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John Parsons, National Park Service, National Capital Region
Privacy vs. Security: Electronic Surveillance in the Nation’s Capital
March 22, 2002




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March 22, 2002

Madam Chairwoman, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on the issues of privacy and security with respect to the use of electronic surveillance in the Nation's Capital.

The National Park Service is privileged to have the responsibility for managing some of our Nation's most treasured symbols, including ones in the Monumental Core of Washington, D.C. The Monumental Core includes the Washington Monument; the Lincoln, Jefferson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorials; the White House complex; and the Korean War Veterans and Vietnam Veterans Memorials. For several years, the National Park Service, with the guidance of the U.S. Park Police, our urban law enforcement arm, has been working on enhancing security in and around the heavily visited Monumental Core.

Numerous studies have been conducted by the National Park Service and its consultants in recent years to assess potential threats to sites in the Monumental Core, the level of security present, and the actions that should be taken to increase security and thus minimize the risk of danger to those who visit and work at these structures. One recommendation, which is common to nearly all of the studies, is the use of closed circuit television (CCTV). A 1999 study by the firm Booz-Allen & Hamilton, which focused on terrorist threats, recommended the installation of CCTV in all of the monuments and memorials within the Monumental Core. Although the process of planning the CCTV system and obtaining funding for it had begun prior to September 11, the installation of this technology became a higher priority after the tragic events of that date.

Installation of CCTV at sites in the Monumental Core is part of a larger effort to increase security at National Park Service sites that may be at high risk for terrorist activity, for which the Administration is seeking substantial increases in the Fiscal Year 2003 budget. The budget request includes an increase of $12.6 million for the U.S. Park Police in Washington, D.C. and New York City to fund additional recruitment classes, equipment, and overtime. It also includes approximately $13 million at the Washington Monument, $6.2 million at the Lincoln Memorial, and $4.7 million at the Jefferson Memorial for vehicle barriers, security lighting, and associated improvements. And, it includes an increase of $6.1 million for increased security at park units across the country that are National icons, such as the Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall, the Arch of Western Expansion in St. Louis, and Mount Rushmore.

The National Park Service is not currently using any CCTV in the Monumental Core area. Within the next six months, the National Park Service plans to have CCTV installed
at six sites: the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Park Police personnel will continuously monitor these cameras at a Park Police facility. The current plan calls for the images to be recorded on a continuous loop, which will record over itself after a yet-to-be-determined period of time. Recording the images will allow the police to save any that are needed for evidentiary purposes. The estimated cost for this system is approximately $2-3 million.

The National Park Service plans to use cameras monitored by the U.S. Park Police only in public areas where there is no expectation of privacy. The images that are recorded would only be kept for a certain amount of time, as noted above, and would be used only for valid law enforcement purposes. At this time the National Park Service is planning to install CCTV only in the Monumental Core area. We do not have any plans to use any other type of surveillance technology, such as facial recognition types of CCTV.

The National Park Service had some discussions with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) last year concerning the installation of cameras within the Monumental Core area that would be in addition to the ones the National Park Service already plans to install. MPD has concurrent jurisdiction over the Monumental Core and other areas in the District of Columbia that are under the primary jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Since the U.S. Park Police already had plans in place for cameras at these locations, the National Park Service declined the MPD offer. The National Park Service is aware of plans by the Department of Public Works to install cameras for traffic monitoring purposes, and is in discussion with that agency about the possibility of placement in areas that are under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, such as Rock Creek Park.

The U.S. Park Police operate in New York City and San Francisco as well as Washington, D.C. In New York, the Park Police have cameras in place on Liberty Island and in the Statue of Liberty that are monitored on a continuous basis with a loop recording system. Park Police personnel in the New York Field Office are working on plans to upgrade the entire security system in the vicinity of the Statue of Liberty, including using digital CCTV. In San Francisco, the Park Police have not installed any cameras and do not have currently have plans to do so. However, the Golden Gate Bridge Authority utilizes numerous cameras on that facility, which is adjacent to our park areas.

In summary, we see CCTV, used appropriately, as a cost-effective, non-intrusive way to monitor and protect larger areas than we would be able to protect with available personnel. It is thus an important tool that can help the National Park Service safeguard the National treasures under our stewardship and the people who visit them.

Madam Chairwoman, that concludes my prepared remarks. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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