OUR VIEW: I always feel like somebody’s watching me

This week’s issue contains a lengthy and complex story about how camera surveillance and gathering of information on people and places, within our Tri-parish communities as well as throughout Louisiana.

The story is our local response to a national issue, information that the National Security Agency has retained records concerning cell phone usage by Americans on their own soil.

Our local examination is not meant to criticize but merely inform.

The use of surveillance cameras in Terrebonne Parish, for example, has achieved measurable results and there are no outright indications that privacy is violated. To the credit of parish officials, all questions about the program were cheerfully and thoroughly answered.

The State Police Fusion Center, which has been used in conjunction with environmental emergencies but is also part of a program that has come under Congressional scrutiny, likewise has no known record of violating the law.

But routine questions arose during our reporting that begged answers. We know lots of federal dollars are pumped into fusion centers, but there is some degree of cost to Louisiana. Yet our representatives have no awareness of the cost or existence of the operation, by their own admission. Accountability, in the spirit of transparency, is a good idea. Legislators have a right to ask about dollars spent, and just where in the State Police general budget the Fusion Center fits in.

That’s not an accusation. It is an assertion that just because we label something as related to “homeland security” the need to know more does not diminish. We have no doubt State Police officials will answer any questions they have.

Our story contains information that may be new to most readers. We hope the knowledge engendered will help them know more about the world they are living in, and what is occurring right outside their homes.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety,” is what Benjamin Franklin wrote.

Local and state programs do not appear to threaten liberty while they may well provide safety. That’s why they are so important. But a little information can go a long way toward assuring that we are both safe and free.