Los Angeles Expands Citywide Surveillance


Military surveillance techniques that were perfected in Fallujah, are now being deployed in Southern California. Despite recent drops in violent crime, Los Angeles is experimenting with license plate reading technology and citywide surveillance cameras. Authorities will have the ability to track the exact locations of L.A. drivers at any date – whether they've committed a crime or not.

According to LAWeekly:

"Smart video" programs can use facial recognition to ID people by comparing live CCTV footage to mugshot databases built from facial scans collected by police using mobile devices or during bookings. Computer programs also can learn "acceptable behavior" by humans — such as pedestrian or vehicular traffic patterns — and alert cops when something "abnormal"' occurs.

LAPD already is using a sophisticated intelligence-analysis program from Silicon Valley firm Palantir, which is partially funded by In-Q-Tel, the Central Intelligence Agency's venture capital firm. Palantir sells data-mining and analysis software to the NSA and other intelligence agencies.

Ana Muniz, an activist and researcher who works with the Inglewood-based Youth Justice Coalition, says, "Any time that a society's military and domestic police force become more and more similar, where the lines have become blurred, it's not a good story."

Last June, Reason TV investigated Baltimore's controversial decision to install audio recorders in its fleet of city buses. Maryland's politicians were bitterly divided over the issue, while privacy activists debated law enforcement over the policy.

For the most part, Baltimore's bus riders have accepted surveillance as a fact of life. In a city that ranks among America's most violent, most citizens say they're more concerned with fighting crime than protecting privacy in public spaces.

The original text follows:

Do you know that your local city bus might be listening to your conversations?

Depending on where you live, the sidewalks could be recording your every step. And your lampposts and subway cars may be watching you, too.

Once a paranoid notion of science fiction, perpetual state surveillance is fast becoming the new normal. In some cases, the technology is being activated without the consent of the public.

When the Maryland legislature considered a bill to turn on audio recording devices inside its statewide fleet of 758 buses, it set off a fierce debate in the Senate. Delegate Melvin Stukes argued that audio surveillance is a powerful tool to help fight crime, and individuals cannot expect privacy on public transportation. Opposing him was senator James Brochin, who warned of an assault on civil liberties and the frightening potential for government abuse.

But make no mistake, this was more than a clash of two powerful state politicians. This was a struggle between two cherished American values: privacy versus security. It's a conflict that's playing out in communities all across the United States.

So far, surveillance is winning. After the Maryland legislature rejected three bills that sought to activate audio surveillance in buses across the state, the transit authority turned them on anyway, on the advice of the state attorney general.

Do citizens get any say in the matter? In a 1967 ruling, Katz v. United States, the Supreme Court affirmed that the individual right to privacy depends largely on a set of norms that are determined by society. In other words, if you have a reasonable expectation of privacy – even if you're in a public place – then you are entitled to it.

Surveys show strong and growing public support for some kinds of surveillance. An April 2013 New York Times poll shows that 78% of respondents approved the use of video cameras in public places. Terrorist incidents like Boston Marathon bombings have made the public ever more receptive to cameras in the name of fighting crime. (The poll didn't ask about audio recording.)

A recent study by the Urban Institute concludes that surveillance has a significant effect on reducing crime. Baltimore, a city with the fourth highest murder rate in the nation, has benefitted from video cameras, as have Chicago, and Washington, D.C.

Yet downsides remain. Even in the young history of audio-visual surveillance, the ACLU notes that the technology has already been abused. Members of law enforcement have used information gleaned from cameras to blackmail, spy, and harrass citizens. And if these crimes seem relatively minor now, imagine how a future J. Edgar Hoover would make use of the all-seeing eye, with its powers of voice-matching and face-recognition.

It's a worrisome prospect. Senator Brochin, who accepts video cameras while condemning audio surveillance, is quick to remind us how eavesdropping poses a threat to an open, democratic society. Citing the widespread use of covert listening devices in authoritarian countries, he remains concerned about what the future is going to look – and sound – like.

Surveillance technology has certainly become powerful, and promises to become more so. But when and whether that technonology is used – that power still remains with us.

Runs about 8:12 minutes.

NEXT: S.M. Oliva on Michael Jordan and the Nonsensical Commercial Speech Doctrine

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  1. The LA Sheriff Lee Baca recently retired after charges of his abuses of power could not be ignored anymore, and now there is decision to give the LA Law Enforcement community expanded tools and policies with a high potential of abuse.


    1. Must be all those stinky SoCons that dominate LA’s government.

  2. Sounds like people need to go plinking.

    1. In the middle of a city? That’s pretty irresponsible. No, paintball guns might be a better choice.

      1. Birdshot

        1. Mercury fulminate.

            1. Hehehe. Wow, and people tell me I play rough! I was thinking about the damaging the electronic equipment, not killing the Kneelers.

      2. If they are arguing for safety, public unsafe behavior would be a good argument for removing the cameras.
        Or they can put steel backstops on them.

  3. In a 1967 ruling, Katz v. United States, the Supreme Court affirmed that the individual right to privacy depends largely on a set of norms that are determined by society. In other words, if you have a reasonable expectation of privacy ? even if you’re in a public place ? then you are entitled to it.

    So when society says “mommy, the scary terrorists scare me! Make them go away!” the dead horse called the 4th Amendment gets one more whack.

    1. The whole expectation of privacy concept is utter bullshit created out of whole clothe by the judiciary.

      You know, the branch that’s supposed to safeguard our liberties.

      1. You know, the branch that’s supposed to safeguard our liberties.

        Very droll, sir. Very droll. But if they defend the rights of the people against government tyranny, who will invite them to TEH KOKTALE PARTEEZ?

      2. The judiciary conjured the “right to privacy” out of whole cloth too…

        1. No they didn’t. It’s implied by the 4th amendment and ninth amendment.

    2. The 4th amendment concerns searches and seizures, which scanning publicly visible license plates and faces does not rise to the level of.

      The right to privacy is an invention of the Court based on the “Rohrshach test” interpretation of the 9th Amendment. What the court giveth, the court taketh away.

      1. Nope. Americans intuitively know that that they have a right to privacy, which means that said right is covered by the 9th amendment.

        Meanwhile, the court invented concept of expectation of privacy inherently enables government snooping as the government gets to define what is a reasonable expectation and as such is a clear violation of the 9th amendment.

        1. Holy circular argument, Batman.

        2. This is something that has always bothered me about the Ninth Amendment. By what process is something determined to be a right and not a mere privilege? And, who is empowered to make that determination?

  4. “individuals cannot expect privacy on public transportation.”

    Certainly. And legislators and senior government officials cannot expect privacy in the discharge of their duties. So we need recording devices in all of their offices, official cars, phones, computers, etc., with live streaming to the internet. If you have you’re not doing anything wrong….

    1. But executive privilege!

      1. According to the gov, the only reason for asserting privacy is to hide criminal activity. So, is executive privilege just a cover for criminal activity?

        1. What is government by organized crime wearing the threadbare cloak of law?

  5. And legislators and senior government officials cannot expect privacy in the discharge of their duties.

    Silly civilian.

  6. Mostly OT but related to the police state:


    As a NE resident who regularly drives to CO, I figured this would happen but not quite so quickly. I was refreshingly surprised at the percentage of comments criticizing the drug war.

    1. I hear arguments for expanded police budgets

      1. That’s actually implied in the article: it details just how much more money must be spent. Doesn’t mention money from fines.

  7. The promise of the United States was never one of security, it was opportunity and liberty. Time for the cowards to either grow up, or just slit their wrists and be done with their misery.

    1. Those willing to trade liberty for temporary security will get, and deserve, neither.

  8. It’s not just LA.

    The chief said the new devices are tools that help good police do their jobs. (Emphasis added.)

    No word on what bad police will be using the tools for.

  9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In-Q-Tel

    In-Q-Tel is a Virginia-registered corporation, legally independent of the CIA or any other government agency. The corporation is bound by its Charter agreement and annual contract with the CIA, which set out the relationship between the two organizations. In-Q-Tel’s mission to support the Intelligence Community’s technical needs is promoted by the In-Q-Tel Interface Center (QIC), an office within the CIA that facilitates communication and relationships between In-Q-Tel and government intelligence organizations. While In-Q-Tel is a nonprofit corporation, it differs from IARPA and other models in that its employees can profit from its investments.

  10. I don’t think there is a Constitutional argument to be made here that would prohibit cameras in public places. Looking with a camera is no different than looking with your eyes.

    The only way to stop authorities from doing this is to pass laws prohibiting the use of cameras for law enforcement.

  11. Terrorist have accomplished what they set out to do. Everyone is living in terror fearing the next attack, including government officials. We no longer live in a free coun

  12. Anyone notice that the comments are closed on the CNN article about the stabbing attack in china?

    1. Why, yes I did.

      CNN is shameful when it comes to it’s comments section. I get censored there ALL the time, even when trying to make my point as politely as possible.

      I have progs calling me all sorts of vile shit, and they’ll take my post down when using the term “nonsense” in reply to someone’s ridiculous argument.

      If it doesn’t fit their narrative…

  13. For all you gamers out there I think this might be relevant: a stealth/puzzle game where the object is to always be seen by the omnipresent eye of your watchers (rather than never, which is usually the case in these sorts of games).


  14. Eric Holder endorses state nullification.

    Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Monday injected the Obama administration into the emotional and politicized debate over the future of state same-sex marriage bans, declaring in an interview that state attorneys general are not obligated to defend laws that they believe are discriminatory.

    “If I were attorney general in Kansas in 1953, I would not have defended a Kansas statute that put in place separate-but-equal facilities,” Mr. Holder said.

    Cool. I’m excited to see Eric Holder stand up and applaud when Missouri refuses to enforce federal gun laws.

    1. No Irish, you see, state AGs can nullify their own state laws. If they dare challenge Imperial Decrees, then they are treasonous neo-Confederates.

    2. I wonder if he was as enthusiastic about state DAs in the south refusing to enforce murder and assault laws during Jim Crow.

      Because that is the real world history of what he is advocating here.

    3. Once again, all together, the Progressive mantra: “IT’S OKAY WHEN WE DO IT!”

  15. Military surveillance techniques that were perfected in Fallujah, are now being deployed in Southern California.

    Omigod! it was bad enough when they put military geolocation technology that was used for ICBMs in my cell phone, and military cooking technology from nuclear subs in my kitchen, but we have to put our foot down this time. Seal off military-funded technology R+D from civilian life before it’s too late!

    1. Reading about the militarization of local police forces and government bureaucratic agencies certainly makes me wish that lots of stuff developed for the military stayed exclusively with the military.

      Some copsuckers will disagree, of course.

      1. bureaucratic agencies certainly makes me wish that lots of stuff developed for the military stayed exclusively with the military.

        Actually, it’s nice when it’s in my hands.

  16. Nothing
    Left to

  17. Public privacy is an oxymoron, or would be if it were 1 word.

    If the state maintains streets bldgs., & xport’n facilities, it’s incumbent on them to use available technology to preserve people’s safety while using them, whether it’s surveillance or sprinklers. Objecting to their tools rather than their policies won’t fly; it’s like advocating gun controls vs. crime, or wanting controls on medicine because of medical errors or malice.

    1. Trouble is, governments’ idea of “preserving people’s safety” inevitably expands to “encroaching on people’s liberty”.

      1. I guess the people will have to know when to draw the line and vote liberty-encroachers out.

        1. It’s pretty to think so, but reflect on how little the average person cares about personal freedom and realize that half the people care less than that.

          I’m pessimistic.

          1. To the extent that’s true, there’s nothing that can ever be done anyway, so why bother even discussing it?

            Let’s say a municipality acquires a bus line which has already had surveillance video installed maybe even with face recognition. Should the municipality disconnect the video on assuming oper’n of the line?

  18. Dud ethat is like way cool man. For real.


  19. As for me this is a normal initiative. People shouldn’t be aware of public transport. And, of course, the public is entitled to know the details, because frankly speaking maintaining wireless cameras in prone to vandalism places, requires additional expenses. I have now installed cameras in the parking of the business center, they are wireless too – I run them from my computer using the program Xeoma, however, someone is always trying to steal them.

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