TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Texas to Install Border Patrol Web Cameras

Texas to Install Border Patrol Web Cameras

Alicia A. Caldwell (
Thu, 8 Jun 2006 15:20:44 -0500

By ALICIA A. CALDWELL, Associated Press Writer

The governor of Texas wants to turn all the world into a virtual

Rick Perry has announced a $5 million plan to install hundreds of
night-vision cameras on private land along the Mexican border and put
the live video on the Internet, so that anyone with a computer who
spots illegal immigrants trying to slip across can report it on a
toll-free hot line.

"I look at this as not different from the neighborhood watches we have
had in our communities for years and years," Perry said last week.

Some say it is a dangerous idea and a waste of money.

"This is just one of those half-baked ideas that people dream up to
save money but have no practical applications," said Jim Harrington,
director of the Texas Civil Rights Project in Austin. "We would be far
better off to invest that money in Mexican small towns along the
border so people wouldn't have to emigrate."

The plan marks a political about-face for Perry, a Republican seeking
re-election, who has long argued that security along the state's
1,200-mile border with Mexico is strictly a federal responsibility.

This week, he said cuts in federal homeland security funding, a rise
in reports of border violence and the crossing of Mexican soldiers
into Texas about two years ago have demonstrated that "Texas cannot
wait for Washington, D.C., to act."

Under the plan, announced on the eve of the state GOP convention,
cameras and other equipment would be supplied to willing landowners
and placed along some of the most remote reaches of the border. The
live video would be made available to law enforcement and anyone else
with an Internet connection.

Viewers would be able to call day or night to report anything that
looks like trespassing, drug smuggling or something else suspicious.

The governor plans to pay for it all with grant money the state already has,
and wants the first cameras in place within 30 days.

The Border Patrol already has lots of its own surveillance cameras
along the border, but the images are not made available to the
public. Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar did not comment directly on
the governor's plan Wednesday, but said: "We are looking forward to
the opportunity to sit down and discuss it with him to ensure that
whatever is done will be aligned with the efforts of the Border

Agency officials did not immediately return calls for comment

Luis Figueroa, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and
Educational Fund, warned that the cameras could lead to racial
profiling and vigilanteism.

"This leaves the door open to anyone who has a vindictive state of
mind or a racial motive," Figueroa said. "Anyone down there could
easily be mistaken and falsely accused of something they didn't do."

Harrington said letting the public watch what is essentially a law
enforcement search could be illegal.

And T.J. Bonner, president of the union that represents nearly all
Border Patrol agents, said the plan could further strain the
overworked agency.

"At first blush, it sounds like just another crazy idea that is going
to overwhelm the capabilities of the federal government to be able to
respond to the number of calls coming in and to the number of
reports," Bonner said. "But there is a silver lining: It might just
make legislators aware."

Bonner said it won't take smugglers long to figure out where the
cameras are.

Connie Hair, a spokeswoman for the Minuteman organization, which
patrols the border against illegal immigrants, said access to the
video should be restricted to trained volunteers and law enforcement
officials, to prevent smugglers from using the equipment to adjust
their routes.

But the governor said it will be hard to know where the cameras are
just by watching the live Internet video. And if the smugglers do
figure it out, the equipment can easily be moved. "This isn't our
first rodeo," he said.

Associated Press writer April Castro in Austin contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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