PIPE DREAM BOMBS & SURVEILLANCE

An abandoned, soft-sided cooler, containing merely bottled water and books, caused Times Square to be evacuated today. The cooler was discovered on a pedestrian mall outside of the Marriott Marquis Hotel at 46th Street and Broadway at around 1:15 p.m. Police cordoned off the area, told hotel guests and office workers to remain inside, and yelled “Get back, get back” at onlookers and approaching passersby while bomb-sniffing dogs examined the area. It was determined to be a false alarm at a little after 2 p.m.

Nerves are still rattled, and media interest is still high, in the aftermath of the failed car bomb attempt in Times Square a week ago; in fact, this latest excitement occurred less than three blocks away. Whereas the police receive 80 to 100 reports of suspicious packages on any given day that number is up 30% over the past week. If anything, these terrorist scares provide convenient platforms for politicians to advance their political agendas; or, more precisely, cries for security funding.

Mayor Bloomberg, while admirably and confidently on the scene during last week’s commotion in Times Square, is using the recent anxiety to advance his pet project:  LMSI.

[Bloomberg is pushing  for] the expansion of his prized Lower Manhattan Security Initiative (LMSI), a phalanx of post-9/11 surveillance equipment implemented in 2007. Back in October, 2009 [before the “underwear bomber” and the tinted-glass SUV found parked in Times Square last New Year’s Eve], Bloomberg announced he had set aside $110 million to expand the LMSI into midtown. A network of security cameras and license plate readers would studiously “record and track every vehicle moving between 34th and 59th Streets, river to river.” The Awl

Only in the city’s most popular, hence, most crowded places do the like of a Faisal Shahzad and such garbage rear their ugly heads; and, whether or not they fail, they succeed in increasing the demand for an expensive supply of security: a drain to our wallets and to our freedoms. Indeed, many of our elected officials are famous for having vested interests in security, especially high-tech security.

However, surveillance cameras have rarely, if ever, prevented a terrorist strike or aided in the apprehension of terrorist suspects; the nitty-gritty work of police and vigilance of average citizens were usually responsible for most terrorists’ undoing (as was the case in Times Square last week); in many of these situations, I could bet that the surveillance cameras were on the fritz.

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