I had a great idea for a picture, but it requires I take a photograph of three incomplete buildings in the area. So I drove over to a nearby shopping/entertainment center, set up on top of a parking structure, and started snapping away.
My first set of shots (which took me maybe twenty minutes to collect) didn't turn out; I've never used this camera at night. I looked over my camera, found the manual settings, and got out of the car to take another set of shots.
Before I finished tinkering to find decent settings, a couple security guards pulled up.
They were very nice and apologetic as they told me I couldn't take pictures of nearby structures; I've no complaints about their behavior. But the orders they're following are idiotic.
Yes, a terrorist might decide to take pictures of a building. But so could many, many innocent people. And there are so few terrorists in the United States that one can essentially be certain any given photographer is perfectly innocent.
Of course, the reality is that the area's management company isn't thinking about that. They're thinking in terms of the cost to them—if they stop innocent photographers it doesn't cost them anything, but if they don't stop terrorist photographers it could cost them their jobs. They don't bear the cost of the rule, so they're happy to make it.
But that doesn't mean that, as a matter of public policy, it's right. Structures like buildings and bridges are some of the most amazing things people have created. They blend form and function in a way nothing else we've made does; their scale awes us and magnifies us at once. If we have lost the ability to take a picture of one, we have lost something precious—for an unlikely "what if".