Security Watch with Paul Zahn


BILL BROWN, SURVEILLANCE CAMERA PLAYERS: I believe democracy is threatened by these cameras. They are installed secretively. They operate secretively.


COLLINS: Next, the explosion of security cameras. Do we need them all? Do we need more? And who's watching?

Also, when you hear someone say, "Don't leave home without it," could they be talking about a national identity card? You might be surprised at who thinks they're a good idea.

COLLINS: Since 9/11, the sight of extra police at airports and subways has become routine. But that's the least of it. There's much more going on that you never really see, more sophisticated and secret security steps.

Here's Jeanne Meserve.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The medium truly is the message. As a New York City subway surveillance camera captures an anti-surveillance protest action, an adaptation of George Orwell's "1984."

BILL BROWN, SURVEILLANCE CAMERA PLAYERS: It was a way of bracingly asking people, "We should stop and think about what kind of society do we live in and what sort of society do we want to live in?" The first one is directly above us.

MESERVE: Bill Brown also gives guided tours of New York's surveillance cameras which he has carefully mapped.

BROWN: I would say that, in Manhattan alone, there are probably 15,000.

MESERVE: With high-powered binoculars, Brown demonstrates how much some cameras can see and talks about what they do.

BROWN: The problem is, is that they're not just looking at people who are ringing their bell. They could also be looking at anybody and everybody who's walking up and down the street.

MESERVE: Brown believes the cameras are ineffective security tools that put our rights and our governmental system at risk.

BROWN: I believe democracy is threatened by these cameras. They are installed secretively, they operate secretively, and that secrecy is the antithesis of democracy.

MESERVE: But the London bombings have triggered calls for more cameras and smarter cameras that can help stop crimes, not just help investigations.

(on screen): Proponents say some of these new technologies make security less intrusive, not more so.

(voice-over): On Madrid's train system, bombed by terrorists last year, a system is deployed that marries cameras with software that can be programmed to catch people going where they shouldn't go and doing what they shouldn't do.

ALAN LIPTON, OBJECT VIDEO: People leaving bags behind, maybe on a railway platform, or a railway carriage, or in an airport, people stealing objects, vandalizing things.

MESERVE: Another system pairs cameras with facial-recognition technology. In a demonstration, my picture is added to a watch list. When I join a simulated airport ticket line, I am picked out before I can pose a threat.

JOEL SHAW, CRYPTOMETRICS INC.: It's proactive. It doesn't rely on post-event analysis. It's trying to anticipate. It's trying to get ahead of that.

MESERVE: Authorities are searching, of course, not just for dangerous people, but dangerous objects. Metal detectors can't find plastic explosives or some types of weapons and ammunition.

But an x-ray technology called "Back Scatter" can see inside vehicles and under clothes. As you can see, this is a very candid camera, though the manufacturer says the person operating the equipment sees a less revealing picture.

ROBERT POSTLE, AMER. SCI. AND ENGINEERING, INC.: And what you'll see is very much an outline of the person's image with no detail of anatomy whatsoever, but the threat image is superimposed on that outline. So in my view, the privacy issue has been completely taken care of.

MESERVE: The body is very indistinct when another system is used. Millimeter-wave technology, adapted from space telescopes, can be programmed to differentiate between the human body and objects like the .357 magnum tucked in my waistband.

BRIAN ANDREWS, BRIJOT IMAGING SYSTEMS, INC.: We don't physically have to search you. We don't have to touch you or do anything. We don't racial profile.

MESERVE: A Fortune 500 retailer has just bought a millimeter- wave system to screen large numbers of people quickly, calling it a big boon to security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's fast. It's quick. It's a minimal amount of manpower and staffing for it.

MESERVE: But all of these technologies have limitations. With a hat and glasses, I stumped the facial recognition program. Software programmed to recognize anticipated threats and scenarios won't recognize new innovations. Neither "Back Scatter" nor millimeter-wave can see through flesh to detect something hidden under an arm or in a body cavity.

POSTLE: There is no one solution that solves every problem. And therefore, the more different interdictions and interrogations you can provide, the better your security is.

MESERVE: The prospect of more surveillance and interlocking systems puts privacy experts on edge. They worry about whether information and some of those intimate images will be recorded, archived, searched and shared.

A. MICHAEL FROOMKIN, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI LAW SCHOOL: Are those tapes ever going to leak? How secure are they going to be? Are they going to be encrypted? Who is going to have access to the tapes? Are they going to be passing them around for office parties?

MESERVE: Some of these technologies, like the "Back Scatter" van, can be used covertly.

POSTLE: If you were to see it on the street, you probably wouldn't think any differently of it than any other van on the street. And many of the government agencies use it in that capacity.

MESERVE: That means our belongings can be searched, our bodies stripped, without our ever being aware. Privacy advocates say current law is inadequate and needs to keep pace with the technology. But some Americans are perfectly willing to sacrifice some privacy for more security and convenience.

To participate in a trusted traveler program and bypass long security lines, Robert Brown is having his iris scanned, his fingerprints taken, and will undergo a government background check.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have nothing to hide. I have nothing to hide.

MESERVE: But there are tradeoffs between security and privacy.

POSTLE: The more you want to give to the privacy side of the ledger, the more you're likely to miss a threat. So there's a balance. There's a very difficult balance.

MESERVE: But are we striking that balance, or are we at risk of creating a society where we are safe but sorry?


COLLINS: So, Jeanne, the gentleman toward the end of your piece that was using the trusted traveler program, he says he has nothing to hide. Many people may feel the same way. What does the future look like for those of who say, "You know, I really don't care. I don't have anything to hide"?

MESERVE: Well, the Department of Homeland Security is very much interested in those trusted traveler type of programs that will make it easier and faster for some people to fly.

But you do have to get the government information. And what the critics say is, we're worried about how that information is going to be used, if it might be shared, if it might be merged with other information.

They say, you know, the point of the Founding Fathers was that the government should have as little to do with us as possible. This, potentially, could take us in the other direction. But the future seems to be those programs are going to move forward.

COLLINS: Jeanne Meserve, thank you.

MESERVE: You bet.

COLLINS: Would you carry something that critics say could completely violate your privacy? What if you've got nothing to hide and it could also make you safer?


TOM RIDGE, FORMER U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: If we can come up with a system that would protect privacy rights but also significantly enhance security . . . .


(Transcript of "Security Watch," aired as part of the Paula Zahn Show, CNN, 4 and 5 August 2005.)

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