- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2002

The National Park Service will begin around-the-clock surveillance of national monuments within the next six months, The Washington Times has learned.

By the fall, the Park Service will monitor the Washington Monument, Jefferson, Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans memorials. The Park Service will use closed-circuit television technology, according to documents obtained by The Times.

The plans have been in the works since before the September 11 attacks.

"The installation of this technology became a higher priority after the tragic events of that date," the documents say.

The surveillance system could cost as much as $3 million.

U.S. Park Police officials confirmed there are plans to install cameras to monitor the monuments.

"There is a proposed plan. But the cameras are not yet in place," said Sgt. Scott Fear, a spokesman for the Park Police.

But Sgt. Fear did not have any specifics about the surveillance plan.

Officials of the National Park Service could not be reached for comment last night.

Camera surveillance has become a hot topic in the District in recent months.

The Times first reported in February that the Metropolitan Police Department wants to create the largest camera surveillance network in the country to monitor streets, schools, parks and other public areas throughout the city. D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams told The Times this month that he would like to see citywide neighborhood surveillance in the near future.

The plan was decried by the American Civil Liberties Union. Officials there said there would be "mission creep" in the United States if the surveillance plan ran unchecked.

But D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey has said he does not favor nonstop surveillance of the city.

The Park Service plan calls for the cameras to record 24 hours a day and be monitored by U.S. Park Police, according to the documents.

"The current plan calls for images to be recorded on a continuous loop," the documents say. The video will record over itself after an as-yet-unspecified period of time.

There was also mention of plans by the D.C. Department of Public Works to put cameras in places under National Park Service jurisdiction such as Rock Creek Park.

Rep. Constance A. Morella, Maryland Republican, will hear testimony this morning in a hearing on electronic surveillance in the District. She is concerned that federal and local surveillance plans in the city are moving too fast and without the necessary public debate.

"This is the first I've heard of any camera surveillance of the monuments," Mrs. Morella said yesterday.

Mrs. Morella is chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's subcommittee on the District. She said she wants to know what local and federal law enforcement agencies in the District plan to do with new surveillance technologies and why the city is using them.

"We've seen the testimony of all of the witnesses and we will be asking all kinds of questions," Mrs. Morella said. "We are particularly interested that D.C. Division of Transportation would consider putting possibly 700 cameras to monitor traffic."

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Rand Corp. will have representatives at the hearing to give expert testimony on policy and restrictions that should be placed on agencies planning to use camera surveillance.

"As a sidebar, we also will be asking about the [photo-radar and red-light] cameras in the District," Mrs. Morella said.


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