Peter King pushes for expanded surveillance

by John Watts

The country is still on edge and deeply perturbed by the bombings at the Boston Marathon one week  ago today.

With final casualty counts yet unconfirmed and any alleged suspects remaining unidentified, already the usual suspects went in front of the camera clamoring for ever more impositions on the liberty and privacy of American citizens.

Rep. Peter King, (R-NY), was on MSNBC to talk with Andrea Mitchell, the doggedly anti-freedom wife of former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Mitchell asked Rep. King if he thought Americans are going to have to accustom themselves to even more surveillance cameras monitoring them. Here’s Rep. King’s response:

“I think we do because I think privacy involves being in a private location. Being out in the street is not an expectation of privacy. Anyone can look at you, can see you, can watch what you're doing. A camera just makes it more sophisticated, but it's no different from your neighbor looking out the window at you or a police officer looking at you walking down the street.

So I do think we need more cameras. We have to stay ahead of the terrorists and I do know in New York, the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, which is based on cameras, the outstanding work that results from that. So yes, I do favor more cameras. They're a great law enforcement method and device. And again, it keeps us ahead of the terrorists, who are constantly trying to kill us.

I hope also that members of Congress, both parties, including my own, will realize that the war against terror is not over. And it's foolhardy to be making cuts in Homeland Security, especially to cities, whose police departments need this to train and to be ready to take on terrorism.”

Rep. King’s notion that privacy involves being in a “private location” is nonsense. American citizens do not need to be supervised going about their daily business like prison inmates, who are naturally suspected of malevolent intentions.

Cameras don’t make things simply more sophisticated; they make permanent records. Your neighbor monitoring his own private property, or a corporation doing the same, is not akin to government officials reconnoitering large public areas looking for anybody who might come off as “odd.”

Having more cameras on our streets aren’t going to keep us safe from or help to “stay ahead” of terrorists. A suicide bomber is not going to care whether or not he is caught on camera blowing himself up. Actually, the idea of a permanent recording capturing what he views as an act of self-martyrdom might just tickle his fancy.

What expanded surveillance will do is put Americans more at risk of being harassed and abused by petty government bureaucrats – police, prosecutors and other revenue collectors of all varieties. After all, once the cameras are installed, why not maximize their utility by looking for drug and prostitution activity, speeding or traffic violations, etc.?

What Rep. King needs to realize is that the “war on terror” is a metaphorical war that is a poor framework for dealing with the terrorism that afflicts Americans as a result of their government’s invasive and destructive actions abroad. It is war with no end, because terrorism is a tactic, not our actual enemy.

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