FC: Washington DC erects surveillance cam network; EPIC FOIA request

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Wed Feb 13 2002 - 13:17:09 PST

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    Politech facecam archive (note DC is not using face recognition technology 
    yet, but this may be relevant):
    Xeni Jardin sends along this Reuters article summarizing the WSJ story:
        D.C. cops build surveillance network
        New system will link hundreds of public cameras
        By Jess Bravin
            WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 --  A camera mounted on the roof of police
        headquarters here peers down at pedestrians approaching the steps of
        the Capitol half a mile away. Then it zooms in on a couple who are
        climbing the stairs, unaware they are being watched. Inside
        headquarters, a huge digital image of the couple is displayed on
        floor-to-ceiling monitors in a darkened high-tech command center, the
        hub of what will soon be one of the nation's most extensive public
        surveillance networks.
               THE NEW SYSTEM will link hundreds of cameras that already
        monitor mass-transit stations, monuments and schools with new digital
        cameras that will be installed to watch over streets, shopping areas
        and neighborhoods.
               "In the context of Sept. 11, we have no choice but to accept
        greater use of this technology," says Stephen Gaffigan, who heads the
        Washington Metropolitan Police Department project. He says city
        officials have studied the pervasive public surveillance in Britain,
        where the government has placed more than two million cameras
        throughout the country in recent years. "We are intrigued by that
        model," Mr. Gaffigan says.
               Tuesday morning, in response to the latest terror alert issued
        by the Justice Department, Washington police activated the command
        center, which was first used on Sept. 11. Officers from a host of
        federal authorities, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
        Secret Service, Capitol Police and Amtrak Police, joined city officers
        in monitoring key buildings around Washington.
               The room will stay in operation until federal officials end the
        terror alert, Mr. Gaffigan says. The cameras have been programmed to
        scan public areas automatically, and officers can take over manual
        control if they see something they want to examine more closely. But
        right now, the system has no "biometric" software that will permit an
        automated match between a face in the crowd and a computerized photo
        of a suspect. "We're looking at that technology but have made no
        decisions" about how or whether to use it, Mr. Gaffigan says.
    Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 16:11:34 -0500
    To: Declan McCullagh <declanat_private>
    From: Marc Rotenberg <rotenbergat_private>
    Subject: EPIC FOIAs Records on DC Video Surveillance
    Following the news about the DC surveillance
    system we are pursuing a new series of FOIA
    Details below.
    Wednesday, February 13, 2002
    WASHINGTON, DC - The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
    today filed a series of Freedom of Information Act requests with
    federal agencies and the District of Columbia to uncover details
    about a new system of video surveillance in the Nation's capital.
    Marc Rotenberg, the Executive Director of EPIC, said, "We are
    going to find out everything we can about this system: Who is the
    contractor? What is the cost? What data will be collected and who
    will have access to it? This system implicates the freedoms of DC
    residents, visitors to our nation's capital, and the words inscribed
    in many of our national monuments."
    According to the DC Convention and Tourism Corporation, the
    Washington, DC metropolitan area hosted 17.6 million domestic
    visitors and 1.6 million international visitors in 2000.
    FOIA requests went to the Washington Metropolitan Police Department,
    the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service, and the
    Department of Defense. Subsequent requests may be sent to other
    federal and state agencies.
    Mr. Rotenberg said that the creation of a system of public
    surveillance in the city that has been the site of historic
    political ralles, the civil rights marches of the 1960s,
    Presidential addresses, and Martin Luther's King's I Have a Dream
    speech should not be tolerated.
    "Washington is a city that has welcomed public protest and debate.
    That should not change. The capital of the  United States should not
    become the crucible for hi-tech surveillance," said Rotenberg.
    EPIC has pursued many successful requests for public records held by
    government agencies. In one case, EPIC obtained records that
    disclosed the technical capability of the Carnivore surveillance
    system. Another request revealed the Secret Service's involvement in
    the development of face recognition technology.
    Information about the most recent EPIC FOIA request is available at
    the EPIC web site - www.epic.org.
    Marc Rotenberg, exec director          +     +1 202 483 1140 (tel)
    Electronic Privacy Information Center  +     +1 202 483 1248 (fax)
    1718 Connecticut Ave NW Suite 200      +        rotenbergat_private
    Washington DC 20009  USA               +       http://www.epic.org
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