Mar 062013

On February 21, 2013, I conducted a brief, impromptu, interview with Monty E. Moss #5598 of the Seattle Police Department about security technology, policies, and procedures for the set of surveillance cameras the department recently began installing on Alki Beach in Seattle. Of particular interest are Moss’ belief that it is important to keep secret the details about this system, such as the make and model of the equipment used, and that the SPD have been given direct access to various privately-owned and privately-operated surveillance cameras throughout the city.

Mr. Moss delivered a presentation about these cameras and the wireless mesh network that supports them, which the SPD purchased with a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, at a meeting of the Alki Beach Community Council board. Tracy Record at West Seattle Blog broke the story and has done some very good reporting on it since.

I fumbled to start my audio recorder for a bit, so the audio recording and this transcript begin a bit abruptly:

Moss: “…very few people that will export video, for example. Very few people that will steer the cameras.”

Mocek: “By policy. But it would be technically possible.”

Moss: “If they have permission, yeah, but we control that.”

Mocek: “And they can do that from the Internet? They don’t have to be on the private network?”

Moss: “They do have to be on the private network. And that’s as much of it as I’m gonna discuss. I wanna keep it safe and secure.”

Mocek: “Okay.”

Moss: “Because I gotta keep it safe from hacking as well, so–”

Mocek: “Sure. That’s one of the reasons I’m curious if they’re on the Internet. So clearly they are to some degree, because you said that the network can be used as an access point to get out onto the [Internet].”

Moss: “But the wireless networks are very sophisticated, and the cameras are on a separate network.”

Mocek: “Cameras are on a separate network from the wireless–”

Moss: “Yeah, because you’re not logging into wireless to log into the camera; you’re logging into wireless to get to the DVR.”

Mocek: “Okay”

Moss: “So, yeah.

Mocek: “Okay”

Moss: “I mean, I’ll answer questions, like, there’s firewalls and things like that in place, and there’ll be strict everything.”

Mocek: “I think it would be helpful to have all that information be in the public. The best se–”

Moss: “I don’t.”

Mocek: “The best security is reviewed by–”

Moss: “I’ll *explain* that, but if I say it’s this model of this and this model of that, then there are people that will start attacking that, and I don’t want that either.”

Mocek: “So is that not public record?”

Moss: “I don’t think it is, and I’ll fight that.”

Mocek: “Make and model of the equipment?”

Moss: “Yep. I’d very much like to protect that, because I think that’s important.”

Moss: “Now, again, there’s lots of different ideas for auditing and stuff. And I like the idea of a small group of citizens coming in. Like the ACLU, I don’t care. We welcome them to be a part of this. Come in and look at what we’re doing. You know, look at the audit logs and that kind of stuff. That part I’m not trying to hide. I don’t want to put out, you know, for everybody to see that this is the exact equipment that we’re using, so go look up things and attack it, and good luck. You know, I don’t want that either. We’ve got to balance that.”

Mocek: “I would hope that we *would*, actually. I believe open source software is typically more secure because we can see the flaws in it and get them fixed. If you hide the flaws, somebody will find it and you won’t know it.”

Moss: “We’ll agree to disagree on that. And again, that’s a policy decision. Thats my personal opinion. Somebody else can make that decision way above my pay grade.”

Mocek: “Understood.”

Moss: “If that’s what they decide, then that’s what we’ll do.”

Mocek: “Will authorized users include any federal staff?”

Moss: “The only potential federal folks–and that was asked yesterday, too, which is a good question–the only potential federal people will be the coast guard. And they’re studying this, but they haven’t agreed to use it yet. Linda Bryll asked the question yesterday, “It doesn’t make sense to me that the feds are going to give you all this money, then not connect to it.’ And it all makes perfect sense. When you call 9-1-1, it’s not the FBI or the CIA coming out. You know, it’s us. And again, City Council will have… Other than the partners that we already have, if there’s anybody else that we’re going to add to this group, they’re going to have to approve it. They made that clear yesterday.”

Mocek: “So definitely, not available at the local Fusion Center?”

Moss: “I’m sorry. Not…”

Mocek: “Not available at the regional Fusion Center?”

Moss: “It is not available at the regional Fusion Center.”

Mocek: “Does the police department have direct access to any of the private cameras you mentioned? Port of Seattle, the ones on the Columbia Tower, the Chinatown cameras?”

Moss: “We have been given permission to access, like, the Chinatown cameras, but if we want video from that, then we have to go to them. So, they don’t just give us video. `Hey, this camera, this date, this time, showed this.’ Very often, they’re calling us and saying, `Hey, this is going on.’ So, there are select people within the West Precinct, and a select number of detectives that have access to the Chinatown cameras.”

Mocek: “What do you mean by access? You said they couldn’t get the recordings.”

Moss: “They can login and see the cameras.”

Mocek: “Oh, okay, live.”

Moss: “Yep. But if they want the video, then they have to ask for permission.”

Mocek: “Okay. And are those audit– Is there an audit log that goes with those private cameras?”

Moss: “They’re private cameras. I have no idea how they have that set up.”

Mocek: “And does the audit log that you described– does that apply specifically to these cameras? The Port of Seattle security cameras?”

Moss: “Yes.”

Mocek: “So is there a separate log for, say, the Pioneer Square cameras?”

Moss: “We don’t have any cameras in Pioneer Square.”

Mocek: “I read that that was done several years ago. There was a problem with them turning–”

Moss: “Pilot project.”

Mocek: “Okay, so those are not up any more?”

Moss: “No.”

Mocek: “Okay. And what– If somebody wanted to re– What is that log called? How would somebody request that record?”


Mocek: “The audit log for the Seattle Police Wireless Surveillance Network”?

Moss: “Yeah.”

Mocek: “Okay. Thanks. I appreciate you answering all these questions.”

Moss: “Who are you?”

Mocek: “What’s that?”

Moss: “What’s your name?”

Mocek: “Phil Mocek.”

Moss: “Hi, Phil.”

Mocek: “And what was your name again?” (To other officer)

O’Quinn: “I’m Verner O’Quinn.”

Mocek: “What’s your–”

Unknown: “Have you been in the media? You look very familiar.”

O’Quinn: “I used to be on a lot.”

Unknown: “Were you serving as spokesperson, that kind of thing?”

O’Quinn: “No, I just happened to be in a lot of of incidents.”

Mocek: “What’s your position now?”

O’Quinn: “What’s my what?”

Mocek: “Your position?”

O’Quinn: “Sergeant.”

Mocek: “And what was different when you were more frequently in the news?”

O’Quinn: “I’ve been in bicycle, SWAT, I’ve run a lot of the incident command locations, most of the special events for a number of years [inaudible]”


O’Quinn: “I never worked down here. I’ve always been east, downtown. Never been too many places.”


O’Quinn: “Good night.”

Mocek: “Good night.”

 Posted by at 9:04 pm

  2 Responses to “My interview of head of SPD’s public surveillance camera program”

  1. Slides presented by Monty Moss at the Microsoft public safety symposium: Real Time Situational Awareness
    Mesh Networks for Public Safety Applications

    Therein you’ll find the statement that “next steps” include “evaluating integrations at the precinct level for ALPR, in-car video, in-car terminals, site surveillance” and “collaboration with other local agencies who are interested in leveraging this infrastructure for their own projects”.

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