Should an enterprising terrorist seek to do harm to Louisiana’s State Capitol, one does not need a degree in homeland security studies to realize that he is not very likely to file a public records request to plan his attack by reviewing footage from the building’s security cameras.
Still more unlikely is our terrorist showing up in person and requesting access to the cameras’ take.
We omit here any more jokes about the bad guys because — quite seriously — there are bad guys everywhere. Look at the tragic attacks just in the last few days, of a crazed student in Santa Barbara, the shooters at the Jewish museum in Brussels, all the mad crimes that fill the newspapers.
So security is a serious matter, but it might be that we carry our worries to extremes that ignore the traditions that make us in the United States a free people.
That is why we’re surprised at the almost unquestioning acceptance of a sweeping bill by Sen. Sherri Buffington, R-Keithville, that would have removed public access to all state security cameras.
As passed with no debate by the Senate, the bill would have exempted all state building security footage from Louisiana’s public records law. That would have swept in state parks, public college buildings and hundreds of facilities around the state. In this digital world, it would also have shielded from public view any compact disc, digital video disc, jump drive or other electronic storage device that contained the surveillance video, even if the discs or devices had other items on it as well.
We commend the House and Governmental Affairs Committee, which balked at such a sweeping measure. The House members amended it heavily to narrow its scope to the Capitol and its immediate buildings, grounds and parking areas. The committee amendments limited the bill only to images on security surveillance video, rather than sweeping in other items that might be contained on the same electronic storage device.
“I think we would get to the intent of not disclosing security images but not being overly broad and make secret things that don’t need to be made secret,” said Rep. Greg Miller, R-Norco.
We wish that there was more common sense applied, because we would be astonished if — despite passage of the Buffington bill — a determined terrorist would not be able to gain access to security measures of various kinds, despite the good intentions of officials. And we continue to wonder if this bill, even if it became law, would amount to any meaningful increase in the security of the Capitol. It is, after all, a public building, and while it has security measures unheard-of before the Oklahoma City bombing, it must remain open for the public’s business.