SAN ONOFRE, Calif. - An incident involving Team 10 has the National Press Photographers Association demanding an apology from the California State Parks Commission and the owners of the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant.
In late April, Team 10 was working on a series of stories involving the nuclear facility and its management. Team 10 was shooting video of the facility from a public state beach when police and San Onofre staff demanded the video be deleted before Team 10 be allowed to leave the public park.
"If you go ahead and film you're going to get a citation," a state parks employee who identified himself as Bob Warman said.
Warman claimed the video was being taken from private property. However, there were no visible signs posted marking private property. Team 10 was following the instructions of a state parks official at the entrance of the San Onofre State Beach.
The street sign Warman identified as the end of public property read, "no parking."
According to San Onofre's spokeswoman Warman had been called by plant security. The nuclear facility has been idle for more than 18 months because of a radiation leak.
Team 10's previous reports on the facility revealed how nuclear experts and insiders felt restarting the plant was risky.
The reporting uncovered a picture showing plastic bags, duct tape and broom sticks used to seal a leaky industrial pipe in the plant.
Team 10 also reported on a star trek spoof, shot inside the plant's training simulator, featuring senior plant managers.
Warman called for back up when he was informed of the public's right to record video from public property.
"Right now, turn the camera off," California state park police officer Ennio Rocca said when he arrived on the beach. Team 10 confirmed he was responding the Warman's request for back up.
Rocca identified himself as a state parks police officer.
He asked for identification and ran a background check on the 10News crew.
"They called us down here because they said there are people filming the nuclear generator," officer Rocca said. "Its a high terrorist threat. They take it very seriously."
Rocca said the FBI was being dispatched, however they never arrived at the scene.
As the camera rolled it captured more than the signature twin domes of the nuclear facility. It watched a man go fishing, a woman walk her dog and car cruise by -- all in the same spot where Warman claimed Team 10 was trespassing.
"You're just being detained," officer Rocca said. "They're going to come down here. You're going to explain your story. They're going to look at your footage."
A San Onofre employee dressed in SWAT gear said the video must be deleted. He did not view the video, but said officer Rocca would make sure the video was deleted before the news crew be allowed to leave the state beach area.
Team 10 paid $15.00 to access the beach, the standard fee for public entry.
"If the public is allowed there, then the press is allowed there," the National Press Photographers Association's general council Mickey Osterreicher said.
Osterreicher sent a letter to San Onofre and the State Parks Commission offering first and fourth amendment training to both agencies.
"There are no circumstances under which law enforcement or anyone else may order the deletion of files belonging to another person," Osterreicher wrote in the letter.
He cites the privacy protection act of 1980 and questions why a news crew or member of the public cannot take a picture from a public beach when websites like Google Earth offer up close overhead views of the nuclear plant.
"There are far too many people who think that stopping somebody from taking a picture or a recording is going to help national security when in fact all it is is undermining our constitutional rights," Osterreicher said.
"Our officers did not initiate the contact independently," California State Park's legal department wrote to Osterreicher, "(We) were responding to a request from the San Onofre nuclear generating station."
Southern California Edison''s spokeswoman said a security officer "responded conservatively when he indicated to a television crew his preference that they stop filming and delete their video."
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