On July 7, 2005, a series of suicide bombing
public transportation system, killing 52 innocent people and injuring hundreds
On June 29, 2007, terrorists again set their sights on London
but failed in their dastardly scheme to detonate two car bombs outside two
London is considered by some to be the most surveilled city in
the world and in both cases its extensive surveillance camera network – numbering
in the millions of devices – was cited as playing a key role in the investigations
and understanding the who and how of the events. Following the 2007 attack, surveillance
imagery was among the evidence used to help Scotland Yard quickly identify and
capture the suspects.
As I observed at the time that fact was
not missed by certain lawmakers
in the United States. Within 48 hours
there were calls for more surveillance on the streets of our own cities, paid
for by taxpayer dollars, in the name of national security and to fight the
so-called War on Terror.
Last week, terror once again struck U.S. soil when
two homemade bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three
innocent people lost their lives
and nearly 200 others were maimed or
injured as a result of the explosions. Over the next five days Boston and much
of the nation were gripped by the intense investigation to learn who was
responsible and, once identified, the massive dragnet that shut down six cities
and put nearly 4.5 million people in lockdown while local, state, federal, and
military forces combed the community of Watertown where the two suspects were,
in turn, killed and captured.
Once again surveillance imagery played a crucial role in the
investigation and, once again, within 48 hours politicians
were calling for more
federal investments in more a more extensive
surveillance network, including both fixed position cameras and those mounted
New York Representative Peter King is leading the charge on
this cause, but for Mr. King and his peers I have one question: what would the
presence of more cameras have accomplished following the events of April 15,
One thing is certain about that place on that day – the area
was saturated with surveillance. Within hours of the bombing Boston police and the FBI asked anyone who recorded
events in the area to send in their images, and the public responded with a
deluge of camera phone footage and images, news camera footage and photography,
and images from private surveillance systems operating within and the vicinity
of businesses located near the crime scene. Some of those images
in identifying the suspects and flushing them from
their home in Cambridge
where they were laying low and, according to Boston Police Commissioner Edward
I am uncomfortable with the idea of pervasive government
surveillance. Stated bluntly, despite statements of good intentions, I do not
trust them with that power. The U.S. Constitution places limits on the ways in
which our government can intrude on the lives and liberties of its citizenry,
but that has no stopped well-meaning legislators from passing well-intended
laws that have been abused by others with more sinister designs.
I think it is fitting to close this post with the same words
I used in July of 2007.
I know this event will influence the ongoing liberty/security debate
here in America.
As a nation we're already paranoid about some future act of terror, and we're
constantly being told that we need to fear this shadowy enemy called terrorism.
If the events of this past weekend result in a stronger push for and greater
acceptance of remote security camera networks, and an undermining of opposition
to extensive DNA cataloging, it will not be welcome news.
Using fear as a means of achieving legislative change is poor public policy.
Loss of liberty should never be tolerated by patriots.