Monday, July 2, 2007

Towards a surveillance society

Yesterday Sen. Joseph Liberman (I-CT) used the botched attacks in London as an excuse to promote the expansion of domestic spying at home.

“I hope these terrorist attacks in London wake us up here in America to stop the petty partisan fighting going on about…electronic surveillance,” in apparent reference to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subpoenas for documents related to Bush’s NSA warrantless wiretapping program.


Lieberman went further in his calls for greater domestic spying. “The Brits have got something smart going. … They have have cameras all over London. … I think it’s just common sense to do that here much more widely.”

In Britain, there is one closed circuit TV camera for every 14 people. Dr. David Murakami-Wood co-wrote a 2006 report on surveillance presented to the government information commissioner. Murakami-Wood described the erosion of privacy to BBC News:

"We really do have a society which is premised both on state secrecy and the state not giving up its supposed right to keep information under control while, at the same time, wanting to know as much as it can about us."

The report coincided with one by the human rights group Privacy International. They rated Britain as the worst-performing Western democracy in their 2006 survey of the ability of countries to protect civilians' privacy, describing it as an "endemic surveillance socity."

And yet despite the prevalence of privacy invasions rationalized by security needs, government spying played no role in foiling these attempted attacks. This fact should undermine grounds for surveillance, not justify curtailing civil liberties even further.

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