Spy Cams coming to a city near you


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Feb 4, 2002
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Va. Police to Test Face Software
Fri Jul 5, 9:53 AM ET

By SONJA BARISIC, Associated Press Writer

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) - If you're a criminal, a runaway or a terrorist, a day at the beach here may soon be anything but that.

The city will become the second in the nation — Tampa, Fla., is the other — to employ facial-recognition software to assist police in identifying and catching criminals and missing persons.

The system is to be tested along the city's oceanfront resort strip this holiday weekend, and police hope to have it fully operational in two to three weeks.

"We're adding to our ability to prevent crime and keep Virginia Beach safe," Deputy Police Chief Gregory Mullen said Wednesday.

Critics say the software is inaccurate and an invasion of privacy.

"This is a Big Brother contraption," said Kent Willis, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union ( news - web sites) of Virginia. "It is a device that allows the police to take pictures of citizens who are doing nothing wrong while they're in a public place."

A board made up of members of minority organizations, civic leagues and the Virginia Beach Hotel/Motel Association helped create guidelines for using the system and will conduct unannounced audits.

The city has used 10 closed-circuit TV cameras to watch the oceanfront since 1993, largely to check traffic and observe crowds. Under the new system, three additional cameras will be used to scan a four-block area and feed images to police station monitors.

The software will create a "map" of 80 distinctive points on the face, such as the distance between features. The system will issue an alert if at least 14 points on a face picked up by a camera match those on a face in a database of mugshots.

If an officer monitoring the computer screen decides the faces look similar, the officer will radio an officer on the street to verify the match in person and take further action.

In Virginia Beach's test, the database will contain about 600 photos of people with outstanding felony warrants as well as volunteers.

The database eventually will contain thousands of mugshots of people wanted for felonies and violent misdemeanors, missing persons and runaways, and people on the FBI ( news - web sites)'s terrorist watch list.

Advisory board member Cornell Fuller said he is confident the system contains enough safeguards to prevent abuse.

"If you go to the ocean I don't think you should have an expectation of privacy," said Fuller. "You give up part of your privacy when you venture out into the public domain."

Some tourists walking along the resort strip Wednesday said they think the system is a good idea.

"It's for our protection. If you're not doing anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about," said Bonnie Satterlee, 39, of Johnstown, Penn.


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Feb 4, 2002
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Fewer Freedoms on 4th
Checkpoints and Jet Patrols Mark Post-Sept. 11 Celebration

By David A. Fahrenthold and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, July 4, 2002; Page B01

Military jets will patrol the skies over the District, New York and other cities today, as Independence Day festivities take place amid unprecedented precaution by federal and local law enforcement agencies.

In the District, where officials have said they expect hundreds of thousands to attend a concert and fireworks display, the Mall will be fenced in and watched over by a record number of police officers and a new system of surveillance cameras. From the capital, federal officials will monitor July Fourth gatherings across the country.

Even as they have announced measures that at times will impose airport-like security lines and bag inspections on the Mall celebration, officials have emphasized that no specific plans for a terrorist attack have been detected. This week, they urged Americans to celebrate their patriotism and leave the rest to the police.

"This is July Fourth and the American people should gather. The American people should celebrate," presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday. "Law enforcement will be on hand to do the worrying and to do the watching."

Paul D. Wolfowitz will be among the throng on the Mall. The deputy secretary of defense plans to stroll along the expanse this morning "as a show of confidence to encourage Americans to celebrate, and as a show of defiance to those who wish us ill," an administration official said.

The U.S. Park Police will be watching the Mall through a new network of security cameras that was set up in the last three weeks but announced only Tuesday. Yesterday, two key leaders criticized the Park Police, saying proper guidelines had not been presented for the use of the cameras.

"If you are going to be surveilled in public places by your government, you at least deserve to have notice of that," said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).

Norton and Rep. Constance A. Morella (R-Md.), who chairs the House Government Reform subcommittee on the District, issued a statement calling the cameras "unacceptable." Norton said she had been briefed by Park Police officials Friday but had not been told about the cameras.

Last night, Park Police Chief Teresa C. Chambers said she did not intend "to have any elected officials surprised by something as important as this."

Norton and Morella said the Park Police had not explained why they had not notified lawmakers about the cameras.

"When you consider that we had a hearing devoted exclusively to citizen surveillance" in March, Norton said, "they were under an obligation to mention surveillance on July Fourth."

One of Norton's staffers called the Park Police yesterday morning, and several hours later Norton said she received a one-page policy statement. That statement says that monitoring will take place only in areas "where no constitutionally protected reasonable expectation of privacy exists." Police have promised to keep tapes for no more than 30 days -- unless they need them as evidence in court -- and to turn the cameras off after the holiday.

Norton and Morella called the policy statement incomplete and promised to hold a hearing soon.

The heavy security here and across the country stems in part from an increase in intelligence "chatter" about a possible terrorist attack today, though authorities stress that no specific plans have been uncovered.

The FBI has drafted contingency plans across the country and has warned local law enforcement agencies to be on alert. But because there is no specific threat, the United States will remain on "elevated," or yellow, alert, a spokesman for the Office of Homeland Security said. That same level of threat has been in place since the Bush administration implemented the system this year.

Homeland Security spokesman Gordon Johndroe compared Independence Day to this year's Super Bowl or the Olympics in Salt Lake City, both of which were closely monitored by law enforcement agencies. "You have over 2,000 events over one or two days that present themselves as natural targets," Johndroe said. "You have to employ extra resources."

The Office of Homeland Security, which was formed after Sept. 11, will have extra staff at its emergency coordination center to monitor more than 2,000 holiday gatherings across the country, Johndroe said.

The Defense Department said yesterday that fighters would patrol over New York and Washington today. Round-the-clock patrols were flown after Sept. 11, but the flights have been intermittent this spring. Other cities also will be patrolled by jets today, officials said, though they would not name them.

In Washington, visitors to the Mall will enter through 24 checkpoints where officers will search bags and coolers, and scan some visitors with metal-detecting wands. About 2,000 police officers from various agencies will patrol the Mall, Metro Transit police will be in plainclothes on trains, and the Smithsonian Metro station will be closed for the day because it is within the secure perimeter.

After the fireworks display, Park Police said, they will open gaps in the fencing to allow crowds to exit.

On the Potomac River, the Coast Guard and D.C. police harbor patrol will set up a security zone, off-limits to boaters, extending 150 feet from the District shore between the Memorial and 14th Street bridges.

D.C. police will use its network of surveillance cameras to watch high-traffic areas,and will tap into the video systems of other agencies.

U.S. intelligence experts noted privately that the chance of an attack by al Qaeda operatives seemed slim. None of the group's past assaults, from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing to the Sept. 11 attacks, occurred on U.S. holidays or anniversaries.

"That has not been the pattern in the past, to strike on a particular day of note to Western culture," one Bush administration official said. "Secondly, they have not typically gone after what they consider to be hardened targets . . . and we are doing everything we can to make America a hardened target on July Fourth."

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