The U.S. National Park Service is joining the ever-growing national surveillance state.
According to a notice published in the Federal Register, the Department of the Interior (DOI) is turning the National Park Service (NPS) into a mirror image of the NSA, FBI, DHS and every other three-letter spy agency you can think of.
“Pursuant to the provisions of the Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, the Interior DOI is issuing a public notice of its intent to modify the National Park Service (NPS) Privacy Act system of records, INTERIOR/NPS-1, Special Use Permits.”
This so-called modification of special records permits will allow law enforcement to collect a disturbing amount of personal information on national park visitors.
As Nextgov points out, anyone wishing to get a permit to use one of America’s 423 national parks will have all their personal information sent to the White House.
“The NPS is making it easier to share more data with the White House and other federal agencies on applications and approvals of special use permits for parks spaces.”
America’s absurd War on Terror is now targeting picnics, family gatherings, weddings, etc.
“People interested in using a park for a specific purpose at a specific time generally have to obtain a special use permit. NPS issues permits for three types of uses: standard events like weddings, sports, picnics and family gatherings; special events like demonstrations, races, tournaments and the like; and construction, research and utility work.”
When park users apply for such permits, the system collects a wealth of data needed to process the application, including:
- Name, organization, Social Security number, Tax Identification Number, date of birth, address, telephone number, fax number, email address, person’s position title.
- Information of proposed activity including park alpha code, permit number, date, location, number of participants and vehicles, type of use, equipment, support personnel for the activity, company, project name and type, fees, liability insurance information.
- Payment information including amounts paid, credit card number, credit card expiration date, check number, money order number, bank or financial institution, account number, payment reference number and tracking ID number.
- Information on special activities including number of minors, livestock, aircraft type, special effects, special effect technician’s license and permit number, stunts, unusual or hazardous activities.
- Information on driver’s license including number, state and expiration date.
- Vehicle information including year, make, color, weight, plate number and insurance information.
According to the notice in the Federal Register, the purpose in collecting everyone’s personal information is “to provide park superintendents with information to approve or deny requests for activities on NPS managed park lands.”
Does anyone really believe park rangers or campground hosts need visitors’ SSNs, DOBs, bank account numbers, etc., so they can approve or deny a person’s request to use our national park[s]?
Nextgov does a great job of describing the NPS collecting park visitors’ personal information as being an innocuous “update.” It is not.
Page 7 of the notice reveals that the NPS will routinely send everyone’s personal information to numerous federal agencies.
“In addition to those disclosures generally permitted under 5 U.S.C. 552a(b) of the Privacy Act, all or a portion of the records or information contained in this system may be disclosed outside DOI as a routine use pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552a(b)(3).”
Below is an abbreviated description of the federal agencies that will routinely have access to permit application park visitors’ personal information.
- The Department of Justice (DOJ), including Offices of the U.S. Attorneys, or other Federal agency. Any other Federal agency appearing before the Office of Hearings and Appeals.
- A congressional office when requesting information on behalf of, and at the request of, the individual who is the subject of the record.
- The Executive Office of the President.
- Any criminal, civil, or regulatory law enforcement authority (whether Federal, state, territorial, local, tribal or foreign) when a record, either alone or in conjunction with other information, indicates a violation or potential violation of law – criminal, civil, or regulatory in nature, and the disclosure is compatible with the purpose for which the records were compiled.
- An official of another Federal agency.
- Federal, state, territorial, local, tribal, or foreign agencies that have requested information relevant or necessary to the hiring, firing or retention of an employee or contractor, or the issuance of a security clearance, license, contract, grant or other benefit, when the disclosure is compatible with the purpose for which the records were compiled.
- Representatives of the National Archives and Records Administration.
- State, territorial and local governments and tribal organizations to provide information needed in response to a court order.
- An expert, consultant, grantee, or contractor (including employees of the contractor) of DOI that performs services requiring access to these records on DOI’s behalf to carry out the purposes of the system.
- Appropriate agencies, entities of the Federal Government.
- To another Federal agency or Federal entity, when DOI determines that information from this system of records is reasonably necessary to assist the recipient agency.
- The Office of Management and Budget.
- The news media and the public, with the approval of the Public Affairs Officer in consultation with counsel and the Senior Agency Official for Privacy.
According to the memo, the NPS and will keep everyone’s personal information for 15 years at which time they promise to delete or shred it.
“Retention of records with short-term operational value and not considered essential for the ongoing management of land and cultural and natural resources are destroyed 15 years after closure. Paper records are disposed of by shredding or pulping, and records contained on electronic media are degaussed or erased in accordance with 384 Departmental Manual 1.”
Does anyone really think that picnics, family gatherings and weddings pose a threat to our Homeland?
There is one bit of good news to come out of turning the NPS into a spy agency and that is national park visitors can request a copy of what records the Feds have on them if they include the specific bureau or office that keeps those records in an information request.
“An individual requesting records on himself or herself should send a signed, written inquiry to the applicable System Manager identified above. The request must include the specific bureau or office that maintains the record to facilitate location of the applicable records. The request envelope and letter should both be clearly marked “PRIVACY ACT REQUEST FOR ACCESS.”
And as you can see from the list above, it is going to be a crapshoot to guess which specific federal agency or which branch of law enforcement was spying on your picnic, family gathering, or wedding.
It is hard to imagine that when Congress created the National Park Service in 1872, they would have envisioned that the White House would turn it into a spy agency.
As Americans everywhere rush to visit our national parks, how many of them will care that the Feds are collecting vast amounts of personal information about them and storing it for 15 years?
Do Americans care enough to stop DHS from turning formerly benign government institutions like the U.S. Postal Service and the National Park Service into federal spying agencies? Only time will tell.