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Thursday, Dec. 30, 2004 09:02 pm

common sense 12-30-04

art1679

If you're an aspiring performer who wants to be on the screen, Chicago might be your kind of town. In fact, virtually everyone in the Windy City will soon be seen -- by various police authorities.

In a leap into the abyss of the surveillance society, Chicago authorities are installing a web of spy cameras linked to a sophisticated new computer program that not only will view everyone who appears on various streets but also will alert police agents when anyone is "acting suspicious." What is suspicious? Wandering around aimlessly; lingering outside a building; pulling your car over to the shoulder of a highway; leaving a package in a doorway -- and other common acts you and I have performed a thousand times.

"What we're doing is a totally new concept," says the director of this intrusive technology. "It's going to take us to a whole new level." I'll say! The snoopervision cameras can zoom in on you and follow you from camera to camera, recording your every move, whether or not you're doing anything wrong.

Faceless bureaucrats will sit in an undisclosed fortified building, monitoring the screens and dispatching armed police to accost loiterers, aimless wanderers, and other "suspicious" characters. Chicagoans will become the most-watched people in America. Orwell would be so proud!

Of course, the authorities insist that this is for our own good, claiming we'll all be safer. Chicago's new surveillance director says: "The value we'll gain in public safety far outweighs any perception by the community that this is Big Brother who's watching."

But, wait a minute, it is Big Brother watching! Yet, Chicago's mayor dismisses all of us pesky civil libertarians, saying that, after all, "We're not inside your home or your business."

Not yet, they're not.

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