A new network of security cameras will monitor the Washington Mall
during Independence Day festivities, the U.S. Park Police
moving up by months the introduction of video surveillance.
Police would not say how many cameras will watch the Mall or where they
have been placed. Park Police Chief Teresa C. Chambers said that the cameras
were installed over the past three weeks and that they would "see the areas
that will be populated" on the holiday.
"The camera can do the work of probably 20 officers," Chambers said after
a news conference near the Washington Monument. Police officials said
security precautions would not interfere with the festivities.
The FBI warned law enforcement agencies nationwide last week that crowds
assembled for July Fourth festivities could pose inviting targets for
terrorists, though officials stressed they had no specific or credible
threats. Just in case, FBI field offices throughout the country have worked
with police in creating contingency plans for the holiday.
The result is one of the most security-conscious Independence Day
celebrations in memory. The most obvious sign of stepped-up security will
double rows of wooden fencing surrounding the city's monumental core. The
fencing will stretch from the western side of the U.S. Capitol to the
Potomac River and north to Lafayette Square. Only Third, Seventh and 14th
streets will be kept open across the Mall.
Visitors will enter the fenced-off sections through 24 checkpoints, where
bags will be searched and some people will be scanned by officers with
metal-detecting wands. Boaters will be kept 150 feet from the Potomac River
shoreline between the Memorial Bridge and the 14th Street bridge. The
Smithsonian Metro station will be closed because it is within the security
Even the fireworks, always under 24-hour guard, will be under tighter
security this year, Park Police said. In all, 2,000 police officers from
various law enforcement agencies in the area will be on duty on the
The D.C. police department also has a network of surveillance cameras,
which officers will monitor from a new command center at police
headquarters. Police have about a dozen of their own cameras, positioned
high-traffic areas such as Georgetown, Union Station and the Hotel
Washington near the White House. The network also can tap into as many as
1,000 cameras operated by other agencies.
The new Park Police cameras will transmit to a station near Hains Point.
They will be turned off after tomorrow, and some or all might be taken down
while their permanent use is evaluated, said Sgt. Scott Fear, a Park Police
In March, the National Park Service -- which oversees the Park Police
told Congress of a plan to put cameras in several places around the Mall
October. The Park Service said rules for using the cameras would be
developed and shared with lawmakers.
But aides to Rep. Constance A. Morella (R-Md.), chairman of the House
Government Reform subcommittee on the District, and Del. Eleanor Holmes
Norton (D-D.C.) said yesterday that they had not been told of the plan to
use cameras tomorrow and that the Park Service had not submitted guidelines
for its surveillance.
"We perfectly understand the need for . . . security on July Fourth,"
said Robert White, a spokesman for Morella. However, he said, "any time
use electronic surveillance, you should have written policies and standards
to govern [its] use."
Fear said that policies had been drawn up for use of the cameras but
they could not be made public for security reasons. In May, the National
Park Service set up and tested a surveillance system at the Statue of
Liberty and Ellis Island that scanned faces in the crowd and checked them
against a database of terrorism suspects, but no such use is contemplated
for the Mall, Fear said.
Chambers said the cameras would be used to scan the crowd, looking for
suspicious activity or packages. She said some of the cameras can swivel
record for later viewing.
Three of the new cameras appear to have shown up on the cornice of the
Lincoln Memorial in the last two weeks -- two on the side of the Reflecting
Pool, one facing west toward the Potomac.
Stephen Block, of the D.C. area chapter of the American Civil Liberties
Union, said yesterday that he had not heard about the cameras being set
for tomorrow. The ACLU has fought against the Mall cameras as well as the
D.C. police surveillance.
"People are going to be on the National Mall showing their affection
this country, and it's not appropriate for them to be subject to this kind
of observation," Block said.