As many of you know, the ACLU-NH has been fighting on my behalf to try to stop permanent police surveillance cameras from being installed in downtown Manchester. Yesterday, I received a court order denying our request for declaratory and injunctive relief, which in plain English means: the City won this round, the police will likely put up their cameras, our rights will continue to be eroded and disregarded with the full authorization of the Courts, and, apparently, we should just accept the stripping away of more and more of our 4th Amendment rights.
The Court said:
It could be argued that the City’s planned use will enable the government to violate the statute. However, simply because footage generated by the cameras could be used to violate the law does not mean the installation or use of the cameras itself violated the law…
The Court cannot find as a matter of law that the planned use of the surveillance cameras will violate RSA 236:130 [Highway Surveillance Prohibited]. Instead, the Court can only speculate that, once the cameras are installed, a government employee reviewing the footage will be capable of engaging in additional conduct that will violate the statute. Accordingly, plaintiff’s motion for summary judgement is denied.Neal Kurk, et al vs. City of Manchester Docket No. 216-2019-CV-00501
By the Court’s logic, every single current pre-crime statute should be invalidated. You know, the ones where they say you MIGHT do something bad in the future, like crash your car if you’ve been drinking, so we will punish you right NOW, even though you didn’t actually do the thing we’re trying to prevent… Yet. (Or at all.)
The Court also failed to fully consider the legislative history, which you may recall, included this testimony from Dpt. of Safety Assistant Commissioner, Earl Sweeney in 2006, that the law would ban a police department from “setting up cameras to monitor, for example, the downtown business district to detect or deter burglaries, vandalism, drug dealing,” and, “Some police departments set up cameras to monitor downtown businesses… we do not believe that this usage would be allowed in NH without specific legislation at a future time legalizing it.”
Given this, it is safe to say we should no longer rely on the truthfulness of testimony given by government agents during the legislative process. Along the same vein, we should also not trust the MPD’s contention that they will not use facial recognition software or license plate scanners. I am willing to bet any comers they will secretly start using this technology in the future, and if the cameras go up, I encourage anyone who is in a vehicle and issued a citation or arrested in the vicinity of the cameras on Elm Street, to contact me.
While this case revolved around a narrow point of law relating to a specific statute, 82% of Granite Staters voted last year to increase our privacy rights, which tells me this matter isn’t over by a long shot.
Right of Privacy: An individual’s right to live free from governmental intrusion in private or personal information is natural, essential, and inherent.Article 2-b, New Hampshire Constitution, December 5, 2018
I’ll conclude with the following: If you believe government can solve problems by restricting more and more of our rights and making us less free in the name of “security,” why do all stories set in the future revolve around people fighting their dystopian overlords? If the future is so bright in this Brave New World, where are the depictions of their promised land? Where is this awesome future society where, by “giving up liberty for security,” things turn out to be oh-so great for us plebs?
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: When you watch futuristic movies, who are you rooting for? In the Matrix, are you rooting for Neo or Agent Smith? In the Hunger Games, Team Katniss, or District 1 of the Capitol? Because, right now, if you aren’t on my side, you are rooting for tyranny, and it is NOT going to end well. Free people move freely. Free people certainly move freely without being surveilled by a group of people who claim to work for us while also keeping a secret list of their worst people from us.
Want to learn more? Read the backstory here, here, here, and here. Listen to my podcasts on this topic, Living with Lockdowns, Big Brother is Watching, and You Don’t Need to See This List of Bad Cops, Citizen.