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Is Big Brother in Chicago? Estimated 10,000 cameras survey the city

In what has been dubbed Operation Virtual Shield, thousands of public and privately owned security cameras have been put in place in Chicago and linked together, creating a capsule of surveillance over the entire city, more extensive than anywhere else in the United States. Chicago holds the record for number of surveillance cameras, estimated at up to 10,000. The network is said to have cost $60 million. Officials say it is worth the price, but privacy concerns are at a peak.

This brings back memories of the Red Squad in Chicago back during the cold war….

The arm of Chicago’s law enforcement known alternately as the Industrial Unit, the Intelligence Division, the Radical Squad, or the Red Squad, had its roots in the Gilded Age, when class conflict encouraged employers to ally themselves with Chicago’s police against the city’s increasingly politicized workforce. Following the Haymarket bombing, Captain Michael J. Schaack orchestrated a vicious campaign against anarchism, resulting in 260 arrests, bribed witnesses, attacks on immigrants and labor activists, and convoluted theories of revolutionary conspiracy. Continuing its use of both overt and covert tactics, such as surveillance, infiltration, and intimidation, Chicago’s Red Squad in the 1920s under Make Mills shifted its attention from anarchists to individuals and organizations who the Red Squad believed to be Communist. Casting a wide net, the squad by 1960 had collected information on approximately 117,000 Chicagoans, 141,000 out-of-towners, and 14,000 organizations. After the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the Red Squad expanded its targets from radical organizations like the Communist and Socialist Workers Parties to minority and reform organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Lawyers Guild, and Operation PUSH.

After 11 years of litigation, a 1985 court decision ended the Chicago Police Department’s Subversive Activities Unit’s unlawful surveillance of political dissenters and their organizations. In the fall of 1974, the Red Squad destroyed 105,000 individual and 1,300 organizational files when it learned that the Alliance to End Repression was filing a lawsuit against the unit for violating the U.S. Constitution. The records that remain are housed at the Chicago Historical Society. The public requires special permission to access them until 2012.

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