/* */

02 December 2007

Blinded panopticon

Continuing the weekend’s brief examination of the more public aspects of operational tradecraft, we briefly wish to touch upon the growing phenomena of surveillance cameras in the UK.

The Ring of Steel has been heralded as the most significant implementation of ubiquitous imaging in an urban environment ever created. However, its effectiveness for primary anti-crime purposes has been questionable given the continuing increase in all manner of offenses, against the backdrop of an ever less engaged policing strategy and an increasingly dysfunctional justice system.

Nonetheless, such as system creates clear difficulties to clandestine operations in London and environs – as do less sophisticated implementations throughout Europe. But it is these program’s lesser cousins that draw our attention now – the automatic speed camera, as they have apparently also drawn the attention of less than happy local residents.

The revenue generation purposes of speed cameras and red light cameras have been debated against their efficacy in reducing traffic accidents and fatalities. However, there is definitely something highly intrusive in the state’s constant, automated presence in even the remotest parts of the countryside. This has clearly produced a significant reaction, as documented in a number of attacks designed to disable these surveillance systems.

We find it even more significant that the most effective attack is apparently a variant of necklacing, in which a subject is imprisoned within a tire doused in gasoline and set aflame. The tactic was most famously applied to human victims in South Africa and Haiti, particularly in cases where the individual was suspected of informing to authorities.

We would venture to guess that there is a psychological message here, above and beyond the practical considerations of effective TTP for attacking such installations. No doubt we will see other attacks against future autonomous capabilities also modeled on such resonant histories. (Perhaps this is an area to be further explored through efforts such as Mountainrunner’s research into the psychological impact of unmanned systems in the battlespace.)

There are also lessons here for any designer (or collection manager) responsible for large scale imaging (or biometric) installations, particularly for counterinsurgency applications and other situations where the communities under observation may share cultural commonalities to such reactions – and especially if a mediated reinforcement mechanism is developed to popularize and celebrate the results of successful attacks.

Labels: , , , , ,