Camera = Terrorist

If you have any doubts that we are becoming more and more paranoid, this article should put your doubts to rest.

Photographers have had it hard ever since 9/11 – everywhere they go they’re being harassed, having their cameras confiscated, being told they can’t take photos here or there (often after the fact)… and frankly, it’s all just nonsense. It’s clear-cut paranoia – bordering on paranoid schizophrenia, actually. And this is our society which is paranoid, not just the individuals anymore.

It’s actually illegal in many places now to take photos of certain buildings in major cities – because they are “federal” buildings or “potential terrorist targets” or some other such nonsense. Yet it is perfectly OK to sit somewhere and just look at the buildings, building up a mental picture of them in your mind – or maybe even to sit and sketch the building. But take a photo? Nope. In fact in many places you’re likely to get arrested for doing that (and don’t think for a moment that the buildings have signs saying “no photos” so you know not to take one!).

What really concerns me is how Orwellian this all sounds. Let me give you some quotes from the article:

“We’re not talking about snooping or profiling,” Luttrell said. “The best thing the average citizen can do is to be on the lookout. Report situations to us and let us sift through them.”

Uhhh… actually, you are talking about snooping and profiling. Profile #1: people with big cameras could be terrorists and should be watched. And what “situations” are people supposed to report, anyway? Do we really want our law enforcement swamped with overwhelming reports of “I saw a funny-looking guy?” Seriously, is that something we want police following up on? If they did, they’d never get around to solving real crime – they’d spend all their time following ordinary people.

“Every arrest ticket written in 24 hours by each of those agencies will be reviewed to see if any of those people, even those with minor traffic charges, might have any connection to any possible terrorist activity lurking in the region,” Shular said.

In other words, police are going to be digging through your entire life every time you get stopped for a tail light out, or for speeding, or for anything, really. Your whole life is under scrutiny now for the most minor offenses. How much of a step is it from only snooping when you get stopped for minor offenses to just snooping on your life all the time?

In the meantime, officials are asking the public to report any suspicious activity to the sheriff’s office.

I absolutely hate statements like this. What, exactly, defines “suspicious” in this context?? I challenge anyone to come up with a satisfactory definition of “suspicious.” I assert that it’s not possible – what constitutes “suspicious” in one context could be perfectly normal in another. And of course the definition varies from person to person.

Never mind that when you start asking the public to call in “suspicious” activity, you open yourself up to lots and lots of vindictive reports. Have an argument with someone? Call them in as being suspicious. You guarantee that they’ll be grabbed by federal agents in black masks at 2am and kept in confinement for a week or so while they check him/her out.

Hmmm… does that sort of activity sound familiar to anyone?

“We may get information that doesn’t pan out to be true at all,” Shular said. “But that one bit of information that someone calls in could make all the difference.”

No, it won’t. Take a probability class here people. The probability is just too low. Sure, the potential gains are high, but like anything else in life, this is a trade-off. You’re trading people’s privacy and personal lives for a very, very, very, very small probability of possibly, maybe, potentially catching someone doing something bad.

It’s just not worth it.

A Really Good Essay on “America’s Most Dangerous Enemy”

This post from Fabius Maximus on “America’s Most Dangerous Enemy” is really good.

It is probably one of the best essays I have ever read on the subject – clearly laid out, with citations and a clear structure. It brings to mind my high school lessons on “how to write an essay,” that’s how good it is.

And, of course, the points it makes are excellent as well.

If you’ve read some of my other posts recently and you’ve gotten outraged and want to make a difference, well, let me suggest this: get someone to read this article. You might just finally get someone to “see the light,” as it were.

Surveillance Graffiti

This story comes to us from London, UK – apparently a graffiti artist had something to say about the ubiquitous use of surveillance cameras.

He (or she) set up scaffolding and everything to paint this picture, and (this is the best part) all within sight of… a surveillance camera!

Be sure to take a look at the pictures – at first glance you might mistake the person on the ladder as being real – but it’s not, it’s all part of the picture.

Truly, the work of an unappreciated genius.

More on “Where have all the children gone”

This is a follow-up to my posts on Where have all the children gone and More on the “Missing Children”.

Bruce Schneier writes about how overprotective we’ve become of children. He quotes a story of a mother who lets her son take the New York City subway home on his own, trusting him to follow her instructions and be safe.

Long story longer, and analyzed, to boot: Half the people I’ve told this episode to now want to turn me in for child abuse. As if keeping kids under lock and key and helmet and cell phone and nanny and surveillance is the right way to rear kids. It’s not. It’s debilitating — for us and for them.

Now, I may not have grown up in New York City, but as a kid I used to wander for miles and miles on my own. I’m sure many people reading this can say the same thing – and we all turned out OK, right?

So why are we so scared to let children go out and actually be children?

On Surveillance

Surveillance is power.

When surveillance become ubiquitous, we place utmost faith and trust in those performing surveillance to use that power justly.

And as we all know… power corrupts.

If we wish to become a surveillance society, we must have checks and balances on surveillance, just as we do with other forms of government power – if not more so.

To do otherwise is to give utmost power to those performing surveillance – the ultimate result of which will be the collapse of a free, democratic society.

It is important for everyone to understand these issues if only because this is still our government. If we remain ignorant of the issues, our government will remain ignorant of the issues, and they will slip through the cracks and we will wake up to a police state without even knowing it. And you can kiss your civil liberties, your privacy, your old way of life goodbye.

And I seriously doubt anyone really wants that.