a sarcastic open letter dated 17 September 2003 and addressed to all those involved in or ultimately responsible for the recent scandal involving egregious abuses of a government surveillance camera in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

CC: Joe Robinson, Director of the Tuscaloosa Department of Transportation; D.J. McInnes, Director of the Alabama Department of Transportation; W.M. Coppage, Coomander of the Highway Patrol Division, Alabama Department of Public Safety; Terry Windam, Alabama State Trooper Association, Tuscaloosa.

We are writing to thank you for the recent scandal involving egregious abuses of a government surveillance camera. We're sure you know exactly what we're talking about. The story was first reported by the University of Alabama on 12 September 2003, and then confirmed by the Associated Press on 15 September 2003. At around 3 am on Friday 12 September 2003, someone -- someone with access to the control center in which Alabama State Troopers watch the live feeds coming from 31 wireless cameras installed above intersections by the Tuscaloosa Department of Transportation -- used the remote-controls to change the direction in which one of the cameras was facing and zoom in on what the Associated Press referred to "the breasts and buttocks of several young women walking past."

Why are thanking you? Because, dear sirs, you have -- in one fell swoop -- confirmed everything that we have been warning people about for the last seven years. Ever since 1996, we've been reminding people that police officers aren't angels and that, when they get bored -- which happens very often to policemen assigned to "video patrols" -- they do what other bored men do: watch TV, gawk at pretty girls, masturbate. We've also been warning people that so-called traffic flow-monitoring cameras aren't "OK," benign or impervious to abuse, just because they (supposedly) watch cars and not pedestrians. And we've been telling people that wireless cameras are not "secure," and that their signals can easily be interfered with, intercepted or diverted. Though a great many people have taken us quite seriously, others have referred to us as alarmist, even paranoid. But, thanks to you, we'll never be called "paranoid" again.

You've given us something that we've lacked up until this point: i.e., a well-documented instance in which a government spy camera has been used by a police officer for thoroughly despicable purposes. And you've given it to us in such a thoroughly entertaining way, too. Did you hear that shots of "breasts and buttocks" were broadcast on a local cable TV station, one that broadcasts live feeds from DOT cameras as a public service? Do you know how many children were watching? Too many! Best touch: the police covering their asses by refusing to arrest and discipline the guilty party (one of their own), choosing instead to arrest the woman who showed her tits to the camera as a way of exposing and ridiculing the officer's obviously inappropriate intentions.

Kudos, gentlemen! Kudos.

Sincerely yours,
The Surveillance Camera Players

Contact the New York Surveillance Camera Players

By e-mail SCP@notbored.org

By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998