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Don't Smile, You're On Candid Camera, 1984

January 26, 2002

Re "Big Brother Finds Ally in Once-Wary High Tech," Jan. 19: When you think about it, all the new technology to improve our security is only as good as the people who operate the equipment. That's why I'm alarmed when I read that 25% of the screeners nationwide don't have high school diplomas and 20% aren't citizens of our country--with both these figures being even higher in California.

But, keeping this in mind, I suppose I shouldn't be bewildered by the photograph that appeared with this article, showing an employee at the Fresno airport watching computer images of airline passengers as they went past the face-recognition camera installed there. The passenger being screened had a baseball cap on; wouldn't you think you'd have a better chance at a match if the passenger's full face was shown--without a hat? Can somebody tell me what happens when a person who, for religious reasons, is wearing a veil that covers half her face appears at one of these screening cameras?

Alona Bayes

San Clemente

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Stewart Baker, former general counsel to the National Security Agency, is mistaken when he comments that George Orwell predicted we would have cameras everywhere, but not that we would want them so badly.

Orwell indeed predicted that citizens would "want" ubiquitous surveillance. In his novel "1984," only Winston Smith and Julia despise the ever-watching telescreens. The rest of their society is brainwashed into believing the screens are not only a necessity but a blessing.

Oceania was at war, after all, and Orwell believed that if a government could keep its citizens in a constant state-of-war mentality, it could get them to swallow anything.

Mary Caroline Cummins

Glendale

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