Saturday, June 30, 2007

Here Be Dragons

The Financial Times confidently predicts that the Ring of Steel, a dense network of surveillance that covers the approaches to the key central district of London, will provide the necessary evidence to convict the bomb attackers.

The would-be car bombers who left their vehicles in London's West End in the early hours of yesterday morning would have provided huge volumes of photographic and video evidence as to their identities.

"Central London is one of the most intensively watched areas in the world," said Beverli Rhodes, head of security for Capita Symonds, an infrastructure consultancy that manages the capital's so-called ring of steel.

The ring of steel monitors 52 entrances to central London, taking photographs of vehicle number plates, the vehicles themselves as well as separate images of drivers. The locations of the monitoring points are not publicly disclosed.


For those unfamiliar with the Ring of Steel, Wikipedia has further details.

The ring of steel is the popular name for the security and surveillance cordon surrounding the City of London, installed to deter the IRA and other threats. Roads entering the city are narrowed and have small chicanes to force drivers to slow down and be recorded by CCTV cameras. These roads typically have a concrete median with a sentry box where police can stand guard and monitor traffic. Some roads have been closed to traffic entirely. Despite the term "ring of steel", the roadblocks and chicanes are actually created with concrete blocks, sometimes plastic coated, that are wedged together. ... The boundary is also marked by statues of dragons that vary in size and colour, but all carry the City's coat of arms.

But impressive as it is, the "Ring of Steel" is simply the innermost layer of a much wider network of blanket surveillance. Britain is arguably the most surveilled society in Europe. Here's the baseline for Europe.

The legislative body of the European Union passed the Data Retention Directive on 2005-12-15. It requires telecommunication operators to implement mass surveillance of the general public through retention of metadata on telecommunications and to keep the collected data at the disposal of various governmental bodies for substantially long times. Access to this information is not required to be limited to investigation of serious crimes, nor is a warrant required for access.

"Amongst the western democracies, the United Kingdom is perhaps the country subject to the most surveillance. A YouGov poll published on December 4, 2006, indicated that 79% of those interviewed agreed that Britain has become a 'surveillance society’." Apart from the huge and comprehensive databases that track individuals and children, the UK is studded with video and audio surveillance systems.

In 2004 it was estimated that the United Kingdom was monitored by over four million CCTV cameras, some with a facial recognition capacity, with practically all town centres under surveillance. Serious concerns have been raised that the facial biometric information which will be stored on a central database through the ID Card scheme could be linked to facial recognition systems and state-owned CCTV cameras to identify individuals anywhere in the UK, or even to compile a database of wanted citizens' movements without their knowledge or consent. Currently, in the City of Westminster, microphones are being fitted next to CCTV cameras. Westminster council claims that they are simply part of an initiative against urban noise, and will not "be used to snoop", but comments from a council spokesman appear to imply that they have been deliberately designed to capture an audio stream alongside the video stream, rather than simply reporting noise levels.

The various sensors are linked to create a system which can track individuals moving through London.

In London, the Oyster card payment system can track the movement of individual people through the public transport system, although an anonymous option is available, while the London congestion charge uses computer imaging to track car number plates.

Encouraged by their success, the British authorities plan to expand the system to other parts of the realm.

Across the country efforts are underway to increasingly closely track all road vehicle movements, initially using a nationwide network of roadside cameras connected to automatic number plate recognition systems ("Project Laser"). In the longer term mandatory onboard vehicle telematics systems are also suggested, to facilitate road charging. The British Police hold records of 5.5 million fingerprints and over 3.4 million DNA samples on the National DNA Database. There is increasing use of roadside fingerprinting - using new police powers to check identity. Concerns have been raised over the unregulated use of biometrics in schools, affecting children as young as three.

In 2002 the UK government announced plans to extend the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, so that at least 28 government departments would be given powers to browse citizens' web, email, telephone and fax records, without a warrant and without a subject's knowledge.

In the late 1930s, the British pioneered a network of radars and interceptors which became the world's first integrated air defense. It looks like the same concepts are slowly, but surely creeping into the other undefended spaces of the world. Newsmax reports on the beginnings of New York's own "Ring of Steel".

New York City police are installing 505 new surveillance cameras around the city and seeking to safeguard lower Manhattan with a "ring of steel" that could monitor hundreds of thousands of people and cars a day, authorities revealed on Monday. ... The city is paying for the cameras using $9.1 million in homeland security funds, according to the New York Daily News.

Compared to London's massive defenses, the New York system are relatively underdeveloped but there is no question that if Americans go in for it in a big way, they have the technological and financial capacity to leave the British surveillance coverage in the dust.

Hooray, right? For once the New York Times is completely on target when it compares these defenses to the medieval castles and walled towns. The new urban fortress, or "Ring of Steel" if you prefer, may be a sign of declining rather than rising security, just as the emergence of stone walled towns following the fall of Rome really indicated a world where pockets of law and order struggled to keep afloat above a sea of banditry and lawlessness. Already gated communities are the rage in the Third World. In Baghdad there are neighborhood watches to keep track of outsiders. Perhaps we are witnessing the next step in that development. The digitally gated city.

One of the supreme ironies of recent history is that the policies and attitudes which declared all borders open, passports unnecessary, wars obsolete, all cultures equivalent and "soft power" the only kind that could be countenanced may have led directly to rise of fearful police states: states unwilling to venture out to challenge their enemies in the surrounding forest and content to remain huddled within the illusory security of their battlements. Watchful of everything within their own narrow courts and ignorant of the world without. Defeated, first of all, in their minds.

20 Comments:

Blogger Pascal Fervor said...

Why call it an irony when the police state is the consequence of all that openness?

For that matter, why does the Left side with the "insurgents," the Greens insist that fighting GW is more important than fighting terrorism, and our WOT's odd Rules of Engagement is the policy of the man who calls Islam the ROP?

After all, what do Leftists and Statists and Islamists all have in common?

S U B M I S S I O N.

6/30/2007 11:27:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Although London's ring of steel may be useful against Islamist provacateurs, its principal raison d'etre is to attempt to reassure the British public. As much he may try, Osama bin Laden is simply incapable of becoming the principal enemy of the British state, an honor held now as ever by the ghost of Boadicea.

7/01/2007 12:11:00 AM  
Blogger Little Blue PD said...

"After all, what do Leftists and Statists and Islamists all have in common? "

Good question. Control, controlling society and other men is the goal they all have in common.

I guess the Burqa covered ones in England are the only ones who can move around without being detected.

The ACLU would never allow this level of security in the USA.

There are enough 'authentic' dirtballs around to be caught with these methods. Some must be used. We also must move outside our walls to destroy the enemy, that is the only way.

7/01/2007 12:23:00 AM  
Blogger Sparks fly said...

The protection becomes the prison.

In peace I shall both lie down and sleep for Thou alone o'Lord maketh me to dwell in safety. Ecclesiastes.

The Bible says love your neighbor.

Communism/socialism says shackle your neighbor. Photographic survelience is one of the more comfortable forms of shackle, at least it's starting out that way.

7/01/2007 01:42:00 AM  
Blogger Nomenklatura said...

I think its more accurate to describe urban elites as having seceded in their own minds. They typically have only the vaguest notion of how people live outside major cities, and their involvement with the rest of the country is generally limited to pontificating about how people 'out there' shouldn't be driving around in cars, etc.

In their minds the country's borders (which define what's worth defending) have shrunk to the inner city limits. The extent of modern urbanization means that they have the votes to enforce this view.

The medieval word for this is parochialism, a narrowly local perspective, pretty much the exact opposite of the cosmopolitan multicultural fantasy they imagine they are living.

Perhaps the most interesting thing revealed by the imposition of these surveillance measures is how they are quietly implemented by city governments which are always on the left. They'd be screaming if the right pushed for the same things. What this shows is that the left's objection is not to the war on terror per se, it's simply the fact they they are not running it they object to.

To this extent the entire left position on the war on terror is in itself a terrorist scam run against the rest of us - a threat to scream and obstruct resistance until we give in and hand the reins of power over to them. It adds only a little to the absurdity of this picture to see them play this card from behind their own 'ring of steel'.

7/01/2007 01:58:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Would Churchill have called a bunch of cameras that take pretty pictures a "ring of steel"?

7/01/2007 03:23:00 AM  
Blogger Stephen Renico said...

The "Ring of Steel" won't do much good against suicide bombers.

7/01/2007 03:29:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

stephen renico,

"The "Ring of Steel" won't do much good against suicide bombers.

It won't be much good at all, unless combined with some of the newer explosive detection technologies. But assuming terrorism is treated as a criminal offense, it is invaluable because it provides a good deal evidence which can be used in the subsequent trial.

As a tool of defensive warfare, however, "rings of steel" are less useful. They did not stop the tube bombings, nor did they seem to prevent the current attacks. Experience in Iraq seems to suggest, from what is published, that purely defensive measures are not entirely effective and one of the best ways to stop the IED or suicide bomb is to headhunt the bomb making cells and strike at the organizers. In other words, if you want to stop attacks, your greatest tool is intelligence combined with the raid. Offense is a useful form of defense, however politically incorrect that may sound. If an attack is unsuspected by intelligence it is hard to stop in its terminal stages.

Of course, one may argue that mass surveillance contributes directly to countersurveillance and often allows taking backfixes on the bomb-making or planning cells. Defenses have their uses, but even using the Battle of Britain analogy, nobody ever argued that defense alone would win the day, though I think some would argue that now.

7/01/2007 04:08:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

But whatever the practical effectiveness of "rings of steel", the name alone has a certain political utility. The British are much better at naming things than the US. They have a "Cobra" committee. Wow. You'd think that Nick Fury or someone was operating out of that office. In the US, you have names like "Transportation Security Administration", an appellation which will hardly strike fear into the enemy's heart.

7/01/2007 04:15:00 AM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

The usual people squawking about civil liberties continue to lose their credibility. Nothing makes a scumbag's conviction easier, or scumbag complaint more dismissable than video showing the scum in action.

When Joseph Smith, a perv with a long record was brought in as a suspect he was screaming about his civil liberties, declarations of innocence, that he knew nothing about the abduction, rape and murder of 11-year old Carlie Brucia. Then police showed him the tape of him grabbing her. Showed him just how clear his face was. Smith broke down and began crying as his lawyer arrived and cops said no matter what he said, no matter how good his lawyer was...he would be fried...he was already a dead man walking..

That is why the cameras are good. They stop deaths and other crimes.

When crimes still happen, they provide the evidence that seals the deal with the jury. CCTV provides intelligence to cops and counterterrorists. They can be used to help verify who is crossing our land Borders or arriving at airports once Bush and all the other enabling whores of corporate wealth are out of ofice.

Computer software and vast quickly retrievable storage technology allows for far less expensive government manpower needed - to surveill Islamoids, drug dealers, violence-plagued schools, a suspected murderer's movements.

ACLU lawyers asidem the US needs it and is moving towards it quickly.

America used to be great because we were able to take the best of other nations and quickly start using it before we ossified in lawyers gridlock in DC and in many localities.

7/01/2007 04:54:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Hold my beer. This report from the Knox News suggests the "Ring of Steel" has already started to make its appearance. At the liquor store and supermarket.

Comer Wilson hasn't had to show his ID to buy beer in a while. Maybe it's the 66-year-old man's long white beard.

Starting Sunday, gray hair won't be good enough. Wilson and everyone else will be required to show identification before buying beer in Tennessee stores — no matter how old the buyer appears.

"It's the stupidest law I ever heard of," Wilson said. "You can see I'm over 21."

Tennessee is the first state to make universal carding mandatory, says the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association. However, the law does not apply to beer sales in bars and restaurants, and it does not cover wine and liquor.

Then there's this little gem:

But it has stopped Jeff Campbell from shopping at Rollins' market.

"I don't mind them asking for my ID, but they don't need my driver's license number," said Campbell, 43. "I'm just buying a six-pack. All they need to know is how old I am."

Rollins said scanning licenses has proved beneficial in other ways, such as catching criminals.

When one customer tried to make a purchase using a counterfeit bill, Rollins said police were able to track him down because the receipt from the scanner showed his name and license number — and his address.


Of course, if all they wanted to know was how old the purchaser was, then the driver's license number wouldn't be needed. But then there's this extra social good that comes from surveillance and so the minimum is exceeded in the name of catching bogus bill passers.

7/01/2007 05:49:00 AM  
Blogger jane said...

I believe the TSA reassuringly updated its appellation to “The No Ethnic Profiling Transportation and No Granny Escapes Our Scrutiny Security Administration.”

7/01/2007 06:36:00 AM  
Blogger Derek Kite said...

This is interesting.

I believe that most everything that is happening right now either stems from or was first evident at the siege of Sarajevo. The victims were nominally muslim. The west took almost pornographic pleasure in watching the horrors every evening. But we couldn't do anything, for reasons that we can't remember and don't matter anymore. The only important thing was not to do anything.

The British authorities have enormous power. All, I mean every one, of the radical imams and the characters that would do harm could be taken out, two taps to the head, withing 6-8 hours. There are good reasons not to do things that way.

The Serbs could have been driven back with a battalion of paratroopers from almost any nation. They were lightly armed thugs who counted on no resistance. There were reasons not to however.

Same for Darfur, Rwanda, ....

So the most comfortable way is to watch it all happen on tv. Now it's official. The brits can watch their cities live under threat. Just like they watched Sarajevo.

Derek

7/01/2007 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger Hope Muntz said...

Well said! And let's not forget the example of the ancient Hittites, the Germanic ancestors of many of today's Turkish citizens (yeah, I know that Turks are Ural-Altaic--however modern research shows most European genes are descended from original indigenous inhabitants). Their civilization literally collapsed under the weight of massive castellated city-building projects, coupled with a military paranoia so great that they invented the world's first police state. The antidote? As my dad used to say, "The best defense is a good offense."

7/01/2007 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Crazy Marzouq Redneck Muslim said...

And...... the best offense/defense is the 2nd Amendment endowed armed citizen. Not only armed with a firearm but also a better weapon, his cellphone camera or vidcam!

The Orwellian Brit/Euro method (b.s. ring o' steel) makes certain people rich, soaks the taxpayers and DOES NOT PREVENT CRIME.

Again America is the last hope because of that little idiosyncracy, the 2nd amendment. It is time to organize our militias Americans!

One of the characteristics of 4GW is citizens are combatants. Cyber war is important but so is the concrete action.

Salaam eleikum!

7/01/2007 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger mike said...

Whew. Thought you had lost the plot there for a bit wretchard and gone cheerleading for the "Ring of Steel".

But a second, more careful read, combined with your comments make clear that you see...the contrivance did nothing to a) alert authorities to the threat or b) help prevent it once set into action.

It only serves to help after the fact. If there's anything of London left...they'll have a chance to track down the individuals and crack the cell.

7/01/2007 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

I think it quite odd that the Brits get all spun up over our Gitmo but apparently think nothing of putting all and sundry on video.

But we likely already have them beat, in sheer numbers if not in density. Ever seen the parking lot of a typical Wal Mart? More surveilance cameras there than at a SAC base.

7/01/2007 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Of course, as people realize more and more that they and their families are under direct mortal threat, whether from being blown apart or having their pub closed down, they too will act.

The other part of the Dark Ages was the self-organization, by whatever strong man who could lead a tribal militia, into many disparate Kingdoms.

You can see that happening now.

Mark Steyn's Frauenmangel here .

East German men in some villages/towns have only 40 women for every 100 men. What the hell is THAT other than a tribal militia ready to follow any leader who can promise them enough status to get a girlfriend.

The biggest error the elite made was in thinking that the average guy would either become gay or use porn substitutes when the endless quest for status in consumerism/materialism/feminism led quite naturally to the few high-status men having all the women. A mirror image of the Muslim World's polygamy and horribly destabilizing.

Look at the person, Cutts, the Ohio ex-cop who murdered the woman who bore him one child and had another with him. He had another girlfriend with another kid, and was married with kids as well.

By my arithmetic that's three women out of the marriage market right there, despite the man's obvious and sustained violent behavior towards all three women. It's all about Status.

Right now Britain and the West are in status-driven face-wars over who will run things, Muslims or non-Muslims. And that status war is overlaid on the challenges that Modern, Western, Consumerist, Individualist, and Materialist society places on both Muslim tribal society and Western Men who lack the A-Lister status.

I assume probably the same FrauenMangel exists in Britain as well, providing fertile ground for a group of men who can get status the old-fashioned way:

"Fighting the enemy."

From Sigmund and the Branstock Oak, to King Arthur, Beowulf, El Cid, etc. Western stories are full of tales of young men from impoverished, non-status backgrounds "killing the dragon" and getting the girl. As much as post-modernists and feminists want to deride that tradition, it abides.

I have no doubt that the Frauenmangel and the lack of status will sort itself out in a fight against Muslims. What the heck else are the men there going to do?

7/01/2007 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger USpace said...

These peaceful terrorist monkeys must be stopped from coming in to Britain. And all that do come in should be fingerprinted, photographed from 5 angles, and retina scanned...

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
Britain must pay forever

immigrants are entitled
to take over the country
.

7/01/2007 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger masterdan said...

fortunatly nothing can do against
suicide bombers.

8/19/2007 06:22:00 PM  

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