Guns, Bombs, and Freedom, Northwest Style

Christiana Dominquez at the San Francisco Metroblog reads the London Metroblog and is inspired to ask her fellow city dwellers how they feel about increased public surveillance.

Up here in Seattle we’re at least as fond of our individualism and rights to privacy as they are down in SF, if not even more so, but for all the vague talk I still hear about how our privacy rights are being invaded and eroded by post-9/11 reactionary law, I haven’t had any first-hand experience with having my rights trampled. This doesn’t change my (negative, very negative) opinion of most portions of the Homeland Security Act, but I do wonder how invasive those laws are, actually, for the average citizen.

A friend reports seeing K-9 units in the bus tunnel [MSN article about increased security in Seattle], but I rely on public transportation daily and I’ve not seen any overt signs of increased security outside the tunnel. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t any–I’ve worked in the security industry and it’s amazing how discreet cameras can be. It doesn’t bother me to know that if I’m in the bus tunnel or waiting at a bus stop or even on the bus itself, I’m appearing on Metro’s own candid camera–I’m no more exposed there than I am when I’m walking through any local grocery or department store, all of whom rely on security guards and security hardware/software to monitor what’s going on in their stores.

What I wonder is how you feel about it, Seattle? Does it bother you to know that you’re being filmed while you wait for a bus? (Or, for that matter, while you check out the new fall fashions.) Have tightened security measured effected your daily life in other ways? I catch a bus in the morning near the Federal Building; even badged employees have to go through a security screen, including an x-ray of their bags–are these sort of measures in place anywhere else?

In NYC, you might be subject to a search just getting on the subway. Would you tolerate such a thing for the sake of safety, or would you object? We live with searches to board the ferry, attend a sporting event or visit public officials as it is–do you feel any safer with these measures in place? Do you feel as if your right to privacy is being invaded? Do you think a loss of privacy is worth an increased sense of security?

I’ve heard it said that anyone who would sacrifice liberty for security deserves neither, but I don’t think that’s quite fair. Is it possible to negotiate a balance between the two?

8 Comments so far

  1. dru (unregistered) on July 28th, 2005 @ 11:18 pm

    it depends what color you are. the whiter you are the less you’ll get harrassed if any. and that’s being real.

  2. franklin k (unregistered) on July 28th, 2005 @ 11:59 pm

    that’s fo sho. if you aint a person of color you’ll never know.

  3. Kelly Hills (unregistered) on July 29th, 2005 @ 3:09 am

    Oh, I disagree with the above posters – I am lily white, and I’ve been detained and mildly harassed by our lovely police thanks to post 9/11 panic. It was incredibly appropriate, as it was the subject of the day’s class I was teaching, but still irritating. Basically, I was holding lysing fluid in small centrifuge tubes inside a larger lab tube (think plastic test tubes, I guess) at the bus stop, along with pap smear brushes (they’re excellent for collecting DNA from cheek scrapings), and someone thought it was weird, or something, because suddenly there were cops asking me to step into the corner, questioning me, telling me I was being temporarily detained under the patriot act, etc etc.

    It’s a very good thing they were able to get ahold of medical folks who could verify what the material was and that what I told them I was up to was actually true.

    I do think that people of colour, especially anyone from the Middle East, can have it harder, but it’s not like being white gives you an all access pass.

    So yeah, beyond that – how has it affected me? Eh, the increase in cameras downtown bothers me a bit; I once counted them for a class project, and came up with something like over 200 from Alaskan to 5th between Lenora and Madison, or somesuch. I subscribe to Brin’s free information philosophy, and think that if those cameras are there, I should have the ability to see what’s on them (a la the traffic cams and such). As a student, I carry multiple bags and backpacks, and typically a computer – going into any government facility now guarantees a search of the bags and a request to prove that the digital camera, film camera, computer, iPod, etc, are all real working electronics. …don’t even get me started on SeaTac.

    So yeah, life has become more inconvenient in certain areas, and it’s irritating. Especially since it’s largely empty gestures, and not actually things that will seriously deter anyone from maliciousness. (Take, for example, our trash cans everywhere. They’re perfect targets for bombs. Toss one in disguised as trash, walk away, and two minutes later a large explosion can take out a lot of people. There’s a reason London did away with public trash recepticals years ago…)

    I wouldn’t mind security if it actually did something, and it was shared information, but what we have right now is an attempt to have security through publicity, which works about as well as security through obscurity; not very at all.

  4. dru (unregistered) on July 29th, 2005 @ 7:48 am

    one too seldom. one too few.

  5. praz (unregistered) on July 29th, 2005 @ 9:31 am

    answer this question: have you ever been singled out or profiled solely because of your color?

  6. ROGER D. (unregistered) on July 29th, 2005 @ 10:24 am


  7. D. Roger (unregistered) on July 29th, 2005 @ 11:43 am

    Well that was a conversation killer, “Roger D.”

  8. naiah (unregistered) on July 29th, 2005 @ 6:11 pm

    What I would like to see would be statistics on the effectiveness of such increased security measures. Are they uncovering anything? Or is the publicity of such things only driving mischeif makers and terrorists further underground?

    I cannot imagine that anyone contemplating anything that could do significant damage to just be carrying somethign around int heir backpack, y’know? Yeah, the cameras/searches could catch someone careless, but they simply provide another hurdle for those willing to plan around them…

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