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
They probably have a lojack system on them like the high school laptops. If I saw one filming me I think I would be very pist off. I thought you had to post signs saying the area is under surveillance...
Sorry but my behind is tattoo free. Now when I go hiking which is going to be rarely I will be looking for cameras.
You don’t know men if you think they need a tattoo to recognize a specific woman’s behind. ;^)
I would have dropped it in the nearest lake.
The Forest Service is set up to manage the timber as a federal asset and the rangers are like the security guards. Security guards use cameras.
A good question would be why do we need to manage timber as a federal asset? Especially when some of the “national forests” where I live (Southern California) have no harvest-able timber, just bushes and an occasional tree.
Well I will camo paint that too then lol.
If someone were illegally logging timber would you need a camera to notice that? Or by ‘management’ do you mean they want to watch the trees grow?
I’m a pretty good artist.
I will remember that & thanks.
I gave up trying to conform to the rules for camping and fishing years ago. Not just the stuff about packing human waste out. Fishing regs were like law school books, designed to discourage the casual sportsperson. I didn’t need the hassle.
Security guards my eye. In this country, you are innocent until proven guilty. Despite popular belief, we, as American citizens, are treated as if we’re suspects.
And you can save the debriefing for some snot nose college freshman. My cibling’s one of the Green Gestapo.
Manage timber?! That’s rich. Yeah, and we all know how well the US Forest Service manages are public lands/timber. I mean, with all the fires destroying old growth forests due to overgrowth (which, due to the intensity of heat, can sterilized the soil), what would we have done if it weren’t for the Forest Service.
(We’ll ignore that small, tiny detail concerning our logging industry, and how well they had managed our forests before the Green Gestapo enlightened the general population, and put the breaks on those evil loggers)
Think outside the forest.
You’d need the camera to notice the logging if you hadn’t been there lately, and aren’t going to get there any time soon. The rangers have big territories to monitor.
As I understand it, from reading a government agency handbook awhile back, the reason the Forest Service exists is not to please the public. It’s to manage the forest. The campgrounds and trails and such are all secondary in priority to that. You might well ask why the Forest Service exists or why it has this job. [I rather assume it dates back to a time when a lot of timber would have been needed for waging war.] But since the USFS does have this job, it may as well do it more cheaply and efficiently.
If they don’t notice the big trucks full of logs going out the few roads that enter forest lands then the cameras probably won’t help.
If they post signs saying under surveillance that is one thing. Filming a family camping trip is another. I am not ok with Big Brother filming me at all.
Amazing—so when nature calls, you “go behind the bushes” only to find that you’re on Candid Camera :(
Yes. They should post signs.
It wouldn’t be possible to monitor the national forests efficiently unless they put hundreds of thousands of cameras in them and that wouldn’t be cheap by any stretch of the imagination.
It really is sad that we can’t enjoy the forests without wondering if we are being filmed. We have cameras on our traffic lights, at our stores etc. They are all over the d@mn place.
No it wouldn’t be. I hope the bears rip them apart.
TigersEye ~ LOL!
married21 ~ “You might ask.....”
No, I don’t ask because I know we don’t need the US Forest Service. You read a government agency handbook?! That’s no different than saying you’re going to read the Communist Manifesto for an objective view on Capitalism. Or it like asking a salesman if you should buy his car? What’s he going to say, “No, it’s a lemon. Visit the dealer down the block”?!
Our country was never designed to appoint a federal government, let alone the Forest Service. And our Founding Fathers had good reason in designing America in this way. Centralized power corrupts. Period. Futhermore, it’s inefficient.
The rangers work for the taxpayer. Cheaply and efficiently?! What, did you read that out of the handbook too?
The US Forest Service is in place to survey innocent people, despite the well worn tales you’ve come to believe as truth.
Are you a Forest ranger?
So do the Brits, and that is why in the cities, so many Brits wear hoods and hats. Guess I better start looking on Ebay for some hats....
In the last twenty years the Forest Circus has become nothing more than the Green Police. Their main concern is to enforce an Eco Wacko mindset on hikers, hunters, fishermen and campers. And on commercial concerns too. Mainly by shutting them down or making it difficult for them.
Well maybe we should just dress like forest rangers or bears. May as well have fun with them if they want to film us. It really is turning me off to camping. My idea of camping is in my 32 ft travel trailer with ac & a bed lol.
That's not camping. Camping is a wool blanket a knife and a block of magnesium. ;^)
Yes, cell phones are useful. If you have a piece of steel wool you can ignite it with the battery from the phone and get your fire started. ;^)
I believe that in a grander scheme of things, they wish to limit our travel and accessibility to open land. People living in metro/suburban areas are easier to control. The fed’s can’t have gun carrying “rugged individualists” out there, and being unaccounted for.
Drug cultivation, “illegal” logging, etc. is just a ploy just as “endangered” species are used simply to cut off public access to land.
Another way they’ll continue to limit, if not end, sportsmen activities is to make it so expensive (license, tags, etc.)through regulation that people won’t be able to afford it.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to; the US Forest Service is the Green Gestapo. We must dismantle all fed. agencies except our military.
That is what lighters are for TE. I do know how to gather wood & make a fire. I also know you can start a fire with eye glasses.
I prefer Fritos to magnesium myself. :-D
Oh, yes, they have been closing more and more roads and trails for at least twenty years. I don’t think there is any illegal logging either. If they wanted to monitor for that they would put the cameras on the roads not in the forest. But most forests would be hard to get in and out of with a logging truck without passing a ranger station. They wouldn’t even have to patrol which they do on a near daily basis.
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