Skip to comments.US Forest Service admits putting surveillance cameras on public lands
Posted on 03/22/2010 10:04:52 PM PDT by MamaDearest
Last month, Herman Jacob took his daughter and her friend camping in the Francis Marion National Forest. While poking around for some firewood, Jacob noticed a wire. He pulled on it and followed it to a video camera and antenna.
The camera didn't have any markings identifying its owner, so Jacob took it home and called law enforcement agencies to find out if it was theirs, all the while wondering why someone would station a video camera in an isolated clearing in the woods.
He eventually received a call from Mark Heitzman of the U.S. Forest Service.
In a stiff voice, Heitzman ordered Jacob to turn it back over to his agency, explaining that it UShad been set up to monitor "illicit activities." Jacob returned the camera but felt uneasy.
Why, he wondered, would the Forest Service have secret cameras in a relatively remote camping area? What do they do with photos of bystanders?
How many hidden cameras are they using, and for what purposes? Is this surveillance in the forest an effective law enforcement tool? And what are our expectations of privacy when we camp on public land?
Officials with the Forest Service were hardly forthcoming with answers to these and other questions about their surveillance cameras. When contacted about the incident, Heitzman said "no comment," and referred other questions to Forest Service's public affairs, who he said, "won't know anything about it."
Heather Frebe, public affairs officer with the Forest Service in Atlanta, said the camera was part of a law enforcement investigation, but she declined to provide details. Asked how cameras are used in general, how many are routinely deployed throughout the Forest and about the agency's policies, Frebe also declined to discuss specifics. She said that surveillance cameras have been used for "numerous years" to "provide for public safety and to protect the natural resources of the forest. Without elaborating, she said images of people who are not targets of an investigation are "not kept."
In addition, when asked whether surveillance cameras had led to any arrests, she did not provide an example, saying in an e-mail statement: "Our officers use a variety of techniques to apprehend individuals who break laws on the national forest."
Video surveillance is nothing new, and the courts have addressed the issue numerous times in recent decades. The Fourth Amendment guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, and over time the courts have created a body of law that defines what's reasonable, though this has become more challenging as surveillance cameras became smaller and more advanced.
In general, the courts have held that people typically have no reasonable level of privacy in public places, such as banks, streets, open fields in plain view and on public lands, such as National Parks and National Forests. In various cases, judges ruled that a video camera is effectively an extension of a law enforcement officer's eyes and ears. In other words, if an officer can eyeball a campground in person, it's OK to station a video camera in his or her place.
Jacob said he understands that law enforcement officials have a job to do but questioned whether stationing hidden cameras outweighed his and his children's privacy rights. He said the camp site they went to -- off a section of the Palmetto Trail on U.S. 52 north of Moncks Corner -- was primitive and marked only by a metal rod and a small wooden stand for brochures. He didn't recall seeing any signs saying that the area was under surveillance. After he found the camera, he plugged the model number, PV-700, into his Blackberry, and his first hit on Google was a Web site offering a "law enforcement grade" motion-activated video camera for about $500. He called law enforcement agencies in the area, looking for its owner, and later got a call from Heitzman, an agent with the National Forest Service.
probably just used monitoring the marijuana crops and making sure no one stumbles across any number of plantations that are on federal lands.
So if you get sick and tired of socialism, and decide to head for the hills, you better head waaaay back into the hills.
Now we know why they’re installing toilet facilities along the trails. “Behind the bush” might give one a bird’s eye view. :/
Winston Smith would feel right at home.
PV, for PerVert.
Why would you expect complete privacy when you are wandering around in public? It is a bummer that the wilderness isn’t quite as remote and wild as someone might think, but when you are out there, you certainly can be seen by other hikers, forest rangers, people with binoculars.
The US Forest Service has huge areas to monitor and not much in the way of personnel. If the cameras help them catch some pot growers, then ok.
I know that in California we have a huge problem with pot farms on US forestry lands and even in some remote areas of national parks. The Mexican mafia has been tied to these pot farms. These group tear up large block of lands to plant their pot and put in a drip system to water it. They set booby traps and bring up men from Mexico to guard these crops with machine guns. There have been numerous incidents where hikers have encountered their booby traps or have been shot at by the guards when the stumbled across their operations.
Hmm. Maybe we should have a Hidden Camera Hunt in the National Forests.
Find one - and keep it. Unless of course there is a big sign on it declaring that it’s the property of the US Government.
It would seems the PV-700 transmits on 1.2 Ghz or 2.4 Ghz.
Other sites give us
5 watt Transmitter with Receiver
7000 ft range at line of sight
3000 to 4000 ft. normal use
5 watt signal output power
4 built-in channels
Low power consumption
Sturdy metal housing
12V 950ma (transmitter)
12V 280mA (receiver)
At these power levels, an FCC license is required.
We can now to go
and search by area and frequency.
For the more paranoid, any Big Brother cameras in your AO?
THere is a hobby subset of WarDriving - looking for wireless cameras - X10 and some others that are unencrypted. If you don’t have a life, might be fun.
Paranoia strikes deep
into your life it will creep
starts when you’re always afraid
step outta line
and the Man come and take you away./....
But just think of how many red light runners they’ve stopped! < /sarc>
Well my first thought was that maybe they were monitoring terrorist training activities in the woods.
Of course with our current Homeland Security they’d be looking for those close to Christian churches and Veteran organizations.
Couldn't help but think about those 15-20 mile hikes where there were no restrooms along the way and wonder if "going" way back in the woods was far enough back..... Talk about an interesting job: Forest Service employees are getting paid to watch these videos.
Thanks for the ping. ;-)
Cool! Free high quality electronics. It sound more lucrative than picking clover blossoms for $2 per lb. dried. lol
“It is a bummer that the wilderness isnt quite as remote and wild as someone might think, but when you are out there, you certainly can be seen by other hikers, forest rangers, people with binoculars.”
That’s quite a fallacy you got going on there, and a load of bovine patties too.
Why do you assume forest rangers have the right in the first place to monitor anyone? What you’re saying concerning the marijuana crops are bogus. And if you believe that its about drug cultivation, I have beach front property in Death Valley that I’d love to sell to you.
We don’t need the Green Gestapo. We need to dismantle every single government run agency.
Some people might still recognize you. ROTFLOL
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