Surveillance cuts both ways

Massive storage has given governments worldwide the ability to record citizen activities and abuse human rights. And, as yesterday's post on Deep Packet Inspection noted, technology marches on.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

Massive storage has given governments worldwide the ability to record citizen activities and abuse human rights. And, as yesterday's post on Deep Packet Inspection noted, technology marches on.

But the recording and storage revolution cuts both ways. Citizens can capture government misconduct and bring pressure to bear on those who abuse their authority.

Two cases in point A New York 17-year old was being interrogated by police over a shooting in an elevator. As the interrogation began he pressed the record button on his music player to record the 1 hour, 15 minute session. At the trial the detective, unaware of the recording, testified that the suspect "wasn't questioned" about the shooting.

But then the defense confronted the detective with a transcript it said proved he had spent more than an hour unsuccessfully trying to persuade Erik Crespo to confess—at times with vulgar tactics.

Once the transcript was revealed in court, prosecutors asked for a recess, defense attorney Mark DeMarco said. The detective was pulled from the witness stand and advised to get a lawyer.

The detective has now been charged with 12 felony counts of perjury.

The big game After Hawaii's dramatic comeback against Washington last Saturday, elated students streamed on to the field. A cop grabbed one of them, threw him to the ground and then punched him several times, evidently without provocation.

From a report:

Several fans scooted past on-duty officers in riot gear, but one young man did not make it.

"(The officer) hooks the guy around the head and brings him down," UH freshman Miles Kreisberg said. Kreisberg zoomed in his camera to the area of the incident.

"I was like, 'Oh, I got to catch this.' I couldn't believe what was going on," Kreisberg said.

Students put the video up on YouTube and the Honolulu PD has launched a criminal investigation.

The Storage Bits take The authors of the US Constitution knew well the range of human failings. The US government is designed to function despite human greed, dishonesty, cowardice, vanity, stupidity, arrogance and megalomania. That is why the President is sworn to defend, not the American people, but the Constitution.

In today's world, where corporations can rival national governments in power and influence, individual liberty faces a challenge that the Founders did not foresee. Only an active and involved citizenry can continue to safeguard our liberty.

A citizen's ability to capture misconduct in video or sound is an important check on abuse of government or corporate authority. Bravo to the technologists who are making it easier and cheaper to use.

Update: Self-surveillance The Wall Street Journal published an article on Saturday about lawbreakers taking pictures of themselves in the act - and going to jail for it:

. . . many camera-phone owners seem to think outsiders won't have access to the photos, says Mike Schirling, deputy chief of the Burlington, Vt., police department. He says he recently helped convict a juvenile on weapons charges based on cellphone images of him brandishing a rifle at night on the roof of a school building. "Drug dealers just naturally take pictures of their drugs and their money and their significant others," he adds. . . .

Some criminals are nabbed for taking the next technical step: distributing their camera-phone shots over the Internet. Ms. Collins, the assistant state attorney in Connecticut, says she obtained restitution payments for dozens of residents whose mailboxes had been destroyed with baseball bats. The evidence: The perpetrators -- some local high school students -- had posted camera-phone pictures of the deed on the MySpace Web site.

A law professor notes that people give up their constitutional right against self-incrimination by taking a picture of their lawbreaking. Truly, stupidity knows no bounds.

Comments welcome, of course. 66 years ago today my father, a newly-minted 2nd lieutenant in the Navy Medical Corps, woke up to the sounds of guns, planes and bombs in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He spent the next 36 hours in an operating room, patching people up. I wish I could see some video of that.

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