I blogged about this probably three years ago on one of the many blogs I contribute to but it's still a timely issue and Charlie Savage revisits the ever burgeoning trend toward a total surveillance society. Homeland Security has been passing out millions for all these years in grants for every little podunk town in America to install cameras in their public spaces.
Recent examples include Liberty, Kan. (population 95), which accepted a federal grant to install a $5,000 G2 Sentinel camera in its park, and Scottsbluff, Neb. (population 14,000), where police used a $180,000 Homeland Security Department grant to purchase four closed-circuit digital cameras and two monitors, a system originally designed for Times Square in New York City.
Putting the obvious privacy concerns aside for a moment, let's consider the priorities here. We can't screen the vast majority of seagoing cargo or the cargo that rides in the bellies of passenger planes, our nuclear facilities are open targets and New Orleans is still unprotected from another major hurricane, all for lack of money but we're funding surveillance cameras for Liberty Kansas? Why? Because in a town of 95 people nobody would notice if a group of strangers started milling around their park?
And it's not just cameras. I recall another post I did some time back about grants going to petting zoos in the middle of nowhere and other unlikely targets for terrorism like the Museum for Rusty Car Parts in Teenytown, PA while shortchanging cities like New York and LA. Does anybody really think this is protecting us against terrorism? They're not watching them, they're watching us.
Our Homeland Security is a bad joke and if we ever get to the punchline after another terrorist attack, no one will be laughing.
Update: In an related story on the surveillance aspect, Gun Toting Liberal notes that American corporations are taking Big Brother surveillance international. As he notes, the new ID system in China's port city of Shenzhen makes the National ID scheme being proposed here look almost inviting. It's one step away from an implanted RFID chip in your armpit.
And as Glenn noted yesterday, Zimbabwe's Mugabe justified a sweeping new surveillance program by citing the Bush administration's newly enhanced powers so docilely handed over by the Congress. Totalitarianism appears to contagious.