Wednesday, May 05, 2004

A little news from Boston. There seems to be some sort of major terror alert active for the subways here. During daylight hours, their PA has announcements in heavy rotation asking people to report unattended packages, locate nearby exits, report unattended packages, and follow orders of uniformed personnel in an emergency. And then there's the one from the transit agency's chief of police, who identifies himself, says that "if something's not right, we want to make it right", and then asks people to report anything odd or out of place, including suspicious activity and above all, unattended packages.

When I was in school, one of the horrors of communism was supposed to be the pervasive use of informants, turning citizens against each other, even within families. (This was, of course, before DARE.) But now, if there's a real danger of bombings, I suppose the warnings are legitimate. And compared to some of the other stuff that's going on, hardly much of a threat to civil liberties.

But while it's less significant than, say, new federal powers to snoop through business records without a warrant, it's more in your face. And so, it's at least a short slide further down a slippery slope toward getting the population at large to accept pervasive surveillance of the people, by the people, for the guys in law enforcement -- which despite our victory in the cold war, has not yet perished from the earth.


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