Last year, I learned that the CIA had directly participated in a scheme against Osama Bin Laden, involving the use of fabricated video evidence. Their fake video, consisting of a campfire drinking session, was intended to destroy Bin Laden’s credibility with devout Muslims, by making it appear as though he had been breaking Sharia Law. And if the drinking wasn’t enough to turn Osama’s followers against him, “Osama” spent his time in the video bragging about homosexual conquests.
Interestingly enough, this isn’t the first time the CIA has been involved with fraudulent video evidence. The Guardian UK reports that the CIA had even considered “catching” Saddam with his pants down–with a young boy–and driving the Iraqi people into regime change. Surely, had their plan gone into effect and worked (which it didn’t, as the CIA abandoned the effort, and as our intelligence discovered that many Iraqis aren’t culturally offended by man-boy love [!]), we could have potentially saved many lives, as we might have avoided the second invasion of Iraq.
But as every dictatorial government will seek to explain the utilitarian value of its decisions, our concern should not be with the political advantages we could gain with video evidence, but rather with what rights we would lose. And perhaps we should wonder whether or not this same kind of fabricated video evidence is also going to be used–or is being used–against us.
Consider that in London, 10,000 “crime fighting” cameras engulf the city within a cloud of governmental oversight, yet 80% of crime is unsolved. Here in Seattle, we seem to be heading the same direction: as cameras become more and more prevalent, it would only seem prudent to wonder just how easy we’re making the fabrication of video evidence. The more chances the government has to film you, and the more the government relies upon that film, the more possible conviction under fabricated video evidence becomes. Unless, of course, we completely ignore our CIA’s existence, and believe that the rest of our government is run by men with natures different than our own.
Fortunately, the process of video editing leaves traces. Wired Magazine, in an analysis of Al Qaeda videos, was able to explain how we can determine whether objects have been superimposed, whether backdrops are real, or whether videos and pictures are originals or copies. This should lend credibility to our judicial department’s decisions, should independent video analysts be involved. However, it is important to recognize that a large difference exists between the detection of editing, and the total falsification of video evidence, the latter known to be employed by our very CIA.
Now let us consider what we lose with sole reliance upon video evidence. One of mankind’s God-given unalienable rights is a trial by jury, with a minimum of two witnesses. As such, perhaps in a court of law involving typical criminals who commit random crimes, video evidence may be weighed more heavily. But while video evidence can oftentimes complement a judicial decision righteously, it is imperative to the survival of American justice that video evidence remain supplemental in cases which involve enemies or vocal critics of the state.
And should we necessarily rely upon video evidence, we must consider another overlooked unalienable right: that of equal retribution for the falsification of testimony. Our right as human beings–and Americans especially as one of the few Christian majority nations–is that those who falsely accuse us and fabricate evidence against us must be given the exact penalty they sought for us. If they sought a fine, they receive a fine; if they sought twenty years of imprisonment, they will receive twenty years of imprisonment; if they sought the death penalty, then their penalty is death. And no official, whether the director of the CIA or the President, should be exempt from this justice. If our liberty is to survive alongside the technologically-empowered state, it is imperative that we provide a powerful deterrent against the use of an increasingly easily falsifiable evidence.
It seems, then, that we are again forced to choose between liberty and security. And in an age when government officials are increasingly interested in laying blame upon an entire TEA Party for crimes they have not committed, prudence demands that we should take this choice most seriously.
So, we may conclude that video evidence can and should be used in a court of law, but never without consideration of its limits within our unalienable rights. While many will argue for the necessity of the Closed Circuit State’s judicial prominence, as they believe it will increase the effectiveness of our police forces, I side with a man named William Pitt. He once said, “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”