Civil Liberties Groups on 2010 Security and Surveillance Cameras

Two news articles on civil liberties groups concerns about 2010 security measures and surveillance cameras.

Watchdog calls 2010 Games a security mega-event
By Stephanie Levitz, THE CANADIAN PRESS, Feb. 3, 2009

VANCOUVER, B.C. - More than 1,000 soldiers, police officers and other security staff are converging in the Vancouver area for a massive security planning exercise for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Residents will see military planes overhead and soldiers on the ground as security personnel train for everything from earthquakes to terror attacks.

But as the Canadian Forces and police practice their response to possible threats, Canada's privacy watchdog warned Monday that hosting a mega-event like the Games in the aftermath of the 9-11 terror attacks in the United States will test the country in many ways.

Federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said Olympic officials and security experts must find the right balance between protecting people from security threats and protecting individual privacy rights.

Stoddart said there is a concern that the security systems Games will remain in place afterwards. Many of the closed-circuit cameras used during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens stayed in use long after the event concluded, she said.

"People who spend a lot of time thinking about the privacy of our citizens are worried that once the Games are over, the surveillance may not disappear and there may be new ways that are thought up to justify keeping the security apparatus with us, and that's very worrisome," Stoddart said at the privacy conference in Victoria.

Stoddart suggested the higher the security costs, the more pressure there is to ensure the system remains.

"I don't think ordinary citizens in Vancouver, B.C.,need the kind of high-tech, intense security system that a special event like the Olympics might justify," she said.

The security budget for the Olympics has not yet been released but it is now estimated to be just under $1 billion.

B.C. privacy commissioner David Loukidelis said Olympic Games are huge events that come with heightened security risks, but that should not give law enforcement officials a "free pass" to monitor citizens.

As they undertake the second of three test runs being held ahead of the Games, security personnel say they want to be ready for everything from weather, terrorism, earthquakes and other possible threats.

"This is a challenging environment . . .," said Rear Admiral Tyrone Pile, the commander of Joint Task Force Games, the military's Olympic planning unit.

"It is no surprise therefore that securing the Olympic Games is often described as the largest and most complex peacetime security operation in the world."

People attending Olympic test events in the coming days will be asked to take part in voluntary screenings as part of Exercise Silver, but officials say it won't impact the day-to-day life of area-residents.

In addition to police and the military, emergency operations centres in the province are being activated for the test as are emergency plans for health authorities, utilities and the Vancouver airport.

"These exercises provide an unprecedented opportunity for the province, and our security and public safety partners with local and federal governments and agencies to exercise their plans to ensure we are ready to respond," said John Oakley, director of the Integrated Public Safety program for Emergency Management B.C.

The military's contribution to the Games - Operation Podium - will involve about 4,000 Canadian Forces personnel, as well as Griffin helicopters, Sea King helicopters, patrol aircraft, destroyers and frigates, Pile said.

The U.S. military is also involved in planning for air and border security and the on-sea part of the exercise will involve some American ships, but no soldiers on the ground.

The entire security operation for the Games is being overseen by the RCMP in an integrated security unit. Altogether, about 8,000 security personnel will be involved in policing the Games, not including staff from various government agencies like health authorities or utilities who will have their own security procedures.

-With files from Dirk Meissner in Victoria

Surveillance cameras must vanish after 2010

By Rob Shaw and Jeff Lee, Canwest News Service and Vancouver Sun, February 2, 2009

VANCOUVER — Surveillance cameras at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver must not be used by police to monitor the city's residents after the games, the privacy commissioners of Canada and British Columbia said Monday.

"People who spend a lot of time thinking about the privacy of our citizens are worried that once the games are over, the surveillance may not disappear, and there may be new ways that are thought up to justify keeping the surveillance apparatus with us," said federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart.

"That's very, very worrisome."

Stoddart and B.C. privacy commissioner David Loukidelis spoke at a Victoria security and privacy workshop focused on the Olympics.

Of particular concern were hundreds of security cameras expected to be placed in and around Olympic venues. After the 2004 games in Athens, police there turned the cameras into a citizen-surveillance network.

"I can ensure you any plan or proposal or supposition that the City of Vancouver will keep video cameras in the downtown core simply because they are there after the Games, simply doesn't fly with me," Loukidelis said.

What's needed, he said, is a balance between personal privacy rights and anti-terrorism security efforts.

He also said there is "no free pass" for the Olympic Games when it comes to provincial Freedom of Information legislation.

"While some secrecy is necessary to protect the integrity of security and planning, there has to be some transparency," Loukidelis said.

Micheal Vonn, BC Civil Liberties Association policy director, said she was concerned about so-called voluntary searches of people and vehicles entering designated Olympic areas. While Olympic organizers have not yet revealed their search plans, access is expected to be heavily restricted in and around Olympic venues.

Meanwhile, the head of the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit said taxpayers will know the true cost of providing security for the 2010 Olympics by the end of this week.

As more than 1,000 RCMP, police and military officers and other safety personnel get ready for next week's Exercise Silver, a massive test of Olympic security plans, Assistant Commissioner Bud Mercer said details of the budget will be announced within days.

The announcement is expected late Friday, and the final tally — once estimated at $175 million — is now thought to be approximately $900 million.

Over the next two weeks, the public will be exposed to repeated images of helicopters, warships and coastal defence vessels, armoured personnel carriers, police officers and soldiers carrying out visible security exercises, from ski patrols to vehicle checks to harbour operations.

Mercer said about 100 agencies, from police departments to the military to ambulance services and public transportation agencies are involved in the two-week exercise.

But he said the impact on the public will be low or non-existent. The only direct interaction between the public and the security unit will be at test sporting events such as the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships at Hastings Park.

Rear Admiral Tyrone Pile, the head of Joint Task Force Games, the military component of the security unit, said upwards of 4,000 military personnel will be involved during the Olympics. Mercer said there will also be a combination of about 8,000 police officers and private security guards.