Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Surveillance and security

On my recent visit to London, I was struck by the difference between U.S. security procedures and British ones. In London, you are videotaped--and told you are being videotaped--everywhere. But you can walk into a crowded train station or an art museum filled with tourists and priceless treasures without showing anyone the contents of your bag. Even airport security is much more casual than the ritualistic shoe stripping and computer segregation of U.S. airports. I'm not convinced that either surveillance or routine search does much to prevent terrorist attacks. But, while less avoidable (at least in theory), the British way is certainly less intrusive. I'd rather be watched than searched.

Virginia Postrel

I agree.


Scott Ferguson said...

Well, maybe.

You're not protected by a video camera. It's only there so that after you're killed, they have evidence to go after the perp. Wonderful, but you're still dead.

I prefer an approach that's a little more proactive. I've been subjected to subway bag searches in Jersey City and NYC, and it's no bfd.

Hoots said...

I see what you mean. Personally I don't object to searches, but I always wonder what is in the baggage compartment not subject to the same scrutiny.

After the London tubes bombs the public cameras came in handy. I was impressed that it was the community where the perpetrators lived that turned them in. Community action impresses me more than police action, but that is also where mobs and vigilante groups also arise.

You're right. It's no big deal either way. I guess searches make us feel safer anyway.

From the perpetrator's point of view, it's just a matter of shifting to softer targets. In time we could be subject to searches on the way into church.