There is some debate in the Washington area about the increasing use of speed cameras. It is reported that Montgomery County in Maryland has deployed hundreds of them and is raking in $53,000 a day in fines. The cameras are sited on busy roads and record the license plates of vehicles going five miles per hour over the posted limit. Many are located where the posted speed limit drops, making them electronic speed traps. The fine is mailed to the owner of the car automatically and there is no appeal and no way to determine if the camera was malfunctioning. I assume that speed cameras are also appearing elsewhere in the US.
I admit to having an inbuilt bias in that I have what my father used to call a “lead foot.” I scrupulously adhere to speed limits near schools and whenever I note children, pedestrians, or dogs along the roadway but otherwise I prefer to think that the speed limit is actually ten mph above what is posted, beyond which point one might be subject to police action. The debate in the Washington area over the cameras tends to boil down to drivers who don’t want to pay the fines and are claiming that it is a revenue generating scam vs a local government that insists that the cameras make everyone safer. This is what bothers me. The government can use “safer” to justify anything and has done so in the past to curtail constitutional rights, note the recent assertions of Dick Cheney. There is a serious personal liberties issue which no one is choosing to address. Why should the government have the ability to monitor the movements of a vehicle belonging to me under any circumstances? Does anyone know for sure that the speed cameras are not sending their information to some data base at the Department of Homeland Security? Maybe they are and they shouldn’t be yet, as far as I can tell, there is no oversight to the process.
I recall conversing with a former CIA colleague back in 2002. At that time, shortly after 9/11, CIA was sending officers all over the world, many traveling on authentic US passports in false names. My colleague had returned from Asia and presented his passport to the immigration officer at Dulles Airport. The airport flipped through it, slid it through a scanner, punched a couple of numbers and then asked “What kind of car do you own?” All of the fake passports apparently had some linked data bases that were provided to make them appear more authentic, which is referred to as backstopping. In this case, the immigration officer was able to pull up additional information from state of Virginia records relating to my colleague, who was unaware of the DMV link, was arrested, and spent a few uncomfortable hours in the slammer before being bailed by CIA security. That was in 2002. The all information all the time security state has been much empowered since that time. I think that people who are concerned about the government’s ability to monitor the lives of its citizens should object strongly to the speed cameras. Or they should do as the French did when the cameras were introduced – disable each and every one of them by painting over the lenses or gumming up the works with glue.