London’s speed in identifing would-be bombers via surveillance cameras has prompted calls for extensive closed-circuit television networks in the United States, reports the Christian Science Monitor. In the first such U.S. public effort, New York is planning to begin the installation of a similar, permanent system for lower Manhattan by year’s end. Backers say CCTV is both a forensic tool and a deterrent to all but the most dedicated suicide bombers. Imaging technology allows cameras to alert police to unattended packages, zoom in on objects hundreds of feet away, identify license plates, and “mine” archived footage for specific data.
Opponents contend that this very technology is intrusive and open to abuse, raising serious constitutional questions. They note that surveillance cameras not only are helpless against suicide bombings, but also that perpetrators may use video records to try to glorify their acts. Unlike Britain, “We haven’t even begun to have that debate over here about what that means in terms of surrendering privacy,” says Ronald Marks of the George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute. “[Closed-circuit television] is a security measure that is effective in identifying people, but I don’t know how effective it  is at stopping them.”