The Role of Technology In Combating Terrorism

Mark ScheideggerAs Boston returns to normalcy following the Boston terrorist bombings that threw the city into a lockdown last week, law enforcement  specialists in the U.S. government who relied on the video surveillance cameras to help crack the case  are drawing important lessons about the role of technology to help keep the public safe from terrorism and violent acts.

The senseless terrorist bombings that occurred last Monday during the Boston marathon at the hands of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, reveals that innocent Americans are vulnerable in public spaces and investing in video surveillance is still a meaningful way to help solve violent terrorist cases for an American public that has witnessed several terrorist acts since the twin tower bombings on 9/11/01.

By using the footage from the video surveillance cameras located in the storefronts of department stores like Lord and Taylor and on the streets surrounding the Boston marathon, law enforcement officials were successful in bringing photos of the two suspects to the American public and international community.

If the surveillance technology had not been present during the Boston marathon, the suspects would have not been tracked down and the rest of America would have grown increasingly more restless and paranoid.

Some civil liberty groups oppose the proliferation of video surveillance cameras across America and argue that interferes with privacy in America as they push for stricter guidelines about the dissemination of video footage gained from surveillance cameras.

After reviewing the events of the Boston bombings and seeing the role that video surveillance technology played in helping to apprehend the suspects, it is difficult to make the case before the American public that America needs less video surveillance in public areas.

The capture of the Boston terrorist suspects occurred through the cooperation of ordinary Americans whose knowledge of the unfolding situation was greatly aided by the full use of video surveillance technology.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a member of the House Homeland Security and Intelligence committees, made the case this week that America needs even more video cameras in public places.

“It keeps us ahead of the terrorists who are constantly trying to kill us” Rep. King told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell one day after the Boston bombings.

Although it is unclear how many surveillance cameras are monitoring Americans across American cities, Chicago clearly leads America in the number of video surveillance cameras.

Chicago has our nation’s most “extensive and integrated” network of government video surveillance cameras, according to former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff who commented in 2010.

The city has spent over $60 million on creating our nation’s largest and most integrated camera network, outpacing other U.S. cities such as New York.

New York City became the first U.S. city to install a video camera on its streets.

In September 1968, Olean, New York became the first U.S. city to install video cameras along its main business street to combat crime.

The U.S. government’s usage of surveillance technology has skyrocketed since 1968 and was bolstered after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11/01 due in large part to advances in computer technology as well as government spending on homeland security.

The U.S. government has spent over $640 billion on homeland security following the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

London is another city that has made big investments in the usage of video surveillance technology and currently has the most cameras in a European city.

In recent years Paris has also invested in a wider system of video protection on their streets amid some public controversy.

While video surveillance technology was used in London and Boston to help track down the terrorist suspects, it was not been successful in preventing a terrorist attack.

This point is often made by civil liberty groups in arguing against the proliferation of surveillance cameras on American streets.

The debate over the use of surveillance cameras is expected to continue across America as the U.S. government weighs its commitment to national security against a spending budget that is under closer scrutiny as a new era of government sequester cuts and fiscal belt tightening begins in Washington D.C..

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