I recently saw a news story on CNN on radar and camera towers being built on the Arizona border. According to the story, these high tech towers have advanced camera and radar systems designed to detect people crossing the border between the United States and Mexico.
From a tactical standpoint, such detection towers make sense. If I was defending a border against an enemy, I would also see to it that such watch towers were set up. After years of computer gaming, I’d probably also ensure that they were equipped with automated weapons. After all, there is little sense in seeing intruders without also having the ability to put some lead into them.
From a practical standpoint, there is one serious problem with the towers-they are not working. The government paid Boeing $70 million for the tower system and it has run into problems with glitches. This is no surprise-I’ve been reading about highly defective high tech government purchases since the Reagan era. This is also typical of the Bush administration which has been long on rhetoric, free with cash (for the rich and corporations) and not very concerned that things actually work well (like the under-equipped army that was sent into Iraq). Given the conservative ideals that the Bush administration pushes, this is yet another nice bit of inconsistency.
From a moral standpoint the towers raise some serious concerns. First, there is the fact that they are being placed on a presumably friendly border. Mexico is supposed to be an ally of America and Americans and Mexicans are supposed to be friends. Spying on friends and allies could be seen as being practical and a reasonable case could be made for this. After all, friendships between countries are very tenuous things that could end at anytime.
Second, there is the fact that the towers also spy on Americans. Apparently the cameras used are powerful enough to see, in great detail, what Americans are doing in and around their homes. For a democratic, non-totalitarian state that has explicit moral and legal protections of privacy, this is a morally questionable action (at best).
Yes, a nation must secure its borders. But spying on its own citizens, spending millions of dollars on defective technology, and acting in ways that seem paranoid are not the ways to do this.
“All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.”