If you drive down Buckeye Road at the southern edge of Lima, Ohio, you’ll pass an industrial complex where General Dynamics makes armored vehicles for the U.S. military. But if you stop and take a photograph, you just might find yourself detained by military police, have your camera confiscated and your digital photos deleted. Which is exactly what happened to two staffers for the Toledo Blade newspaper on Friday, in an unacceptable violation of the 1st Amendment and common sense.
According to the Blade, staff writer Tyrel Linkhorn and photographer Jetta Fraser had just covered a news event at another Lima-area factory and decided to take photos of other businesses for future use, a common media practice. Linkhorn, who was driving, pulled into a circular driveway at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center — also known as the Lima Army Tank Plant — and stopped short of an unmanned security booth. Fraser took her photos, and as they were preparing to leave they were approached by military police. The staffers, who were wearing credentials from their newspaper, identified themselves as journalists. Fraser, who was in the passenger seat, refused a request for her driver’s license because she wasn’t driving; she was subsequently handcuffed and removed from the car. After more than an hour, the two were allowed to leave — but without Fraser’s cameras. When the equipment was finally retrieved seven hours later, the photos of the tank plant, and of another location, had been deleted.