FC: William Safire: Too much surveillance means too little freedom

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Thu Feb 21 2002 - 08:57:07 PST

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       Too much surveillance means too little freedom
       William Safire
       Tuesday, February 19, 2002
       'Big Brother' in America
                              WASHINGTON Stipulated: The protection of the
       U.S. capital, its monuments and its centers of authority is a vital
       national interest.
       Early in American history, when faced with a potential rebellion of
       unpaid officers, one U.S. leader employed an uncharacteristic
       emotional trick - pretending to be going blind - to appeal to the
       infuriated military not to march on the capital. He soon had them in
       tears and in hand. In another time, another leader risked all by
       turning the capital's defense over to the man most opposed to his
       political aims, gambling that he could later overcome the nation's
       gratitude to a man on horseback. In contemporary times, after the
       Pentagon was hit, the White House targeted and the Capitol anthraxed,
       Washington again saw itself besieged. But now, in terror of an
       external threat, U.S. leaders are protecting the capital at the cost
       of every American's personal freedom.
       Surveillance is in the saddle. Responding to the latest Justice
       Department terror alert, Washington police opened the Joint Operation
       Command Center of the Synchronized Operations Command Complex (SOCC).
       In it, 50 officials monitor a wall of 40 video screens showing images
       of travelers, drivers, residents and pedestrians.
       These used to be the Great Unwatched, free people conducting their
       private lives; now they are under close surveillance by hundreds of
       hidden cameras. A zoom lens enables the watchers to focus on the face
       of a tourist walking toward the Washington Monument or Lincoln
       The monitoring system is already linked to 200 cameras in public
       schools. The watchers plan to expand soon into an equal number in the
       subways and parks. A private firm profits by photographing cars
       running red lights; those images will also join the surveillance
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