- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The rush to install an all-seeing, all-knowing camera on every street corner in the city represents the kind of invasiveness that should alarm those in the bluest locale in the nation, if only to be politically consistent.

Their alarm certainly surfaces if the National Security Agency monitors overseas telephone conversations between al Qaeda members and their sympathizers here.

The alarm certainly surfaces if the federal government monitors the money transfers of terrorists at banking institutions overseas.

But the critics’ alarm apparently is held in check if the party installing the cameras across the city believes in the same political ideology as they do.

You hear little discussion about the creeping loss of privacy in this blue enclave.

You hear little discussion about the threat on civil liberties and the potential of the electronic surveillance devices to be abused.

All you mostly hear is the feel-good wisdom of community leaders actively campaigning to have the D.C. police install one of the 52 crime-fighting cameras in their neighborhoods.

All you mostly hear is the cry of the masses pleading to live in an Orwellian state because of last month’s crime wave.

The bluest of the blue apparently understand the threat of homegrown thugs. They do not understand the threat from the Islamic fascists.

Or if they do, their utter disdain for the Bush administration overrides the threat.

Yet the threat remains real enough, if the terror plot that was thwarted in Britain last Thursday is an indication.

The terror threat is potentially far more grave than the spike in criminal activity that rallied the institutions in the city last month.

Several attacks on tourists on the Mall and the slaying of a British citizen in Georgetown have triggered a crime emergency, the call for more police, a teen curfew and the mounting of cameras.

A terrorist given to such a modest output of mayhem probably would not be granted even one of his 72 virgins in the afterlife. Terrorists think bigger than the robbery of a few tourists on the Mall and the killing of one poor soul.

Whether the terrorists are endeavoring to bring down more than 10 commercial jets flying to this country or seeking to take out one of the tunnels that connect Manhattan with New Jersey or have an obsession with the Sears Tower in Chicago, they think in terms of mass casualties and grand explosions.

They also think in terms of a favorable media marketplace steeped in moral equivalence and easily duped, as we have seen anew with the staged photographs involving rent-a-mourners in Lebanon.

The urge to civilize the uncivilized with a camera has no end, of course. And its usefulness in curbing crime is not impressive, as this newspaper reported on Sunday.

Anyone who has been robbed at an automated teller machine, in full view of a camera, has some experience with the limitations of electronic snooping.

As always, the desperate among us rarely respond to laws and deterrents in clear-thinking fashion. That is one small detail legislators inevitably neglect before passing more laws.

The city is lurching to a time when it will be deemed useful to mount cameras in alleyways, if not in rowdy group houses, all in an effort to control the aberrant behavior of the masses.

That will be the day Washington becomes one vast reality show, the day that Big Brother will have us in his intrusive grip, telling us what and what not to do.

And amusingly enough, the prospect of a life spent 24/7 in front of a camera is happening in a place that cares so deeply about the privacy and rights of those who mean us harm.

It is a place that will champion the rights of the nut jobs but relinquish its rights the moment a crime surge strikes too close to home.

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