Unauthorized pictures can cause trouble

1st Lt. James Gerrond
568th Security Forces Squadron

***image1***An Airman is handcuffed face down on the pavement and surrounded by heavily armed individuals. In Security Forces, this is what we like to call a Kodak Moment. Ironically, it might have been your Kodak that got you into all of this trouble.
Although most people know that photography is controlled in several locations throughout the KMC, what many don’t realize is that taking pictures with a camera isn’t the only way to end up in handcuffs.
Security Forces remind residents that any manner of documenting, recording or photographing the following areas is forbidden:
• Any area associated with munitions operations and movements
• All runways and taxiways
• Aircraft hangars, maintenance and testing areas
• Any aircraft for which specific approval has not been given
The best rule of thumb is that unless photographers receive clearance from public affairs or the responsible organization and are being escorted, they should never take pictures of the flightline, surrounding area or any aircraft. If authorized to take pictures of any flightline locations you will be given a photography authorization letter.
It’s not only the areas around the flightline that will bring unwanted attention. Many people want to take pictures of Ramstein to send to friends and family back in the states.
One of the first things that people see and consequently want to take pictures of is the security forces (or German Bundeswehr) entry control points and vehicle inspection points.
“This is another bad idea. Security personnel are constantly on the lookout for terrorist or intelligence surveillance,” said 1st Lt. Sascha Archie, flight commander with the 568th Security Forces Squadron.
Surveillance can consist of photography, note taking, drawing diagrams, annotating maps or using binoculars or any other type of observation equipment.
According to Capt. Garrett Truskett, 435th Air Base Wing anti-terrorism program manager, “Terrorists conduct surveillance to determine a target’s suitability for attack by assessing the capabilities of existing security systems and discerning weaknesses for potential exploitation.”
Obviously, this is a matter of great concern for the men and women performing entry control duties. It is impossible for them to discern between individuals innocently snapping a few photos and terrorists gathering intelligence for future attacks.
Even photographs taken for “innocent” purposes could result in tragic ends if they found their way into the wrong hands. This typically happens when well-meaning individuals post pictures of their homestations and deployed locations on public Web sites.
Digital photos, especially those taken by combined camera and cell phones pose an even greater challenge than “film” cameras. This is due to the ability of these photos to be distributed at near-instantaneous speed to an infinite number of locations. Cell phone cameras can also be utilized in a highly covert manner without arousing suspicion of the general public or security personnel.
Anyone caught taking unauthorized photographs will be immediately detained by security forces. The camera will be seized and the photographs will be either destroyed or erased. The photographer will be charged with unauthorized photography, processed and then released to a first sergeant or commander.
Depending on the nature of the photographs and circumstances surrounding the incident, the Office of Special Investigations may conduct a more in-depth investigation of the incident.