May 1, 2001 - Under the Articles of Confederation, the early federal government had no strength to govern the newly formed states of the United States of America. After several proposals for reform, the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in 1787 to create the document that became the foundation for the United States government to operate.
The Constitution delegated extensive powers to the central government, especially economic and war powers, but reserved many powers for the individual states.
But because the Constitution granted the federal government so much power, as compared with the earlier Articles of Confederation, several states began to demand a list of amendments to guarantee individual rights against intrusion by the federal government.
The Constitution did not include a Bill of Rights. Thanks to the efforts of our fourth president, James Madison, who relied heavily on George Mason's Virginia Bill of Rights, on September 25, 1789 Congress gave us 12 amendments to the Constitution of the United States.
We've all heard about our fifth amendment right, our first amendment right, and the second amendment right. But there's another amendment that has been receiving a lot of attention lately. Especially in the light of our latest technology, including surveillance cameras, wiretapping equipment, and other forms of "spying." That is the Fourth Amendment. Which reads something like this...
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Much controversy has arisen over this "article" lately, and even the courts themselves are struggling with a way to interpret this law.
Some violations are obvious. In January of 2000, only one week after a videotape voyeur law went into effect in California, a man was arrested for his "upskirt camera." Mark David Perelli put a hidden camera in a shopping bag, and videotaped a woman down her skirt and under her blouse. Then he put the bag in front of the woman while she was trying on some shoes, and she recognized the camera. She confronted Perelli and he fled the store. But not without being pursued by an undercover police officer.
During the 2001 Superbowl, fans were secretly scanned with a biometric scanner known as FaceFinder as they entered Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. No notice or disclosure was given, and no one had the option of not entering the arena. The people's faces were digitized, and then sent to a national database where their profiles were matched against known criminals and terrorists.
Many names have been bantered around because of this technology; the most famous is that phrase, "Big Brother." Cameras are also popping up in businesses such as supermarkets, restaurants, shopping malls, and offices.
In May of 1997, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was so alarmed by the Oakland City Council's decision to put up security cameras that they sent a letter asking them to reconsider, citing such things as "legal issues, impact on public safety, fiscal considerations, and the British experience with surveillance," and the ever popular "threat to the rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment."
Oakland later decided against the system, but several other cities are very aggressive in their use of surveillance cameras. Namely the city of New York. In New York a new group of citizens has organized, calling themselves the Surveillance Camera Players (SCP). They're not a theater group; instead they're campaigning to have surveillance cameras taken from the public places of New York City. Again, under the Fourth Amendment.
[Originally published by x10.com.]
Contact the Surveillance Camera Players
By e-mail SCP
By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998