September 22, 2005

Critics Ask Why Money was Spent on Surveillance Instead of Preparedness

As Hurricane Rita barrels down on Texas, motorists attempting to flee in their vehicles should ask why the government has spent millions of dollars on highway surveillance rather than investing in sound evacuation planning, says Liz McIntyre, co-author of Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID (Nelson Current; October 4, 2005).

Hundreds of thousands of motorists, including McIntyre's own husband, are caught in an unprecedented 16-hour traffic jam that gets worse by the minute as cars run out of gas and entire families are overcome by the 100-degree temperatures.

"My husband is worried he will be stranded and face the hurricane right there on the pavement," says McIntyre, who adds that he is debating whether to turn around and find shelter or wait helplessly as transportation authorities try to figure out what to do.

"This is what happens when you trade common sense for flashy and expensive technology," McIntyre points out. "Few motorists are aware that their tax dollars are being spent on Big Brother boondoggles rather than being invested in practical measures to protect the public."

In her upcoming book, McIntyre and co-author Katherine Albrecht detail Houston's extraordinary investment in surveillance technologies like RFID readers every few miles designed to invisibly scan the toll transponders in passing vehicles, miles from the toll booth.

Other costly schemes include hundreds of robotic cameras that can observe passing cars and zoom in on individual motorists' faces, and an Orwellian central command center to watch and record it all.

"I'm sure they're getting an eyeful today," says McIntyre.

"There was more than enough brainpower and money in Houston to come up with an evacuation plan," she adds. "The problem is those resources were misdirected. Instead of developing contingency plans for evacuating America's fourth-largest city, they were schmoozing with the RFID industry and developing Big Brother ways to watch us all. When this is over, I'm sure Houston residents will have a lot of questions for roadway authorities about how they've been spending their time."


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