Should End Federal Surveillance Camera Effort
Photo Radar Program Undermines Privacy
May 8, 2001
Dick Armey wrote to
Interior Secretary Gale
Norton today [see copy of the letter, below] asking her
to end the
unprecedented federal photo
program that began under former Secretary Bruce Babbitt.
snap photographs of passing motorists for the purpose of
mailing speeding citations to alleged speeders.
"I am concerned that this may be seen as a step toward a
surveillance state, where the government monitors the
its citizens," wrote Armey.
The National Park Service proposed a rule last year that
photo radar units to be activated on park roads within
metropolitan area. Once finalized, however, this rule
could be extended
cover any of the 5,000 miles of park roads throughout
the country. Such
rule would also set a precedent for other federal and
"The Park Service, without Congressional approval, is
turn this into a revenue-raising system that issues
Two photo radar cameras currently operate in a test mode
George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia. Since
the speed limit
this road is set well below the average speed of
traffic, as many as
motorists a day could receive a ticket in the mail.
cameras would clearly generate significant ticket
The Park Service took this action despite Virginia
Governor James S.
Gilmore's vocal opposition to the use of such traffic
within his state. Armey cited a letter Gilmore wrote to
him last year.
"While there is clearly the necessity to assure public
through effective enforcement of traffic laws, the use
without human judgment reduces our system of justice to
without the presumption of innocence," wrote Gilmore.
"I respectfully urge you to review former Secretary
camera program and take the steps needed to protect the
privacy of the
millions of Americans who use and depend on park roads,"
his letter to Norton.
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
liberty, however small they may be. For that reason, I
wanted to bring
your attention an issue, though small, that I believe
has the potential
become a significant privacy concern for the millions of
The National Park Service undertook an unprecedented
the use of photographic radar cameras on federal roads
last year. It
installed cameras on roads located within the
Commonwealth of Virginia
part of an authorized demonstration project. Now
Congressional approval, is planning to turn this into a
system that issues tickets to motorists.
In essence, what these cameras do is turn the duty and
law enforcement officers over to a machine. Citizens
constitutionally guaranteed right to face their accuser
in court when
due process of law is traded for the efficiency of
can't argue your case to a machine.
People feel the burden where similar systems have been
In the District of Columbia, for example, red light
mail out tickets to mourners involved in funeral
processions and even
ambulances and police cars. Last year, the District
that it had unfairly issued tickets to at least 20,000
motorists with a
I'm committed to doing what it takes to make our roads
not at the cost of our fundamental rights. Likewise, I
this may be seen as a step toward a Big Brother
the government monitors the comings and goings of its
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
Not only did the Park Service fail to consult him on
this matter, it
even have the courtesy to notify him when it opened a
The federal government should not impose this system on
a state that
as a most unwelcome development.
I have confidence that you will appreciate the privacy
Governor Gilmore and I have raised. I respectfully urge
you to review
former Secretary Babbitt's spy camera program and take
the steps needed
protect the privacy of the millions of Americans who use
and depend on