CAMP DAVID, Md. (AP) — Freedom of the press is a bit different at the G-8 summit.
At Camp David, a highly secure compound in the woods ringed by layers of security fences, the movements of reporters and photographers covering the summit have been restricted and tightly monitored by Marines in park green polo shirts and khakis. It’s the side-arms that give them away.
With military precision, the Marines dictate when computers may be used and when cell phones can be deployed — data use only.
“No pictures!” shouted one Marine. Another warned: “If I see a cell phone used to take a picture, it will be confiscated.”
Photographers are tightly monitored, with Marines determining the timing and the angle of their shots. As photographers awaited the “family photo” of G-8 leaders Saturday morning, photographers had to cap their lenses and television crews had to place small white hoodies over the front of their cameras.
Once given the go-ahead, lenses rose in near unison and shutters clicked and whirred. Then, silence as the press waited for President Barack Obama and the rest of the G-8 membership to show up.
The orders from the Marines were equally clear for the end of the photo ceremony: “When leaders are out of sight, the lens caps go back on.”
Even Obama got in the act. As the press was ushered into Laurel Lodge for a brief statement before a working session, Obama told the media contingent: “The press, you’re welcome as long as you don’t break anything.”
Forget the situation in Iran, Syria or the eurozone. The most menacing problem at Camp David may be the swarming gnats.
Shortly before the official G-8 photograph near Aspen cabin, the president’s lodge, two blue-shirted military stewards sprayed an anti-bug fog down the path that the leaders took to the platform for the photo. The stewards repeatedly sprayed the area around the photo platform to keep gnats at bay.
“I hear the gnats have been getting you guys, huh?” Obama asked as reporters tried in vain to shoo away the tiny flies.
During the photo, the G-8 leaders managed to avoid being caught for history, hands busily swatting away insects.
Obama has rolled out the red carpet for new French President Francois Hollande, greeting him at the Oval Office and spending time with him at Camp David. So Hollande is trying to repay the courtesy.
When reporters asked Obama for a word in French, the U.S. president turned to Hollande and declared, “he’s my translator!”
He told Hollande to “tell them I say, ‘Welcome.”‘
Hollande obliged, saying in French, “He says, `welcome’ to you.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)