Calling it a highly symbolic example of the surveillance state run amok, civil libertarians have denounced Washington’s popular Eagle Cam, a United States Department of Agriculture initiative that affords online viewers a 24/7 video feed of a bald eagle couple living with their recently-hatched offspring in the National Arboretum.
“It’s a sick irony that the federal government is spying on the very creatures that represent American freedom,” said Carla Pierce, a spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union. “No warrant was obtained, no consent was granted. This is essentially state-sponsored voyeurism.”
Bored civil libertarian hero and Twitter pun enthusiast Edward Snowden weighed in this week, tweeting “More like the illeagle cam” and “what you’re watching on this camera is a bald evil.” Journalist and would-be Snowden ultimate frisbee teammate Glenn Greenwald called the Eagle Cam “an immoral avian Truman Show” and refused to acknowledge how cute the eaglets are, saying it was none of his or anyone else’s business.
Robert Mills, a spokesman for the USDA, defended the program, saying that the majestic birds sacrificed their right to privacy when they chose to live in government-owned housing. “Also, they’re birds,” he added. But that rationale is unlikely to assuage the fears of those who view ongoing state surveillance as an Orwellian threat to American liberty.
“Ultimately this is unsurprising,” said British privacy advocate Simon Davies. “Recording the private lives of individuals has become as much a symbol of the United States as the bald eagle itself.”