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Candid Cameras in Washington, DC By: Tanya Metaksa
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, March 26, 2002

THE WAR ON TERRORISM IS ON ITS WAY TO CLAIMING ANOTHER VICTIM – personal freedom. Since September 11 the American people, especially those who chose or are forced to fly, have put up with inconvenience, harassment, and abuse in the name of safety from terrorists. Unfortunately it’s become worse than I predicted.

On September 11 I wrote, "As the concern for security mounts we may find that the civil liberties upon which this country was founded will be sacrificed on the altar of safety." The Fourth Amendment, which guarantees freedom from search and seizure, has become null and void as Big Brother invades our lives.

A March 22 hearing before the House Governmental Reform Subcommittee on the District (of Columbia) informed Americans that there are currently 12 cameras set up in DC that "offer 360-degree views and magnification 17 times better than the human eye" according to the Washington Post. In addition the DC government has a computerized network of "1,000 government video cameras that monitor streets, subway stations, schools and federal facilities."

We have turned Washington, DC into a police state with the corruption-ridden DC government running a Candid Camera operation. This is the same government that cannot keep its fiscal house in order, and where Fire Chief Ronnie Few appoints cronies with falsified resumes to top-level positions. Although DC employment regulations call for the immediate firing of those that falsify employment applications and possible criminal penalties, those $100,000 employees are still on the job. This same city government issues bogus tickets to citizens when it cannot read the license plate from their photo radar cameras according to the Washington Times.


Both Federal and DC officialdom acknowledge that there are no policies written to cover video surveillance, yet the National Park Service is installing more cameras at six federal monuments. I wonder how Martin Luther King, Jr. would have felt that day in August 1963 when giving his "I have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial if he knew that video cameras were video taping his followers every move on the Mall.

John G. Parsons, associate regional director for the National Park Service's National Capital Region, justified the $2 to $3 million program that would be monitored around the clock with the tapes being stored indefinitely because, ""These icons of democracy are high targets of terrorist activity. That is [the cameras'] sole purpose." We are saving the "icons of democracy," while government destroys the very foundation of our freedom.

What is truly terrifying is that most Americans do not appear to be concerned with the reality of a police state. According to March results of Zogby’s polls Americans are very willing to give up their personal freedoms. The only two areas in which a majority of Americans are unwilling to be searched or monitored are random mail searching and random telephonic searching. Seventy-nine percent (79%) favor video surveillance in public areas. Sixty-two percent (62%) are willing to have their cars searched at random.

However, video surveillance appears to be more science fiction than fact. Taking photographs of people doesn’t accomplish anything when there is no photographic database of terrorists. Thus the city of Tampa has discontinued using its face recognition software system, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) tried it on the US-Mexico border and found it ineffective, and government studies by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, by the Defense Department, and by independent security expert Richard Smith have also found it ineffective.

But the war on terror continues. Now comes the news of the Rapiscan Secure 1000 that is currently being tested at Florida’s Orlando International Airport. According to CNN the X-ray machine gives a leave nothing to the imagination view of the passenger’s naked body. Yes, it will detect plastic knives, and at this moment it is voluntary, but I agree with Barry Steinhardt, ACLU Associate Director when he says, "This body-scan technology is nothing more than an electronic strip search. This technology brings an extraordinary potential for abuse."

Last September Justice Sandra Day O’Connor spoke in New York City at New York University School of Law's new academic building. She asked the question, "At what point does the cost to civil liberties from legislation designed to prevent terrorism outweigh the added security that that legislation provides?" We have reached that point. We are turning into a police state with its denigration of civil liberties: surveillance cameras, over-reaching law enforcement, and now public strip searches at the airports.

Tanya K. Metaksa is the former executive director of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action. She is the author of Safe, Not Sorry a self-protection manual, published in 1997. She has appeared on numerous talk and interview shows such as "Crossfire," the "Today" show, "Nightline," "This Week with David Brinkley" and the "McNeil-Lehrer Hour," among others.

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