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The White House Is Watching

The temporary off-grounds White House briefing room has been the subject of quite a bit of chatter lately. White House Correspondent Bill Plante tells us about the facility's most recent development that has everyone talking -- a somewhat inconspicuous video camera.

Is Karl Rove watching? Or does he have better things to do, like trying to save the Republican majority in Congress?

Well, Karl, White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, and other senior staffers CAN watch a video feed from the Briefing Room - even if it's one of the briefings (also known as "gaggles") which are not normally made available for TV.

There's a small TV camera mounted on the ceiling of the temporary White House briefing room. It's black, matching the TV lights – and consequently, unobtrusive. I noticed it a few days after we moved into the new space a month ago.

But today, during the 9:30 a.m. gaggle, as my colleagues and I went back and forth with Press Secretary Tony Snow about whether the President's Oval Office address last night was "political," I watched the camera swing from questioner to questioner. A quick glance to the side of the room confirmed that the White House Communications Agency Technician who handles the audio for the briefings was also controlling the camera.

So, as it hovered in my direction during another reporter's question, I began waving. Isn't that what everyone does in front of a camera?

Tony Snow, distracted, stopped in mid-sentence to ask me why I was waving.

"Hi Josh," I volunteered. "Hi Karl."

Snow professed to have never noticed the camera. Reporters began asking why it's there.

The answer – so the staff can watch the briefings. There was one in the old White House briefing room, but it was focused on the briefer, not on the reporters.

There are surveillance cameras everywhere these days – so why not in the briefing room? No, no, say White House officials, it's not surveillance, it's just for the briefings.

Ha! Reporters are a suspicious and sometimes paranoid bunch.

On the other hand, there's always been an audio feed of the briefings available inside the White House. Now there's video too.

Remember to bring your makeup.

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