All In   |  April 18, 2013

Amateur web sleuths reveal wrong targets

Retired homicide detective Dwayne Stanton and Susan Crawford of the Roosevelt Center join Chris Hayes to discuss the Internet proliferation of photos of people who were not suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, despite being distributed by amateur web sleuths.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> the pictures released by the fbi are the only photos released right now of any suspected of involvement in monday's bombing of the boston marathon . as i just mentioned, they were not the only pictures floating around being tied to the investigation. the "new york post" for one apparently unable to wait for the actual photos had this one of two young men seen on monday, ominously carrying bags. i should note we blurred out the young men's faces here because you may have noticed these are not the suspects no matter how bad the "post's" headline believes they are. they plastered their pictures distributed by law enforcement among themselves and meanwhile, they have identified two potential suspects captured on surveillance videos taken before the deadly blast. the part about officials having identified two suspects turns out to be correct but the two young men were not those suspects. fbi assistant john miller was quick to debunk the photos like the high school kid in the "new york post" showing how this latest journal malfeasance came to be.

>> i've seen a couple pictures on the internet and in the paper today. until we hear from authorities, should we discount pictures floating around all over the place?

>> those are not pictures that will be released today by authorities.

>> just wondering.

>> here's what happens. those pictures were on the internet yesterday morning and they started going viral in deficit sites and difference infusion places pick those up, we'll take that information and then it ends up leaking back to the newspaper and comes out in one big circle.

>> pictures start on the internet and law enforcement officials pass them internally and leak back into the media. the next thing you know a 17-year-old who runs track on high school is in a viral internet presence and law enforcement chatter and onto the cover of the "new york post." to be clear, the impossible poor judgment of the editors of the "new york post" was not the only reason this kid's picture was in the world associated with the bombing. what i saw on the front page of the post was not the first time i've seen this particular picture. the reason i saw it before was because i fell down a rabbit hole at 11:00 and browsing a page in which internet users had come together to do the vigilante work of sifting through the publicly available pictures of the marathon. it struck me sitting in the cold nightlight of my laptop we have so many images of this event everyone was turning over to authorities and that would be our salvation. or provisionally was. here i was staring at what the dark underbelly looks like. the images are not only possessed by police but also property of people sharing them and why this kid who was watching twatc watching the marathon had to clear his name with the authorities. it's not lost by the fbi as they try to find the actual perpetrators. the fbi 's special agent in charge made a point to address the issue at tonight's news conference as soon as he had released the official photos.

>> for clarity, these images should be the only ones, i emphasize the only ones the public should view to assist us. other photos should not divert the public's attention to do vital work for resources.

>> those photos are the only photos of the men actually suspected of the bombing. what does it mean about privacy of the public and media that scores of other people have been circulating around the internet and gracing the front page of the "new york post" in connection with the boston marathon bombing. joining me, director of progressive security consultants and susan, with intellectual property law information program. dwayne, how common has it become in this day and age for law enforcement to be using digital images or photos captured by security or surveillance cameras submitted by the public?

>> it has become very common over the last 10 or 15 years, maybe even 20 years. i've been involved in law enforcement approximately 30 years plus. i've seen it transcend. i'm a huge advocate of video cameras . i'd much rather have the pleasure of having the video camera than the misery of not having it.

>> you have found it incredible inextricably important in the investigati investigative -- incredibly important in the work you have done, like in a department store in boston for something like that?

>> i'm here to tell you, video camera s deter and sometimes prevent crimes. they solve cases. in this particular case, if you look at the video camera , video footage rather released today. sure, you see suspect one and suspect two. but there are other things you want to see as well. there is a young lady walking in front of the suspects with green balloons in her hands. as you remember when that first explosion went off, those green balloons were set off in the air. that's somebody you want to locate, find, other people who see other things.

>> talking about the usefulness of this, i absolutely understand why certainly in this case. there also seems to be another side of this, staring in the face the fact that every second we go about our lives we are being recorded by something. there is a question about who gets control of that informatio information.

>> absolutely. it's very important to think about the fact this is an incredible incursion on privacy and recognize in this crisis we have no ability to protect our own image. the police take the idea if you're going to be in public, that's it. you have no control over --

>> why isn't that a fair idea? look, you go to the boston marathon , you are in a public space . i believe the legal term is expectation of privacy . key legal concept. there is no expectation of privacy when you're standing out in front of a half a million people at the boston marathon .

>> there's a big vacuum cleaner out there picking up everything americans are doing not only their images and communications. we seem unable to talk about that. it's very important to recognize these are rights coming into conflict with fear.

>> do you think there are rights coming into conflict in this case?

>> in this case we have video captured of a disaster that allows us to identify a suspect. i'm talking about elevating it to the point you can't have any expectation in any setting, and worth talking about as a country.

>> do you go to the local grocery store and say, hey, can i take a look at your surveillance camera or is there an official means to extract it or is it generally just hand it over ?

>> you can go and request it and some cases have it subpoenaed. you know what, our number one priority should be safety and security and protection of life. put that on a scale versus a privacy issue. to me, that's a no-brainer. you want to save people's life, deter crime and keep people safe out of crime's way.

>> there's no part that wonders, in this case, we're dealing with what looks like a best case scenario. horrific crime is committed. leads have been generated through this video, right? one can imagine there are all sorts of transgressions cap tutured in those same images. my question is do those images now live officially -- if someone is smoking a joint right by -- i'm serious. if someone is smoking a joint by the finish line of the boston marathon , right, does that image live somewhere for a future conviction?

>> right not. no one is going to catch that person who may be using marijuana. that footage will be archived somewhere and never seen again. the purpose of video footage, cctvs, in cases just like this and other cases we have command centers and police departments all across the country these cctvs are being monitored constantly and repeatedly. there was one case the person monitoring the cctv was able to relay the police officer via the radio where the suspect was because the suspect put himself in a position as a sniper to shoot the police officer . it works across the board. if having cameras offends someone, my position, you know what, sorry about that. i'd rather have them than not have them.

>> extremist groups , let's be clear. extremist groups understand our core appeal around the world is reliance on individual liberties. it's in their interests for us to give those up and our interest to be a shining city on the hill that we have a right of privacy that doesn't exist in this country.

>> you say right of privacy doesn't exist. is there a distinction between being in a public place where this is happening and another case someone is reading your e-mail. you're expecting that to be private or text message. being in a public place what we're talking about this kind of cctv closed-circuit monitoring, do you think that is an in incursion on our privacy ?

>> there are tens of thousands of cameras in new york city . it is an incursion on our privacy to have no idea where those cam aeras are.

>> thank you. susan crawford , stay with us. the best reporter in the world on a very important internet su subculture that first identified that poor kid on the "new york post." he will join us