Wednesday, April 9, 2008

DC MAYOR WANTS TO SPY ON EVERYONE WITH 5,000 CAMERAS

GARY EMERLING, WASH TIMES - D.C. officials are giving police access to more than 5,000 closed-circuit TV cameras citywide that monitor traffic, schools and public housing - a move that will give the District one of the largest surveillance networks in the country. . . "We've been sort of sounding the alarm on this stuff for a long time, saying these little pieces - they grow," said Art Spitzer, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area. "You put a camera here, it's not so bad, you put a camera there, it's not so bad. But then it turns out all the sudden, we find out there are 5,200 cameras. That's a big number."

Council member Phil Mendelson, chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, said that the proposed move was "breathtaking" and that the initiative "has not been thought through."

"There is a huge civil liberty implication because they're talking about a fully [interoperable] system," said Mr. Mendelson, at-large Democrat. "If it is as big as they are suggesting, this is a major change."

The mayor said the Metropolitan Police Department currently monitors 92 surveillance cameras in high-crime neighborhoods. The number of cameras available for the department's use in those neighborhoods will increase to 225 under the initiative, although Mr. Fenty said police and other agencies also will have access to 1,388 outside cameras and 3,874 cameras inside buildings throughout the city.

Nearly 3,500 of the cameras are operated by D.C. Public Schools. The city's transportation department operates 131 of the devices, which are normally trained on streets but can swivel. . .

Chicago, widely seen as the U.S. city that has made the most aggressive use of surveillance technology, has installed more than 2,000 cameras and began linking the devices into a single network in 2004. The camera network in London, referred to as the "Ring of Steel," is thought to be the most extensive in the world, employing about 500,000 cameras.

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