Civil Liberties

Staring Down Terrorism

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At a start-up cost of $90 million, and maintenance costs of $8 million a year, London-style surveillance is coming to New York. Having obtained less than a third of the money needed ($25 million), New York's finest are about to install thousands of cameras and license plate readers in Lower Manhattan:

Three thousand surveillance cameras would be installed below Canal Street by the end of 2008, about two-thirds of them owned by downtown companies. Some of those are already in place. Pivoting gates would be installed at critical intersections; they would swing out to block traffic or a suspect car at the push of a button.

Yet:

There is little evidence to suggest that security cameras deter crime or terrorists, said James J. Carafano, a senior fellow for homeland security at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group in Washington.

As is customary in surveillance societies, the whole project is coming in with no public consultation whatsoever.

Julian Sanchez has looked at ever-more powerful surveillance technology; Ronald Bailey protested the total surveillance society, and Katherine Mangu-Ward has examined the extent of surveillance nation. Reason analyzed the advantages of databasification in June 2004.