- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2000

When government and business get together to "help" the actual fact is almost always a diminution of our personal security. The partnership between Lockheed Martin IMS and the government of the District of Columbia to set up photo radar speed enforcement represents just such an affront. Last week, the city announced that within a month, mobile speed-enforcement stations using equipment helpfully provided by Lockheed Martin IMS will be sprouting in the District with $26 generated by every automated ticket being sent to the darlings at Lockheed. The remaining loot will funnel to the coffers of the District government.

Using cameras to mulct "speeders" (e.g., those guilty of technical infractions of often ludicrously under-posted and often arbitrary limits) follows upon the cash bonanza generated by the similar red light cameras that have been in use for some time now with technical assistance also provided by Lockheed Martin IMS. Instead of having cops witness traffic infractions and issue citations, the unblinking eye of the camera works 24-7 and never misses a scofflaw.

As compelling as the public safety angle is, however, there is something ominous about the growing use of blanket surveillance by government authorities often in collusion, and for pecuniary ends at that, with some "private" corporation. How is it that Lockheed Martin IMS has authority to be involved in the meting out of fines and punishment for violations of civil law? When that camera snaps your picture, it does not go to the police, or to some agency of the government. Rather, it goes straight to those fine public servants at Lockheed Martin IMS who also get to access personal information about you as they "process" your soon-to-be-delivered fine.

Now, whether they enjoy the duty or not, it is the duly-sworn job of the police and government to administer and enforce traffic laws. If the police are too tired or bored to deal with traffic violations, or find the work beneath them, what, exactly, are they being paid to do? The police are not constantly in pursuit of looting mobs and gun-toting gangs to such an extent that they have no time for mere traffic scofflaws. The great part of their day, or a large part of it, consists of driving around in their cruisers, waiting for something to happen. Let them deal with red light runners and speeders while they wait for bigger fish to fry.

More seriously, submitting to the kind of total state tactics represented by 24-hour surveillance, no matter what the "public safety" angle is means we are willing to give up, in principle, freedoms that have not long existed for the majority of mankind. It may be "just" a traffic ticket today but don't be surprised if tomorrow other aspects of your life are subject to similar scrutiny.

It will all be justified as necessary for our own good, of course. But in the end, we will be less free, more watched and more subjects than citizens.

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