Surveillance State Blues

Today our Technology and Liberty Program featured some horrifying new photos—courtesy of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA)—that show what the TSA's new "see-through" body scanners will show airport security.

Our take? We don't think flyers should be subjected to such intrusive displays of their naked bodies. Intimate details of the human body, like the size of breasts and genitals, as well as mastectomies, colostomy appliances, and catheter tubes will be in plain view of TSA personnel, and anyone else in the security area who'd like to take a gander at any particular passenger.

As of this month, the machines are reportedly being deployed at Baltimore-Washington International airport, Dallas/Fort Worth, LAX, JFK, Reagan National, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Detroit, Phoenix, and Miami.

Now, the TSA has promoted the existence of image "scramblers" that will protect the exposure of your face and privates. But these scramblers can be turned off as easily as they're turned out, making it ripe for abuse by any curious TSA employee. (Is that Angelina Jolie trying to board a plane?) As we saw in the breach of Presidential candidates’ passport files, personal information on celebrities is all-too-enticing unless real privacy protections are put in place. How long will it be before one of the candidates’ naked pictures ends up on the internet? (Since we at the ACLU are non-partisan, we won’t say which candidate we’d prefer).

In other horrifying surveillance news, reports that the NYPD is testing a new surveillance helicopter to patrol the city:

The helicopter's unmarked paint job belies what's inside: an arsenal of sophisticated surveillance and tracking equipment powerful enough to read license plates — or scan pedestrians' faces — from high above the nation's largest metropolis.

…the $10 million helicopter is just part of the department's efforts to adopt cutting-edge technology for its counterterrorism operations.

The NYPD also plans to spend tens of millions of dollars strengthening security in the lower Manhattan business district with a network of closed-circuit television cameras and license-plate readers posted at bridges, tunnels and other entry points.

If this sounds vaguely Big Brother-ish to you, you're only wrong about the “vaguely” aspect. This raised eyebrows at the NYCLU, which filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information about the city's "Ring of Steel" surveillance camera program when it was announced last year. And while the NYPD insists that these cameras are a necessity for its counterterrorism operations, it doesn't address the fact that all this high-tech gadgetry doesn't work. It's a proven fact that video surveillance doesn't deter crime, especially the type of suicide-attack that felled the World Trade Center.

London's Ring of Steel, after which the New York Ring of Steel was adapted, has proven that surveillance cameras neither deter crime nor help much in solving crimes after the fact, according to study by the British Home Office.

We're often asked how much privacy people should be willing to trade for more security. But that’s the wrong question. The right question is does the surveillance technology being deployed actually work. Often times, you’ll find the answer is no. When that’s the case, there’s absolutely no reason we should sacrifice our Constitutionally-protected rights — whether they protect the privacy of our naked bodies or our right to walk down the street without being scrutinized by the watchful eye of a security camera.

When the surveillance state’s got you down, it’s time to fight back.

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Does the ACLU have plans to litigate the electronic strip search policy before it becomes widespread and mandatory? This is outrageous, and unlikely to increase security.


Surveillance camera recording leads to graffiti arrests

freedom for all

I am worried. When I was a small child I use to pick up cans to recycle from the neighbors. One of the houses was that of an old German couple that use to tell me how scary it was to live in Nazi Germany. They talked about servalence and microphones in the lights. When I was young I was horrified!! Now it's becoming a reality. Evrytime I see a new camera going up weather it's for running a red light or just keeping the neighborhood save I get an acking pain in my stomach and want to cry. I think I better think about moving to a free country because we are loosing our freedoms so fast in this country it's not even funny. I have told my children don't fight to take away someone cigarette smoking because it never stops. once they get control of one freedom or right they go to the next. I told them next the will be picking on the food because they want to tell you what you can and can't eat. What happened they made the restrants change their oils. Being fat is more deadly than smoking but to outlaw smoking is easier because more people are fat than smoke. we need to stop the dictators in this counrty and have a live and let live attitude. We need to go back to the days when you were innocent before proven guility. We need to realize kids will be kids and 10 year old don't need life in prison. We need to understand a $300+ ticket for might be nothing to one person and for the next person it might be everything they have to spend above their bills for a year or in some cases even bill money. Thing are not right in this country and it seems not enough is being done fast enough to keep up with government greed. it's to easy for the local governments and police departments to make changes that effect everyone and if it worked for them the next city county or state will fallow. we. need to go back to we the people for the people when the motto "to protect and serve" meant just that. now we have ticket writting police and police that answer 911 calls. I personally had an officer come to my house saying someone called 911 well it was a crossed phone line but when I enquired when the call was made I was told 9 days ago. I found that funny in a sad and scarry way that in the past 9 days I had seen may officers patroling the steets by my house and giving out tickets but making the money from the tickets was 9 days less important than the safty of the person making the 911 call. IMO binladen won because since 911 we freed the people from the taliban but we have starte to imprision our our. I WANT TO BE FREE AGAIN!!! I want to know that the good ole USA isn't turing into the movie "Judge Dredd". You hear about the making of laws and new laws but you never hear government say I was wrong lets get rid of those laws. From Riverside, CA and the LA area HELPPPPPPPPPPPP before it's too late.

samy lolo

thank youuuuuuuuuu

samy lolo



I don't understand what the confusion here is. Even Prisoners are not strip searched unless there is a reasonable suspicion to do so. What's the logic here? That's it's reasonable to suspect that everyone is a terrorist so they should all be strip searched? By that rational were all terrorist and what rights do we have left? This is really getting out of hand.

Ann D

I think we need a Mass March on Washington to ReClaim our Civil and Privacy Rights Ann Douglas University of Hartford
avid Anti-RFID activist

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