ACLU of Louisiana Calls For a "Safe and Free" Super Bowl

Affiliate: ACLU of Louisiana
January 29, 2002 12:00 am

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ACLU of Louisiana Calls For a “Safe and Free” Super Bowl


NEW ORLEANS–The American Civil Liberties Union today called upon the Secret Service to conduct its security operations at the Super Bowl without unnecessary infringements on the privacy and other rights of citizens attending the game and to be more open about the tools that it will be using.

“Our repeated requests to discuss security issues with the Secret Service have been ignored,” said Joe Cook, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “Public oversight of security measures employed by law enforcement in a free and democratic society is absolutely essential. In order for the people to trust the government, it must be open, honest and uphold the rule of law, especially in a time of national crisis.”

Cook cited three principles the ACLU believes should apply to security measures employed at the Super Bowl. Those measures, he said, should:

1. Have a proven track record of being genuinely effective, rather than creating a false sense of security.

2. Have the least level of intrusiveness necessary, with the degree of intrusiveness commensurate with the level of risk; and

3. Be implemented in a non-discriminatory manner. Those attending should not be subjected to intrusive searches or questioning based solely on race, ethnic origin or religion.

In particular, the ACLU has sought information about whether the Secret Service planned to use facial recognition technology, which was used without public notification at last year’s Super Bowl. The Associated Press reported yesterday that face-recognition would not be deployed this year, but the Secret Service has not publicly confirmed that report.

“The ACLU fully recognizes the need for improving public security in the wake of the September 11 attacks,” said Barry Steinhardt, Associate Director of the national ACLU. “However, we also believe that the use of intrusive new surveillance technologies must be shown to at least be effective in increasing our security.”

Steinhardt noted that several government agencies have abandoned facial-recognition systems after finding they did not work as advertised, including the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which experimented with using the technology to identify people in cars at the Mexico-US border.

“We are fairly confident that the professionals at the Secret Service recognize the poor performance of face-recognition and are not planning to deploy it,” said Steinhardt. “But the public has a right to know for sure.”

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