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North Texan Challenging Right To Film Federal Buildings

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NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A Frisco man claims the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) harassed him for simply walking on public property. The confrontation was caught on camera while the man was trying to prove a point about where you and I have a right to be.

CBS 11 News has details and the exclusive video of the showdown.

Two buildings along Stemmons Freeway in Dallas house the DEA and the FBI — and if you’re a criminal you don’t want to mess with those organizations. But what happens when an average citizen with a camera challenges the powers that be?

Video from Brett Sanders visit to the DEA’s Dallas headquarters shows what he encountered.

“[I’m] just taking some pictures, just taking pictures,” Sanders says. “You know you’re not supposed to be taking pictures right?” asked an official near the building. “Why is that?” Sanders asked. “Because it’s a government building,” he told.

Sanders is just a man with a camera, but his subjects are highly sensitive about security — such as the North Texas office of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the defense contractor Raytheon in McKinney, and last week at the Dallas DEA office.

“Would you turn that camera off?” asks one person as Sanders films. He responds saying, “I’m a citizen of this country. No sir.”

Sanders is then approached by a man demanding, “Turn the camera off.” When the North Texan tells the approaching man not to touch his camera he’s asked, “Who are you?” Sanders responds, “I’m a citizen of this country.”

Explaining his actions Sanders told CBS 11, “It’s important that we flex our rights, because if we don’t they will be taken from us.”

Sanders joined a group of journalists called Photography is Not a Crime to protect rights he believes, with video evidence, are being stripped away with threats and intimidation.

But security experts say his run-ins cause more harm than good.

Rick Anderssen is with Anderssen Security Consulting. “Most offices have an expectation of privacy. He’s an unknown. People don’t know somebody coming up to their business. They don’t know if he’s a security threat or not.”

When Sanders asks a person, “What’s the big deal here guys?” he’s told, “You’re filming cars that have an undercover capacity.”

In one video, DEA officials accuse Sanders of comprising investigations. Later, the confrontation gets physical. “You’re in my face. You’re intimidating me,” Sanders says during the altercation.

When CBS 11 asked if he would go to jail to exercise his rights Sanders said, “I would.”

The video shows the DEA agents eventually backing down, after verifying that Sanders wasn’t breaking any laws.

It’s on public sidewalks where Sanders says he’s on safe legal ground to shoot anything in sight. To prove his point he plans to show up somewhere every Friday with video camera in hand.

As for the charges of harassment, the DEA did not return calls made by CBS 11.

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