser and seized her cameras, which were later returned with photographs missing.
Murray said his staff believes at least 38 photographs were deleted. While in the Lima area, he said, the pair had also planned on photographing a hospital, oil refinery and new bakery.
Kelly Liberti, a special agent in the FBI’s Cleveland office, told HuffPost that the complaints filed Tuesday are being evaluated.
“My biggest concern is that we were doing something that I believe we were within our rights to be doing,” Linkhorn told The Blade, “not because we were journalists, but because we are U.S. citizens and we were simply taking photos from public property.”
The Blade noted in Tuesday’s story that everything Fraser “photographed at the tank plant is visible from Buckeye Road, and can be seen on the Internet on both Google Earth and Google Street View.” The journalists, the Blade reported, went to the plant’s driveway entrance, but “stayed outside the plant’s gate and did not pass an unmanned guard shack.”
The Army is not disputing that the plant is visible from the street, but contends that the driveway entrance is private property.
Don Jarosz, a deputy public affairs officer for the Army’s TACOM Life Cycle Management Command, said in a statement to HuffPost that Army police officers stopped the "two news professionals within the boundaries of the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) in Lima, Ohio.” The statement described the journalists as having “taken unauthorized photographs of the installation.”
“JSMC Lima is a restricted Department of Defense Government-owned, Contractor-operated facility that fabricates and assembles armored combat vehicles and equipment for U.S. and Foreign Military customers,” the Army statement reads. “According to Federal law and Army Regulations, it is unlawful to take any photograph without first obtaining permission of the commanding officer. Signage to this effect is visible and warns that any such material found in the possession of unauthorized personnel will be confiscated."
The Army's rationale is unlikely to sway journalists, some of whom expressed concerns Wednesday over the news that colleagues in Ohio were detained and that their photographs had been removed from their cameras.
New York Times reporter Matt Apuzzo called the military's move "outrageous" and Michael Scherer, the Washington bureau chief for Time magazine, tweeted that "the U.S. Army cannot do this, even though someone thought they could."