Sunday, August 05, 2007

Automated Photo Enforcement: A Growing Cancer Undermining the Very Fabric of our Civil Liberties

UPDATED: 11 Aug 07, 0730

The more I research the ways and means of automated photo enforcement, the more I realize that these systems, the companies which provide them, the professional lobbyists which 'sell' them, the legislators which allow them, and the 'progressive' judges which re-affirm their 'legality' are each contributing to the erosion of the very principles on which our country was founded.

I think it is with great irony that the city which has historically been known as the 'cradle of liberty'—Philadelphia—is quietly undertaking the wide-spread deployment of these systems throughout the city.

Pennsylvania—known as the Keystone State—is already in the pipeline for the establishment of a state-wide deployment of these automated photo enforcement systems.

Given that states moniker does this suggest that as goes Pennsylvania, so goes the rest of the nation?

I for one, certainly hope not...not in this case.

An automotive journalist friend of mine recently observed that the U.S. has historically been the leading source of manned traffic control technology (i.e.; police radar, police laser) that is deployed throughout the U.S. and abroad.

If find it very telling that the majority of the most successful and experienced companies—some of whom are vying and actively lobbying—for U.S. city/state contracts of automated photo enforcement equipment and services—are foreign.

This is not a mere coincidence:

A number of these foreign or multi-national companies are accessing the sales/income potential of the U.S. market and already have established or are in the process of establishing U.S.-based subsidiary operations in anticipation of an explosive new growth market/demographic—the U.S. taxpayers.

Globalization certainly has its pluses and minuses and I believe, in this case, we are getting a first-hand taste of the societal effects that another country's products/services/societal philosophy can have (Thomas P.M. Barnett calls this content flow and Thomas Friedman addresses this dynamic in his books on globalization), since we [the U.S.] are not the leaders in nor the primary exporters of this technology.

It is an interesting and uncomfortable feeling being on the receiving-end of the societal disruption/perturbation (historically we've been the initiators), something that I believe we are going to have to get used to as time goes on as other countries become more industrialized and internationally-market focused.

And why haven't we been the international market leaders of these related technologies—technologies that have been in deployment around the world for quite some time, now?

I think the answer is pretty simple, really: Heavy-handed surveillance and monitoring [by the Government] wasn't in our country's unique birthing DNA.

In much of the E.U. there are no similar protections/inalienable rights afforded to its citizenry by way of a document similar to our Bill of Rights (read them), such as our 4th, 5th, and 6th amendments and the Freedom of Information Act (read it).

On the contrary, our country and its society were founded upon the very premise of defying oppressive/tyrannical laws and was intentionally established with a series of checks-and-balances to prevent tyranny— including (most importantly) the establishment of our 2nd amendment.

That's why these enforcement tactics have been slow to really take root in our [more enlightened] society and are doing so now, quietly and behind closed doors.

These other countries do not share our same history or societal perspective (many [of them] are rooted in a monarchy).

Even so, there may be a 'perfect storm' in the making. While automated photo/traffic enforcement initiatives have been taking place at the state and local levels, I believe there is [well-intended] tacit support [for this technology and its implementation] by the Federal Government—for the purposes of enhancing and aligning our global security rule-sets with our allies abroad—as a continuing evolution of the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) domestic surveillance initiatives.

While I certainly understand and support the need to enhance our national security at these difficult and challenging times in our nation's history, particularly in a post-9/11 world (where our individual liberties are already under pressure), we need to be especially vigilant towards what kind of society in which we [U.S. citizens] want to create for ourselves to live and at what costs.

It think it would be ironic if we allowed our society to become police-state-like even though we may have 'won' the Cold War—in the name of fighting a globar war on terror and ensuring our safety.

Certainly, photo or video surveillance has demonstrated that it can be an essential tool [to law enforcement and security officials] and I do feel they serve a legitimate purpose (especially at major points of public gathering), however, turning the 'machine' into the 'prosecutor' is clearly crossing the line. Get the picture?

Crafters of our emerging domestic security rule-sets would be well advised to read and understand the concepts of 'soft power' and the appeal of its supporting policies (as articulated clearly in our own global security rule-sets) which inure to the mutual benefit of our global partner nations.

Why should the U.S. taxpayers be afforded anything less in consideration by our own government?

It will serve as our basis of establishing and maintaining mutual trust and understanding.

Here's a notable excerpt from Ron Paul's weekly column (Texas Straight Talk):

"Freedom is not defined by safety. Freedom is defined by the ability of citizens to live without government interference."
Ron Paul, 09 AUG 04

I believe we need to strike a healthy balance between these two potentially conflicting ideals—freedom and safety.

We have arrived at a defining moment in our nation's young history—and our nation's Forefathers are watching [and so is the rest of the world].

In closing, consider this letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison entitled: A Little Rebellion Now and Then Is A Good Thing.

Perhaps one does not have to go as far as Jefferson was willing, as we have managed to keep our 1st amendment right to free-speech, press, peaceful assembly, and the ability to petition:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
I know we each have a lot of things on our respective plates, but please get involved as a voting citizen to protect the usurpation of our civil liberties, by these mostly foreign multi-national companies, in the name of corporate profit-taking (or implied security).

Let Freedom Ring

And, if you are connected with this nascent U.S. industry in any way: please do not sell-out our country's Founding Principles.

Money may not be at the root of all Evil, but [the love of] money, greed, and power certainly can make good company [to it].
Surely, there are more noble callings.
Veil Guy

Please Join the Call to Action:

  1. Petition to the Government for a Redress of Grievances:
    Stop Photo Enforcement Petition

  2. Consider Joining: National Motorists Association
Related Reading:
  1. Automated Red Light Speed Camera Photo Enforcement: For Safety or Profit?
  2. A Closer Look at Automated Enforcement: Red Light Cameras/Speed on Green Cameras/Radar-LIDAR Speed Cameras
  3. Machine Bears False Witness Against Me
Other Points of View:
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