More Signs Of Your Civil Liberties Going Down The Drain, Pt. 1

If you're planning to drive anywhere in lower Manhattan in the near future, all I can say is: "Watch the birdie!"

Seems that by the end of 2007, more than 100 cameras will be in place on various downtown buildings and mounted on cars and helicopters(!) in what The New York Times described as "the beginning phase of a London-style surveillance system." The cameras and software will "read" motorists' license plate numbers, check them against a federal database and send out alerts if "suspect vehicles" are detected ... but that's not all!

By the end of 2008, over 3,000 surveillance cameras will be in place in the financial district below Canal Street, about two-thirds of them privately owned ... but even that's not all:

"Pivoting gates would be installed at critical intersections; they would swing out to block traffic or a suspect car at the push of a button."

(Okay; all together now:) But even that's not all:

"Mr. Browne said software tracking the cameras' images would be designed to pick up suspicious behavior. If, for example, a bag is left unattended for a certain length of time, or a suspicious car is detected repeatedly circling the same block, the system will send out an alert, he said."

Of course, the whole thing revolves around who or what is "suspect" - and considering that the federal airline database has tagged, among many, many others, everyone with the name "Edward Kennedy" (including the senator from Massachusetts) as "suspicious" - and therefore subject to a full body search - I'm loath to trust them to figure out which cars are carrying suicide bombers and which are just full of loud kids returning from the latest Panic! At The Disco concert.

Beyond that, let's not forget that Lenny Bruce, in describing the mid-20th century version of that city, opined that "the only people that make Irish cops suspicious are Jews and Negroes" (though it's possible Bruce's language was a bit saltier) - the point being that who or what makes a particular person suspicious has a lot to do with their experiences and (perhaps more importantly) their prejudices.

But the bottom line is, once those cameras are in place, the means to target anyone for questioning or arrest or jail or Guantanamo are in place ... and their definition of a "suspect" could easily include pornographers and/or porn fans like you!


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