Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Snave's note: I posted this article as a way to provide an opposing view from time to time. I don't agree with very much of what this author says. He's a fairly notoriously cranky right-wing pundit, as evidenced by what he writes below (check out the attacks on civil libertarians). I think that what he says, in principle, makes sense for those who are constantly afraid, that is, why not surrender some of our liberties if it will make us safer?

"Caught on Tape"
Rich Lowry, National Review
The suicidal otherworldliness of ACLU-style civil libertarianism.

The four would-be suicide bombers of the botched July 21 attacks in London have a big problem. They were caught on videotape. Their images have been broadcast in Britain and around the world, making their apprehension astronomically more likely than if they had escaped undetected.

For this, we have security cameras to thank. London has half a million of them. According to one estimate, a person wandering around London will be filmed 300 times in a day. The city is a pioneer of a trend toward video surveillance that is also sweeping the United States and provoking howls from civil libertarians whose internal clocks are set to make a reference to "1984" every 15 minutes or so. Given the choice, apparently, they would prefer not to have the video of the July 21 bombers, which is an indication of the suicidal otherworldliness of ACLU-style civil libertarianism.

Opponents of video cameras unroll various arguments about the cameras. They complain that the cameras are intrusive and a violation of privacy. But how is it possible to violate someone’s privacy in a park or a subway car? People have a right to privacy only where they have an expectation of privacy, and that is not in public places where things they do are susceptible to viewing by dozens of pairs of eyes. No one should expect pristine privacy while walking in a subway tunnel, let alone while he is running away after having attempted to kill and maim people.

If they can’t brandish the Fourth Amendment, civil libertarians get down to practical policing and claim that cameras don’t really do anything to prevent crime; they only occasionally help solve crime after the fact. Even if this were true, solving one terror attack alone — and therefore perhaps unraveling networks that would attack in the future — makes the cameras worth it.
Cameras won’t deter suicide bombers — what will? — but they can tamp down other criminal activity. Cameras in Britain are credited with discouraging the IRA bombing campaign in the 1990s. On a less serious front, San Francisco — one of many jurisdictions, including New York, Houston and New Jersey, that have cameras in their train systems — saw vandalism drastically decline on subway cars after the installation of surveillance cameras.

Some cities have turned to cameras in high-crime areas, mounting them to watch activities in parks and on dangerous streets. The Los Angeles Times reported in October 2004, “Earlier this year, police began monitoring seven cameras around MacArthur Park in the city’s Westlake district, watching in amazement as crime plummeted, gangs, drug dealers and pimps disappeared, and families with children began returning to the 40-acre expanse in one of the city’s poorest areas.” Chicago has used cameras to make drug busts in real time.

Then there is the last resort of civil libertarians. When no real harm can be demonstrated, they always discern a subtle “chilling effect.” “When citizens are being watched by the authorities,” says Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union, “they are more self-conscious and less freewheeling.” But urban areas, where the cameras are proliferating, are not notably bastions of inhibited behavior. City Journal’s Heather Mac Donald, who is nation’s foremost critic of the excesses of the ACLU, writes, “The only people whom public cameras inhibit are criminals; they liberate the law-abiding public.” When they move a camera out of a troubled neighborhood, Chicago police now get complaints from neighbors, who want pimps and drug dealers to be decidedly inhibited.

The priority of a certain class of civil libertarians is apparently to protect Americans from nonexistent threats to their liberty at the expense of protecting them from real threats to their safety. The New York Civil Liberties Union is considering a federal lawsuit over New York’s new policy of randomly searching the backpacks of subway passengers. Only if terrorists can get on mass-transit systems without any risk of their bags being searched or their images being recorded will they finally rest easy.

— Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years.

Snave's other notes: While I would have to agree that people shouldn't expect "pristine privacy" in a subway, how would Americans respond to the feeling they are constantly being watched, in any public place? If Lowry is representative of the party that says it doesn't trust big government, why does he want our government watching everyone? Britain is a place where the government controls a heck of a lot more than it does here in the U.S. If Lowry wants us to be more like Britain, I find that to be a surprising opinion coming from such a conservative mind as his.

Lowry says the threats extensive video surveillance would make to liberty are nonexistent. I say that once the government puts cameras in the busiest places, it won't be long before they have them all over, including inside some places most people should expect privacy. I should be careful, I suppose, as this may well be fallacial logic on my part... seeing that it's close to the same type of paranoid logic anti-gun-control folks use when they say that once all the guns are registered, the government will come and take them away.

Then on the other hand, Lowry pooh-poohs "1984". I wonder if he has ever read the book? He writes with a smug sense of satisfaction, as if he believe he is allied with the correct side for when-and-if the surveillance begins. He would be on the side with the power, at least, as he is already apparently an advocate for such governmental power.

Benjamin Franklin said "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty or safety..." It appears that Lowry would disagree with Ben. Tsk, tsk.


Blogger halcyon67 said...

All right. First of all, surveillance won't help the situation. Although, the average Londoner is filmed 300 times a day, that is not going to stop them from blowing themselves up. Who is watching all of these cameras? Who is examining them? You can't have cops everywhere, checking everything out.

Video footage is not going to stop terrorists.

In America, the surveillance will not work either. If you can recall, prior to 9/11 Mohammed Atta was seen buying cell phones in Florida. That was in August, that taped was filmed. The footage was not reviewed or released until after 9/11. Also, there was video footage that showed two of the 9/11 hijackers entering an airport. That was not examined until after 9/11.

In addition, a report was released that our FBI has been derelict in their duty of viewing tapes that involve leads and activities of suspected terrorists.

Overall, you cannot trust the government: they say they want to protect you, but they are lazy. I will be one of the annoying George Orwell referencing, ACLU supporting libertarians who will not put up with this crap.

In order to make our country safe, the government would have to initiate a police state.

For the record, people ask how much freedom are willing to give up to be safe? None. I would rather be free than safe.

7:06 AM  
Blogger Kayaboy said...

I think I would have to disagree with Samantha. They are talking about using surveillance cameras in public places. Like Lowry points out, there is no expectation of privacy in public arenas. Now to her idea that surveillance won't help, come on. Without security cameras the London terrorists would have been more difficult to catch, perhaps allowing them to commit more random acts of violence. And as Lowry's article points out, video surveillance does indeed helps to prevent crime in a variety of US cities. So, while video footage may not stop the terrorists, it will go along way to deter crime including terrorism as well as help apprehend those who have already committed crime.

3:48 PM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

I'm not sure I advocate this kind of surveillance just for crime but as far as terrorism goes I don't see any way around it. We can discuss it all we like right now but if we get hit hard again I think there will be a major paradigm shift in this country when it comes to law enforcement and profiling.

7:54 PM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

I don't necessarily advocate this kind of surveillance for crime but I'm afraid we're going to need them for terrorism. If we get hit hard again I think there's going to be a major paradigm shift in this country when it comes to law enforcement and profiling.

8:07 PM  
Blogger halcyon67 said...

Kaya, do you actually think that a videocamera is going to stop someone from blowing themsleves up? Okay, hypothetical situation. Okay, let's say there is a white member of Al-Qaida and he is going to get on the "tube." He is acting suspicious, the camera picks it up. He has already gotten on the tube. How long would it take for the person watching the tape to call or inform a law enforcement agent to stop the person? There would not be enough time, the suicide bomber would have blown himself up already. Also, if he didn't do it yet, they would not probably stop the tube simply because it would raise alarm and chaos would erupt.

Those who already committed a crime, would probably be dead by now. Since we are talking about Britain, well at least Lowry is, the scenario has been that they blow themselves up. Referring to my first comment. The tapes are not reviewed in time, thus hindering the execution of an investigation and arrests.

We have already hit profiling. I don't want to live in a country where freedoms are celebrated and we live in a society where people are constantly being violated and I am being told that I am going to die, and I am tired of being paralyzed by fear. Not that I am now, but in the future. I don't want to end up like one of those people who is in a constant state of paranoia.

8:35 AM  
Blogger halcyon67 said...

Also, you cannot let the terrorists change the way you life your life. If that happens, the terrorists won.

8:38 AM  
Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

The problem is that if we sacrifice very many liberties in the name of safety, we hand the terrorists a victory hands down.

While fighting terrorists, we should maintain, as much as possible, our way of life. That is what they distinctly DON'T want to see us do. Victory comes usually by the hardest road. Destroying our civil liberties or putting them at risk is the easy way and thus, not the one by which we can be victorious. Fighting our enemies where we find them, maintaining our way of life and helping others to bring themselves above lifestyles that support terrorism are the true path of victory. Bush and the Rightist punditry need to realize this before we can ever move forward.

1:52 PM  
Blogger Damien said...

CCTV cameras will never deter suicide bombers, shoplifters yes, bombers no. The footage does provide an invaluable source of reference for investigators (post terror event). Especially where that concerns movement tracking and eventual identification.

I do understand everyones point about freedom and liberty, in essence it boils down to trust.
Do you really trust the people watching the screens.

Case in point it would be easy to create a dossier on every person here (from their blogs).

Anyway having lived in London you are more aware of the amount of people around you a than you are of any cameras.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Damien said...

I just can't beleive the NYPD were stupid enough to tell the media how the london bombs were made. I feel sorry for anyone who thought they were capable of investigating terrorist activities.

They really need to take a look at how good MI6 and the MET are at their jobs.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

Quick rundown: Damien, agreed. Confirming the bomb-making techniques used in a specific attack and showing their effects, especially as specifics of their manufacture are already available online, is stupid and dangerous on a level that makes my ulcer flare.

Samantha, I think surveilance cameras in public, high-crime areas and transit systems will probably be the best bet. At any rate, the cherry has been popped, to use a vulgarism, on that in some of the largest cities in the nation. The same is true of random bag searches in the NYPD. This is merely an extension of the routine baggage inspections currently in force in our airports, as well as the random inspections and metal detectors in our public schools. The ACLU may sue in federal court over this issue, as is their right. I merely question their chances of success. And Samantha, yes, I know I probably have a palm-print on my face for that terminology. lol

4:38 PM  
Blogger 1138 said...


google it

8:13 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Whew... I checked it out. Absolutely mind-boggling... Thanks!

8:21 PM  
Blogger halcyon67 said...

CCTV cameras will never deter suicide bombers, shoplifters yes, bombers no. The footage does provide an invaluable source of reference for investigators (post terror event). Especially where that concerns movement tracking and eventual identification.

Nothing is going to stop a zealot from blowing up a bus or carrying out his part in the jihad. If he is caught, someone will just take his place. Nothing can deter this people, for except a change in US policy towards that region.

I agree OKLiberal, as a matter of fact, I said the same thing above. :) Great minds think alike.

No, no palm-print.

12:08 PM  
Blogger halcyon67 said...

1138 google Total Information Awareness or Information Awareness Office. TIA/IOA.

Hell, here's the link: www.thememoryhole.org/policestate/iao-logo.htm

12:11 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home