From the www.highwayrobbery.net cache of  retired Congressman Dick Armey's former red light camera website www.freedom.gov/auto/

Freedom Works: Office
              of the House Majority Leader
Home > News > Autmotive Freedom > May 8, 2001 



Interior Secretary Should End Federal Surveillance Camera Effort
Photo Radar Program Undermines Privacy
May 8, 2001

House Majority Leader Dick Armey wrote to Interior Secretary Gale Norton today [see copy of the letter, below] asking her to end the unprecedented federal photo radar camera program that began under former Secretary Bruce Babbitt. "Photo radar" units snap photographs of passing motorists for the purpose of identifying and mailing speeding citations to alleged speeders.

"I am concerned that this may be seen as a step toward a Big Brother surveillance state, where the government monitors the comings and goings of its citizens," wrote Armey.

The National Park Service proposed a rule last year that would allow photo radar units to be activated on park roads within the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Once finalized, however, this rule could be extended to cover any of the 5,000 miles of park roads throughout the country. Such a rule would also set a precedent for other federal and local jurisdictions to follow.

"The Park Service, without Congressional approval, is planning to turn this into a revenue-raising system that issues tickets to motorists," wrote Armey.

Two photo radar cameras currently operate in a test mode on the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia. Since the speed limit on this road is set well below the average speed of traffic, as many as 30,000 motorists a day could receive a ticket in the mail. Activating these cameras would clearly generate significant ticket revenue.

The Park Service took this action despite Virginia Governor James S. Gilmore's vocal opposition to the use of such traffic surveillance systems within his state. Armey cited a letter Gilmore wrote to him last year.

"While there is clearly the necessity to assure public safety through effective enforcement of traffic laws, the use of cameras, operating without human judgment reduces our system of justice to trial by machinery without the presumption of innocence," wrote Gilmore.

"I respectfully urge you to review former Secretary Babbitt's spy camera program and take the steps needed to protect the privacy of the millions of Americans who use and depend on park roads," Armey concluded in his letter to Norton.


Congress of the United States

May 8, 2001


The Honorable Gale Norton
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20240


Dear Secretary Norton,

As a conservative, I am distressed by encroachments upon our liberty, however small they may be. For that reason, I wanted to bring to your attention an issue, though small, that I believe has the potential to become a significant privacy concern for the millions of Americans who use park roads.

The National Park Service undertook an unprecedented expansion of the use of photographic radar cameras on federal roads last year. It first installed cameras on roads located within the Commonwealth of Virginia as part of an authorized demonstration project. Now the Park Service, without Congressional approval, is planning to turn this into a revenue-raising system that issues tickets to motorists.

In essence, what these cameras do is turn the duty and judgment of law enforcement officers over to a machine. Citizens lose their constitutionally guaranteed right to face their accuser in court when the due process of law is traded for the efficiency of revenue generation. You can't argue your case to a machine.

People feel the burden where similar systems have been put in place. In the District of Columbia, for example, red light cameras indiscriminately mail out tickets to mourners involved in funeral processions and even ambulances and police cars. Last year, the District reluctantly admitted that it had unfairly issued tickets to at least 20,000 motorists with a single camera.

I'm committed to doing what it takes to make our roads safer, but not at the cost of our fundamental rights. Likewise, I am concerned that this may be seen as a step toward a Big Brother surveillance state, where the government monitors the comings and goings of its citizens.

Enclosed [Letter not available as of 10-3-03] you will find a copy of a letter the Governor of Virginia sent to me last year expressing his opposition to the Park Service's plan. Not only did the Park Service fail to consult him on this matter, it did not even have the courtesy to notify him when it opened a public comment period. The federal government should not impose this system on a state that sees it as a most unwelcome development.

I have confidence that you will appreciate the privacy concerns that Governor Gilmore and I have raised. I respectfully urge you to review former Secretary Babbitt's spy camera program and take the steps needed to protect the privacy of the millions of Americans who use and depend on park roads.

Sincerely,
Dick Armey
Majority Leader