April 30, 2013

In U.S. cities, eyes are everywhere

The rise of surveillance cameras creates tension between privacy advocates and law enforcement.

By TERRY ATLAS and GREG STOHR/Bloomberg News

(Continued from page 1)

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People pause on Boylston Street at the finish line of the Boston Marathon last Saturday. A pedestrian who strolls through Boston’s Financial District can be seen by at least 233 private and public cameras.

The Associated Press

Judy Clarke
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Judy Clarke


Prominent death penalty lawyer Judy Clarke is joining the team representing the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.

The appointment of Clarke, based in San Diego, Calif., was approved Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler.

Bowler denied a request from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s public defender to appoint a second death penalty lawyer. Bowler said Tsarnaev’s lawyers could renew their motion to appoint another death penalty expert if Tsarnaev is indicted.

The 19-year-old Tsarnaev has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction during the April 15 marathon. Three people were killed and more than 260 injured when two bombs exploded near the finish line.

Clarke’s clients have included Unabomber Ted Kaczynski; Susan Smith, who drowned her two children; and most recently Tucson, Ariz., gunman Jared Loughner. All received life sentences instead of the death penalty.

To the extent that surveillance can help to track a perpetrator, she said "there is no objection to that so long as there are appropriate checks and balances."

"If we permit our fear to lead us down a path where everyone becomes a suspect, not only are we violating fundamental principles of democracy, but we also are undermining public safety because when everyone is a suspect, then no one is a suspect," she said.


Her concerns are shared by many Americans, according to a Washington Post poll after the Boston bombing. The poll found 48 percent of people worry that the government "will go too far" to investigate terrorism versus 41 percent who said the government "will not go far enough."

Government officials have considerable legal leeway to expand the use of video cameras in public places, said Christopher Swift, a lawyer and an adjunct professor of national security studies at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Washington.

"Let's be honest here; the government can fly a helicopter over your house and hover there and take pictures of what's going on in your backyard, and the Supreme Court has said that is legal," he said. He was referring to a 1989 case, Florida v. Riley, in which the high court held that police don't need a warrant to observe an individual's property from public airspace.

The federal government uses Predator drones to help patrol the border, an area so broadly defined that it includes New York City and Chicago, said Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, part of the Homeland Security Department, has outfitted those aircraft with technology to intercept mobile phone signals and identify people on the ground, according to documents Rotenberg's group obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Rotenberg's organization is seeking to suspend the drone program until privacy rules are put in place.

To the extent drones are used in emergency situations, like the Boston manhunt, "I don't think anyone is going to object to that," Rotenberg said. "As a form of routine surveillance 24-7 for the general public, there's a problem."


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