Having nothing to fear but fear itself is a luxury belonging to another age. Now we have much more to fear, and some of it is documented in a strong and scary "ABC News Close-Up," "The Invetigators," at 10 tonight on Channel 7.
The program, produced and reported by Paul Altmeyer, examines some of the ways in which individual privacy is routinely betrayed by government and business in America today. "Technology has outstripped the law," Altmeyer says, when it comes to insidious gadgetry that gets into the hands of 20th-century vampires.
We meet a man who was fired by TWA because a company monitoring device incorrectly accused him of hanging up on a customer; he spent seven months unemployed until a mediator got him his job back. "It's a little bit of 1984 here already," he tells Altmeyer.
Another victim of the unstoppable urge to snoop quit her job at a Kresge store in Michigan after a polygraph wrongly found her guilty of lying about cash shortages. Eventually a jury awarded her $100,000 in damages, but not before she went through a period "where I just gave up" and "Thought of suicide."
The report even looks at the case of WLS-TV in Chicago, which is owned and operated by ABC and where the former general manager installed a secret taping system to spy on employes as they went about their work. The man refused to be interviewed because the case is still in court.
This "Close-Up," from the Pamela Hill/Richard Richter unit at ABC News, closes with a few blatant cases of undercover police abuse committed by members of the Los Angeles police department, the one depicted as squeaky-clean in countless TV cop shows. "The Investigators" is a solid and sobering hour of very cold chills, and it dares not to offer any hope that things will get better.