Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Orwellian Airports

When I was young, I was assigned to read George Orwell's 1984. After reading it, I wondered how anyone could allow this to occur in their society. Yet, we are watching governments install that type of monitoring of supposedly free citizens in public places right before our eyes.  From Ottawa, Canada:

OTTAWA — Sections of the Ottawa airport are now wired with microphones that can eavesdrop on travellers’ conversations.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is nearing completion of a $500,000 upgrade of old video cameras used to monitor its new “customs controlled areas,” including the primary inspection area for arriving international passengers.

As part of the work, the agency is introducing audio-monitoring equipment as well.

“It is important to note that even though audio technology is installed, no audio is recorded at this time. It will become functional at a later date,” CBSA spokesman Chris Kealey said in a written statement.

But whenever that occurs, the technology, “will record conversations,” the agency said in a separate statement in response to Citizen questions.

Meanwhile, as many as 88 of the new high-definition video cameras are to be ready this summer.

Full story is here.

Back in the U.S., in view of the now almost weekly TSA scandals, the Washington Examiner published an op-ed piece that says:

The TSA should not be streamlined. Administrators should not "review screening procedures." Screeners don't need additional training. The TSA doesn't need to be tweaked. It didn't "go too far" in these specific instances. Its very existence goes too far. The TSA never should have been created in the first place, and it should be abolished now. Immediately. Without hesitation.
The TSA's existence is an assault on American liberty and simple human dignity, as anyone who has had his or her genitals touched during an "enhanced pat-down" can tell you. Some still say we should be willing to trade off a little bit of liberty in order to get security, but this is a false trade-off. The TSA does not provide security. It provides what security expert Bruce Schneier calls "security theater." The TSA only exists in order to give people the illusion of safety. Someone in an airport somewhere in the U.S. is being subjected to an unreasonable search by a gloved TSA screener right this minute. The cruel irony is that he or she is being stripped of liberty and dignity and is being made no safer for it.
As security experts John Mueller and Mark Stewart have estimated, the entire Homeland Security Department infrastructure fails on cost-benefit grounds. In order to justify the costs, Homeland Security would have to stop about four and a half attacks on the scale of the failed 2010 Times Square bombing every day.
This is an election year. If you believe, as I do, that the TSA should be an election issue please press the candidates to learn their position on our basic freedoms.  

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