Friday, July 08, 2005

Beware of... birdwatchers?

US imposes controls on a new security threat - birdwatchers

Gary Younge in New York
Thursday July 7, 2005
The Guardian

US security agents have come up with a new target for increased
scrutiny in their battle against terrorism: birdwatchers. Birdwatchers
in certain areas are being forced to provide photographic
identification, submit themselves to background checks, and even pay
for a police escort.

Law enforcement officials say that because the birdwatchers have
equipment such as binoculars, telescopes and cameras, they have the
potential to commit acts of espionage. The areas they use are
sometimes close to military bases, dams and sewage plants.

Because they have "sophisticated gear and [are] looking at things not
normally photographed by the common citizen in this area, they may be
stopped and asked a few questions," Lieutenant Jamie Rickerson, of the
US coastguard service, told the Los Angeles Times.

Enthusiasts wanting to go birdwatching at the Chesapeake Bay
Bridge-Tunnel in Virginia used to need an annual permit obtained over
the phone, by post or in a fax. There are four islands, one of which
was open to the public. To visit any of the other three, to the north,
they needed a birdwatching permit, photo ID and car registration number.

But earlier this year the three northern islands were closed by
Virginia's department of transportation.

Two weeks ago, after protests from birdwatchers, they reopened with
greater restrictions. Now, groups of no more than 15 people can visit
and they must notify the authorities in advance, pay $50 an hour to be
escorted by an off-duty police officer, and submit to random searches.

"We discovered that we had areas of concerns," said Clement Pruitt,
the area's chief of police. "If you can get into the ventilation
buildings, you have direct access to the tunnel and can inflict
serious damage to the tunnel."

The ornithologists are not convinced. "These sorts of national
security issues seem to be intruding in ways one would never have
expected," said Perry Plumart, director of conservation advocacy for
the American Bird Conservancy. "You expected airline security; you
don't expect it when you go birding. Who knew you'd have a police escort?"

Donald Dann, the president of the Bird Conservation Network, which
represents a number of ornithological groups in the Chicago area, was
more blunt. "Someone can lob a grenade from the street if they wanted
to. I'm not sure they're achieving any great national security objective."


Blogger McCoy said...

I was sure to check the date on the article, and no, it’s not from April 1st. Pardon my language, but that’s totally fucking ridiculous. The slippery slope’s getting a lot slicker isn’t it?

Thanks for the positive comments on my art.

6:15 PM  

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