Trains, buses, and stations in the nation's capital will add cameras in what The Washington Post reports could become the beginning of a system-wide surveillance operation for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro).
The agency's board voted Thursday to accept $27.8 million in grants from the Department of Homeland Security to pay for cameras. Most of the money will put more cameras on buses, in ventilation shafts, at station entrances and near the end of platforms over the next few years. Just more than $7.1 million is set aside to surveil passengers inside rail cars -- something that is done in other cities but that continues to trouble some privacy advocates.
Metro Transit Police Deputy Chief Jeff Delinski said the primary purpose of these cameras is for crowd control, despite the fact that the money comes from a transit security program.
While the cameras are more for crowd control purposes, there is the acknowledgment that cameras provide a forensic tool for police when investigating crimes.
DHS spokeswoman Sara Kuban told the Post the cameras will also allow operators to watch for suspicious behavior that may indicate preoperational terrorist planning or worse.
Cameras were vital to piecing together what transpired after the 2004 Madrid train bombing and the 2005 London attacks against its metro system, said Greg Hull, director of security and operations for the industry group, American Public Transportation Association.
Privacy expert Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union, however, is uncomfortable with cameras inside public transportation, calling it "intimate space."
Delinksi doesn't agree with Stanley's description of Metro space, telling the Post riders have no reasonable expectation of privacy while riding public transport.
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