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Afternoon Cowbell | Main | Eric Alterman: Let's Not Rush To Judgment In London!
July 08, 2005

DefenseTech Goes To Iraq

Hired by Wired:

For the moment, I can’t go into too many details about what I’ll be doing there. It’s just too tasty a story to let out of the oven before it’s baked. But here’s what I can say: I’ll be embedding with a high-tech Army unit – one that’s playing an absolutely central role in the counterinsurgency there. If these soldiers fail in their missions, the entire coalition operation could go up in smoke. If they succeed, lots and lots of American and Iraqi lives will be saved.

That's a hell of a teaser. Based on his previous posts, I'd have to guess he'll be with a unit using some sort of medium/long-range bomb detection/detonation equipment. But that's just a guess.

He's also down on London's surveillance camera system, noting that as a preventitive system it had no effect on the terrorists. They knew they were being taped, but carried out their attacks anyway.

But he concedes the obvious-- as an after-the-fact forensic tool, the cameras will almost certainly put most or even all of the hands-on culprits at the scenes of the crime.

It's a debate I don't feel like getting into, really. I know libertarian-trending people get all up in arms about Big Brother and all, but honestly, what the hell do you care that you're being videotaped on your way to the dry-cleaners?

One of the libertarian complaints about pervasive surveillance -- no one is really watching the cameras anyway, at least not in real time, so what's the point? -- seems more or less directly at odds with their other complaint -- we've lost our right to move about freely, as we're being eyeballed constantly.

Well, no you're not, really. Unless you're a hot lipstick lesbian making out with a busty and coquettish cheerleader on the street, you're probably not being eyeballed much at all. And the tapes and hard-drives are periodically erased -- both to save money and to not keep permanent surveillance records of trivial events.

So, again, unless you're engaging in semi-legal-but-really-f'n'-hot behavior in public, you're probably just fine.

So many libertarian arguments, all about one's "right" to go to a Mr. Softee ice-cream truck without being spotted by a camera, seem awfully useful to criminals and terrorists. The don't mean to help criminals and terrorists, I know-- but that's the upshot.

All this worry about hypothetical invasions of privacy (while in public, mind you) and being watched performing utterly anodyne chores and commuting to work must be balanced against the fact that real criminals and murderous terrorists are being taped too, and videotape is a powerful law enforcement tool.

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posted by Ace at 02:36 PM

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