New York to fight terrorism with more street-corner cameras
Mayor Bloomberg moves to expand high-tech surveillance to midtown Manhattan. But civil liberties groups are concerned, and some security experts question its value.
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"There are legitimate arguments on all sides here," says Frank Cilluffo, head of George Washington University's Homeland Security Policy Institute in Washington. "What I would like to see is a broader discussion that brings in the average citizen."Skip to next paragraph
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Probably the largest use of security cameras is in London, which has put what it terms a "Ring of Steel" of thousands of security cameras all around the city. But some security experts question their effectiveness.
"They won't stop any terrorist," says Bruce Schneier, chief security technology officer at BT (formerly British Telecom) and a widely-published author on security. "None of them is going to look at a camera and say 'I better go get a real job.' "
The only time cameras reduce crime is in parking lots and laundromats, Mr. Schneier says.
"It only makes sense if the tactics and targets are few, but there are billions of targets ranging from shopping malls to restaurants and dozens of tactics," he adds.
However, Brian Jackson, associate director of the Homeland Security Research Program at the Rand Institute in Washington, says the cameras create "the possibility for prevention" of an attack. He says cameras add a level of concern for the terrorists.
"Surveillance is one ingredient that gives the terrorists more opportunities to make a mistake and be discovered," says Mr. Jackson.
As for using sensors that detect biological and radiological weapons , Mr. Cilluffo says they often give off false positives or false negatives. "They tend to be only successful in events that can easily be contained like the State of the Union address or conventions," he says. "Once they are in a more dynamic environment, I'm not sure where the science is on that."
But the science of cameras is progressing fast, raising the possibility of even more "Big Brother"-like scenarios.
"Cameras are everywhere and you can see them," says Schneier, "In ten years, you won't even be able to see them."
Read more about how New York started the surveillance system in lower Manhattan in 2007.
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