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US Forest Service admits putting surveillance cameras on public lands

TONY BARTELME
The Island Packet [1]
Friday, March 19, 2010

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.

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[2]

In a stiff voice, Heitzman ordered Jacob to turn it back over to his agency, explaining that it had 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?

Full story here. [1]