Bombing probe highlights expansion of surveillance

Apr 19, 2013 by David Crary
In this Monday, April 15, 2013, photo, spectators make pictures with camera phones during the Boston Marathon in Boston, before two bombs exploded at the finish line in an attack that killed 3 people and wounded over 170. As the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombings illustrates, getting lost in the crowd is no longer an easy feat. There are eyes -- and cameras-- everywhere. (AP Photo/Kenshin Okubo)

As the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombings illustrates, getting lost in the crowd is no longer an easy feat. There are eyes—and cameras—everywhere.

Investigators swiftly obtained a vast quantity of amateur photos and videos taken by onlookers, often with their cell phones, as well as extensive footage from in the area of Monday's blasts. The FBI released images Thursday from one of those cameras, zeroing in on two men in caps who proved to the suspects in the case.

One of the men was killed overnight in a with police; his brother remained at large Friday.

With the crucial role played by video in the Boston case, surveillance cameras—which have proliferated in London, China and elsewhere—may take on new allure. Informal surveillance by private citizens may proliferate as well; the FBI says it expects the public to be its "eyes and ears."

The upside of this expanding surveillance network is clear—a greater potential for law enforcement to solve crimes and, in some instances, to prevent them. David Antar of New York-based IPVideo Corporation says can be set up to trigger warnings if bags are left unattended or suspicious activity takes place before or during a large-scale event.

Is there a downside?

Some civil libertarians say yes. While they welcome any tools that can help solve a crime as brutal as the bombings, they worry about an irrevocable loss of privacy for anyone venturing into public places.

"It's now harder and harder to go about our lives without being tracked everywhere," said Ben Wizner, a lawyer with the who specializes in privacy and technology issues.

"The ACLU doesn't object to cameras at high-profile public places that are potential terrorist targets," he said. "What we do object to is a society in which cameras are so pervasive that we can't go about our lives anywhere without them being recorded and stored in data bases forever."

Within the past decade, the scope of surveillance—both private and government—has increased incalculably. And then there is self-surveillance. Millions of people check in regularly with Foursquare to communicate their whereabouts; many millions more passively enable themselves to be tracked simply by carrying their cell phones.

This image taken from video released by the FBI on Thursday, April 18, 2013 shows what the FBI are calling suspect number 1, front, in black cap, and suspect number 2, in white cap, back right, walking near each other through the crowd in Boston on Monday, April 15, 2013, before the explosions at the Boston Marathon. (AP Photo/FBI)

Photographs and videos can rocket through cyberspace, instantly viewable by strangers on the other side of the world or by law enforcement agencies, courtesy of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

Attitudes toward surveillance and privacy may be shifting. There's a generation of teens and young adults who have grown up with social media and may be more reconciled than older Americans to the prospects of being tracked.

"Americans still cite privacy as one of the core values they cherish, but what's happening is this slow, insidious erosion of it," said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University.

"Humans need at times to feel they can exist freely and without constant observation—it is essential to our right to association and expression," he said. "And yet we have a generation being raised in a fishbowl society. They're more tolerant of government surveillance, and that can be a danger to a free society."

Compared to the United States, surveillance cameras are far more pervasive in Britain, where they were first used decades ago to protect against attacks from Irish militants. Up to 4 million or so cameras are now in place, including some around the house of George Orwell, the author of "1984," which foretold of a "Big Brother" society.

Among the British public, the cameras seem to be widely accepted—especially in the aftermath of the 2005 suicide bombings that killed 52 commuters during morning rush-hour traffic in London. Evidence from closed-circuit cameras helped crack that case.

"If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to be worried about," said Joseph Clarke, 32, a London banker. "I'm out all of the time and I don't even notice them. We need them."

Nonetheless, a London-based organization called Big Brother Watch has been campaigning to cut back on the surveillance network.

"While it provides a sometimes useful tool after an event, it doesn't address the root causes of crime and doesn't protect the public," said the group's director, Nick Pickles. "The public has been desensitized, and so have the perpetrators of crime. The initial deterrent effect has largely disappeared because people just take it for granted."

In the United States, Chicago has the most comprehensive network of surveillance cameras, estimated at more than 10,000. They are mounted on street poles and skyscrapers, aboard buses and in train tunnels; the rail system alone has more than 3,600 cameras.

Police credit the network for thousands of arrests in recent years. After the Boston Marathon bombings, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was quick to tout Chicago's surveillance cameras.

"They serve an important function for the city in providing the type of safety on a day-to-day basis—not just for big events like a marathon," he said.

Police say they get few complaints about the network. And even the local branch of the ACLU says Chicagoans generally seem at peace with the system—except when they get a traffic ticket for a camera-recorded infraction.

Police have not always had their way in expanding surveillance networks. In Washington, D.C, the city council balked at appropriating money in 2008 for a network of more than 5,000 cameras after privacy and civil liberties groups campaigned against the plan.

Attorney Hanni Fakhoury of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for online free speech and privacy rights, said the data amassed by police from cameras and personal devices has enormous crime-solving potential. But he said there were worrisome questions about how long such data would be stored, and who could access it.

"There seems to be a suggestion, that just by walking in a city square, you give up your rights to be anonymous," he said. "We could stop all sorts of crime ahead of time if we monitored everything everywhere. But do we want to live in that kind of society?"

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User comments : 17

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kochevnik
1 / 5 (4) Apr 19, 2013
Yet another casus belli for the USA police state to test their systems
Jeweller
4 / 5 (4) Apr 19, 2013
South African Cities are also teeming with cameras, as in the UK. They do help to fight crime often. I think they're a good thing.
To American Citizens.
Please accept my most sincere condolences on the terrible bombings which have beset you.
From Brian in Cape Town, South Africa.
Jo Blas
1 / 5 (2) Apr 19, 2013
It is important to note that in the UK they do not have the resources to monitor these cameras in real time to any great effect. They are mostly used for after the fact investigation. In the USA on the other hand, seemingly endless amounts of money can go towards staffing such a system as long as the word 'terrorism' is somehow attached to it. I believe the cameras can be used to accomplish much good but in the hands of a state with the right resources they could also accomplish much that we would currently consider bad.
freethinking
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 19, 2013
On my facebook page, leftists, progressives were blaming the bombings on the right wing tea party, NRA, while the conservatives were saying the bomber was most likely a progressive Muslim.

According to the bombers face book and twitter account. They were Progressive, were for gun control, and for Obama....

As for police surveillance camera's, they have been proven to be a failure to prevent crime, or to solve crime. The pictures used to catch these radical progressive Muslims where from private camera's.

Also, for the anti-gun people. If you were in Boston right now hiding in your home, don't you wish you had a gun if the bomber came knocking at your door?

Just think, if they catch the one bomber alive, in a few years he too can be a progressive professor at a university, just like Bill Ayers.
freethinking
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 19, 2013
Here is the progressive radical Muslim bombers twitter showing he supported Obama's re-election.

Be aware, it does contain adult language. (Progressives can't avoid using the F word)

http://www.bob-ow...Owens%29

freethinking
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 19, 2013
Here is the link that shows it wasn't police camera's that identified the Radical Progressive Muslim bombers, but a victim's photo.

http://www.bloomb...ers.html
geokstr
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 20, 2013
It is important to note that in the UK they do not have the resources to monitor these cameras in real time to any great effect. They are mostly used for after the fact investigation. In the USA on the other hand, seemingly endless amounts of money can go towards staffing such a system as long as the word 'terrorism' is somehow attached to it. I believe the cameras can be used to accomplish much good but in the hands of a state with the right resources they could also accomplish much that we would currently consider bad.


The "surveillance" cameras tapes that were being analyzed by the FBI were mostly not owned or operated by government but by businesses (you know, those evil corporations). The first break was from a department store camera, Lord & Taylors.
alfie_null
1.8 / 5 (5) Apr 21, 2013
Also, for the anti-gun people. If you were in Boston right now hiding in your home, don't you wish you had a gun if the bomber came knocking at your door?

During the crisis, he comes pounding on your door. You answer, with gun in hand. Or perhaps you just shoot through the door.

A few seconds later, your dying thought is "sh*t, it was a SWAT team".

The NRA and its ilk attract an inordinate number of borderline sociopaths.
freethinking
3 / 5 (4) Apr 21, 2013
alfie, no according to VP Biden, you step outside with a double barreled shotgun, fire both rounds in the air, or as other liberals say, take your shoes off and run, throw up, state you have some sort of VD, or poop or pee in your pants.

Here is what happens when you follow Bidens advise

http://www.youtub...d6MNihlg

I much rather listen to a 13 year old girl's advise on guns

http://www.youtub...cSaGl-oA

freethinking
3 / 5 (4) Apr 21, 2013
This 13 year old boy can give better advise than most anti gun, pro terrorist progressive terrorists. I wonder how many years it'll take before the surviving bomber becomes a professor at some university AKA Bill Ayers.

http://www.youtub...LnlRVqKQ
freethinking
3 / 5 (4) Apr 21, 2013
BTW , the truth is that it is progressives attract inordinate number of sociopaths, dictators, terrorists, abortionists, criminals, rapists, murderers, tax cheats, racists, thugs, and just plain miserable people.

What is it about progressive beliefs attract so many malcontents?

freethinking
3 / 5 (4) Apr 21, 2013
So the bombers killed only a few people, what about this terrorist.

http://cnsnews.co...-get-out
freethinking
3 / 5 (4) Apr 22, 2013
I wonder how long before the surviving Progressive Muslim Bomber becomes a professor AKA Bill Ayers? Already other Progressive Professors are suggesting too much force was used in apprehending and stopping them.

http://nation.fox...-bombers
kochevnik
1 / 5 (4) Apr 22, 2013
I have warned Americans repeatedly about Chechen bombers for years but only encounter a tsunami of retardation from conservaturds like geokstr and freethinking. Conservatives are too stupid to operate proactively, but can only vainly attempt to ensconce news events in a manner that forwards their brainless agendas

What is known is that these kids were completely planned and sponsored by the FBI, as was every domestic terrorist event in the USA this century. FBI likes Chechens they are easily persuaded to kill. Every Russian knows this. That's why Obama partnered with Putin this week, knowing that his domestic intelligence only cares about terrorists when they can profit off them

kochevnik
1 / 5 (3) Apr 22, 2013
FBI deliberately ignored warnings from Russian government since November about Chechen bomber scum: http://www.telegr...aev.html

'...they will add significant weight to the growing chorus of criticism of the FBI, which came on Sunday from senior members of Congress who accused the Bureau of repeatedly "dropping the ball"'.
geokstr
4 / 5 (4) Apr 22, 2013
I have warned Americans repeatedly about Chechen bombers for years but only encounter a tsunami of retardation from conservaturds like geokstr and freethinking. Conservatives are too stupid to operate proactively, but can only vainly attempt to ensconce news events in a manner that forwards their brainless agendas


I rarely even comment here, especially compared to comment addicts like yourself. In addition, I can't recall ever commenting here in response to anything you have ever had to say, let alone specifically about Chechens, which came up only this last week. Feel free to find the quotes here if I am error. You are quite correct though in that I almost never agree with you.

I see that your debate style of using the logical fallacy of "argument by childish name-calling" is perfectly in keeping with your bud Vendy.

Grow up. I tire of reporting all the abusive, filthy comments of you and your ilk.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2013
let alone specifically about Chechens, which came up only this last week. Feel free to find the quotes here if I am error. You are quite correct though in that I almost never agree with you.
10,000 Chechens replaced the Georgian mob in Moscow. They took out the top Georgian mobsters with steak knives. Chechen soldiers wander arond Moscow with bullet belts and a machine gun. Chechens molested and murdered 300 children in Beslan. Chechens murdered people in a Moscow theatre. Chechens set Hollywood on fire last fall. You should get that senility checked geokstr, if only because you're annoying the people here who don't approve of children watching people your age having sex as you do

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