Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Times Square bombing attempt reveals limits of video surveillance

From the Washington Post:

"With 82 city-owned surveillance cameras and scores of private ones, New York's Times Square may well be among the most scrutinized patches of real estate on Earth. So when a bomb-laden Nissan Pathfinder rolled into the famed plaza Saturday evening, it was inevitable that multiple cameras would pick up the sport-utility vehicle as well as the fidgety middle-aged man who was seen standing near the car, stuffing a shirt into a satchel.

Within 24 hours of the incident, the replaying of video footage of the car and the man, later deemed a "person of interest," would testify to the spread of surveillance networks established throughout the city in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Elected officials seized on the foiled attack to press their case Monday for hundreds of additional cameras for New York, one of several U.S. cities to champion video monitoring as a means of thwarting terrorists and reducing crime.

Yet, the attempted bombing also revealed the limits of the technology. Critics of the surveillance networks, including many civil liberties groups, noted that the cameras had neither prevented a potentially deadly terrorist attack nor led investigators immediately to a perpetrator. And city officials acknowledged that the "person of interest" -- a balding man whose video image was seen by millions over the weekend -- may not have had anything to do with the attempted bombing. Late Monday night, a suspect was arrested in the case, though it was not clear whether he was the man in the video.

That man "could be totally innocent -- it's one of the first videos that we obtained," New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in a CNN interview. "He was taking his shirt off, but it was a warm day."

Police were expected to unveil what they described as a more illuminating video that appeared to show the Pathfinder's driver running away from the vehicle. "We obtained that from a tourist," Kelly said.

Continue reading the story by clicking here.


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