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Eyes Have It For Lady Liberty

As visitors to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island board a ferry from Manhattan, a new surveillance system is taking their pictures and comparing them to a database of terror suspects compiled by the federal government.

The system was installed just ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, days after the FBI said it had received uncorroborated information that terrorists had threatened New York and some of its landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty.

"We're going to look at the facial recognition technology to see if it can be expanded for use in other parts of the city," Gov. George Pataki said on Saturday during a visit to the statue with his family.

"People are still coming to New York City, to the Statue of Liberty, from around our country and around our world because they appreciate that this is a secure, safe and free city," he said.

The facial recognition technology, provided by Visionics, of Jersey City, New Jersey, already is used in some airports and government buildings.

Mustafa Koita, a manager for Visionics, said the system searches 1 million images per second. "It has not slowed any of the foot traffic and I think people feel a little safer, too," Koita said.

Several cameras at varying heights snapped tourists' photographs just before they walked through a security checkpoint to board a ferry to the statue and Ellis Island, both operated by the National Park Service. Koita said the cameras were positioned so it would be difficult for people to look away or hide their faces.

The system was received with enthusiasm by tourists waiting in line on Saturday.

"I think it's great. It's a good safety precaution that is definitely necessary," said Joe Scali, 57, of North Haven, Connecticut

But the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the system, calling it "ineffective" and "an insult to the American people."

"To have such a system in place near the Statue of Liberty ... is both ironic and disheartening," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the group's Technology and Liberty Program, said in a statement on the group's Web site.

The New York Civil Liberties Union has also criticized the system as inaccurate and an intrusion on privacy and civil rights, according to the New York Times Saturday editions.

"We're concerned that using this technology will neither protect security nor enhance freedom," Donna Lieberman, executive director of the group, told the Times. "It will only create an increased danger that individuals will be wrongly accused and harassed. You have the right to move from one place to another without activities being recorded. One day, we'll wake up and find we have no privacy whatsoever."

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