Wednesday, June 11

DC WEDNESDAY

MORE REASONS WHY THE SPY CAM PROGRAM SHOULD BE DROPPED

MARC ROTENBERG, ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFO CTR, BEFORE CITY CONCIL We have looked at the deployment of cameras in other cities. While many people have continued to report on the rapid increase of CCTV in London, we were interested to see the cameras installed in Athens, Greece removed after the conclusion of the 2004 Olympics. The US Department of Homeland Security, the same agency that is pushing the D.C. government to expand the surveillance system here in the District, pushed the Greek government to put cameras in place for the Olympics. But after the Olympics were over, the cameras were moved out of residential neighborhoods where they had peered into people's homes.

It is an important development for you to consider. At the same time, we are very concerned about the growing influence of the company L-1 Identity Solutions, which we believe will become a primary contractor for the system. L-1 has been the focus of several important studies, including the excellent book "No Place to Hide" by Washington Post reporter Robert O'Harrow and the recent article "China's All-Seeing Eye" by Naomi Klein in the current issues of Rolling Stone. The description of the article: "With the help of U.S. defense contractors, China is building the prototype for a high-tech police state. It is ready for export."

Finally, I would like to issue two warnings. First, surveillance systems are not static. Six years ago we said that if surveillance cameras were installed in the District, there would be a push to network the cameras. That is the Homeland Security VIPS proposal now under consideration. There is also a rapid evolution underway that makes surveillance far more intrusive than most people understand. Already you are seeing the use of facial recognition that will make it possible to identify people in public places. People enjoy privacy in public spaces because of anonymity. These new techniques are intended precisely to destroy that very real form of privacy. Other techniques permit detailed enlargement of images, amplification of sound so that even a whisper can be heard, as well as methods to view objects under clothing. This sounds like the movies, but it's not.

Second, the images captured by these cameras systems will be used to manipulate public opinion and to build support for new systems of surveillance. While there will be an occasional "Rodney King video," most of the images provided by the agency that operates the system and the vendor that provides the system will be used to justify and expand the system. This dynamic is already apparent in London.

REAL ESTATE

Washington Business Journal Los Angeles real estate investor Bentley Forbes, which bought the office and retail portions of the Watergate complex in 2005 for about $90 million, has taken the property off the market, according to a published report. The company decided not to sell the property, 2600 Virginia Ave. NW, in May, citing low offers and higher financing costs, Bloomberg News reports. . . The office portion of the Watergate, which includes a small Safeway and several retail stores, and was the site of the burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation, was acquired by Trizec Properties from The JBG Cos. in 1998. Trizec sold it to BentleyForbes in 2005. . . Instead of selling the property, Bentley Forbes will spend up to $10 million on renovations, Wehba said.

PARKS

WTOP The National Park Service said enough money has been raised to complete the long-planned Georgetown Waterfront Park. The park along the Potomac River will be the largest park created in the District in more than 30 years. The Park Service said it will run from south of K Street and between 31st Street in Northwest and the Key Bridge. The park has been planned for nearly three decades and is expected to open in 2010.

SPORTS STADIUMS

DC Fiscal Policy Institute - From a statement by a group of economists: Economic research on the impact of professional sports stadiums suggests that the proposal to provide between $150 million and $225 million in public funds to build a new professional soccer stadium in the District of Columbia likely will not generate notable economic or fiscal benefits for the city. Most studies find that new sports stadiums do not increase employment or incomes. Some even find that stadiums have a modest negative effect on local economies. The reason appears to be that sports stadiums do not increase overall entertainment spending but merely shift it from other entertainment venues to the stadium. Research also suggests that a soccer stadium alone will not revitalize a neighborhood in DC. Because sports stadiums are not used most of the year, they do not stimulate much development outside the stadium. A new soccer stadium cannot be expected to generate a net increase in economic activity in the Washington metropolitan area, but it may shift some entertainment spending from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs into the District. Nevertheless, the economic benefits to the District are not likely to outweigh the large proposed stadium subsidy. In short, it is dubious to justify the use of public funds to subsidize construction of a new professional soccer stadium in Washington DC on economic development grounds.

JUSTICE & CIVIL LIBERTIES

Wash Post Blog Kris Baumann, head of the D.C. Fraternal Order of Police, criticized the D.C. police department's controversial checkpoints in Trinidad. Baumann said he was pleased that police officials reported no gunshots or murders in the violence-plagued neighborhood over the weekend, but he added that the heavy publicity surrounding the checkpoints may be responsible for a temporary reprieve. . . "This program has, as far as making arrests, had limited or no effectiveness," Baumann said. "I'm not sure where it goes from here.". . . "Their claim is this is a program and policy that has been carefully vetted," Baumann said. "If that were true, why has this program changed in the extent and scope constantly over the past four days?" Ultimately, Baumann predicted, the program will turn out to make policing more difficult by harming the trust between officers and city residents. "I'm still getting a lot of calls from officers who are concerned that this is not Constitutional," he said. "

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