In wake of bombings, Americans can expect less privacy
April 21, 2013 12:00 AM | 2167 views | 4 4 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Boston Marathon bombings marked the end of any expectation Americans have of privacy in a public place. Increasingly, they have lower expectations of privacy in nonpublic places, too.

Privacy groups previously had pushed back against the prevalence of surveillance cameras, arguing that these should be targeted toward specific purposes such as combating crime and vandalism, rather than sweeping up images of crowds wholesale.

That changed with Monday’s two explosions at the marathon’s finish line. After that, law enforcement painstakingly plowed through thousands of images from commercial surveillance cameras as well as those submitted by the camera- and cellphone-wielding public.

By late Thursday, the FBI had released images of two young men carrying backpacks and walking down the sidewalk where the explosions took place. One, wearing a dark cap, was described as Suspect 1; the other, in a white cap, was Suspect 2. The photos quickly went viral and the tips poured in.

Not long after law enforcement’s release of those photos Thursday, the bombing suspects, later identified as ethnic Chechen brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, broke cover, resulting in a crime spree in which a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus police officer was killed and an SUV hijacked.

During a police chase in the Boston suburb of Watertown, Suspect 1 (Tamerlan) was killed. As this was written, Suspect 2 (Dzhokhar) was believed holed up in a Watertown neighborhood, with much of the Boston metropolitan area shut down.

This manhunt could end well, with an apprehension, with Dzhokhar then to face heavy interrogation, which might reveal vital intelligence; or badly, with one more death, albeit a well-deserved one. But its lasting legacy in this country will be the accepted widespread use of surveillance cameras.

The notoriously privacy-conscious British already have acquiesced, after closed-circuit cameras helped crack a 2005 suicide bombing that killed 52 subway commuters in London. Now, London has the world’s largest surveillance network, with an estimated 10,000 cameras.

This week’s bombings likely will give impetus to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, now stalled in Congress over privacy considerations. The legislation encourages intelligence-sharing among private companies and federal agencies by exempting them from civil and criminal liability laws.

Following 9/11, Americans allowed the feds greater and easier access to their phone lines, cell towers, bank accounts, mail and even their library records — although many liberals argued that such intrusions were part of an effort by then-President Bush, who they detested, to undermine the Constitution.

Now the shoe is on the other foot, at least in political terms. President Obama, who was harshly critical of Bush’s anti-terror agenda during his first run for office in 2008 — only to adopt many of those policies himself once in office (with nary a peep from the left) — is now the one responsible for preventing further terror attacks. There’s no question it is a heavy responsibility, one few would want.

In the wake of last week’s events it is quite possible that Obama will push for further steps that in effect will further erode the expectations of privacy in both public and nonpublic places. It also is likely that those steps will be willingly accepted by much of the public.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
April 22, 2013
Yea you’re right about that the government is too busy taking law-abiding Americans guns and rights away; that’s why they gave a pass on a terrorist in training and didn’t even flag his name a follow him on the world wide web. If this guy was a war veteran they would have been all over him they let him and the Fort Hood terrorist get away with murder but because he was a minority; even the agents that wanted to follow this were told careful hat to see you lose your career over this!! Bet a lot of people in Boston area wished they had an AR-15 and 30 round magazines had the older brother survived they would have taken people hostage and blown up a house or business. In one of the birth places of freedom I saw grown men clinging to their smart phones and fear knowing they couldn’t protect their families the Police State had to do it!!
Terrorists have won.
April 21, 2013
If your editorial is correct the terrorists have won. What a sad day for a once brave America.
Pat H
April 21, 2013
It is time to reduce the privacy of the mosques, the imans, the madrassas and Islamists in our country instead of using the bombing as an opportunity to control honest citizens.

The bombing illustrates the complete failure of our Federal government by allowing these terrorists freedom to return to the US after spending 6 months of probable training by radicals in Russia, to assemble grenades and bombs and automatic weapons.

How many more are out there now, lying in wait and hoping gun control and other freedoms of US citizens are curtailed? When warned by Russia that this radical Islamist terrorist should be investigated 2 years ago, the FBI just wrote a report and did nothing. Yet Obama charged a Fed department to research accomplishments of Muslims instead of researching their anti-American activities.
Silly Pat
April 23, 2013
Don't forget about the main religion of extremists here in the South: Christianity. I do believe EVERY bombing we have ever had in Georgia was a Christian nutcase.
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