New York, NY — Over the past few years the NYPD has deployed a secretive program that uses unmarked vans with specialized X-ray machines designed to look through nearby objects; and the public knows little to nothing about them.
Thanks to ProPublica, a state judge has just ordered that the NYPD has some explaining to do in regards to their surreptitious X-ray van program.
An example of how the NYPD is keeping the citizens in the dark is that no data has been released on who’s being examined, or what they cost to operate, or if the officers using said equipment are being careful enough not to cause radiation induced cancer in their unwitting victims.
ProPublica filed the request as part of its investigation into the proliferation of security equipment, including airport body scanners, that expose people to ionizing radiation, which can mutate DNA and increase the risk of cancer.
Richard Daddario, then the NYPD’s deputy commissioner of counterterrorism, told the court in 2013 that releasing the documents would hamper the department’s ability to conduct operations and endanger the lives of New Yorkers.
Disclosing them, he said, would “permit those seeking to evade detection to conform their conduct to the times, places and methods that avoid NYPD presence and are thus most likely to yield a successful attack.”
But Supreme Court Judge Doris Ling-Cohan called the NYPD’s argument “mere speculation” and “patently insufficient” to outweigh the public’s right to know.
“While this court is cognizant and sensitive to concerns about terrorism, being located less than a mile from the 9/11 site, and having seen firsthand the effects of terrorist destruction, nonetheless, the hallmark of our great nation is that it is a democracy, with a transparent government,” she wrote in her decision last month.
Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the city’s law department, said Thursday that the NYPD would appeal “because disclosing this sensitive information would compromise public safety.”
The idea of police, operating outside of the Federal Drug Administration regulations for medical X-rays, being able to heedlessly use a device that can cause dangerous cumulative exposure to radiation, while simultaneously removing 4th Amendment checks, seems particularly irresponsible.
As a matter of fact, because of safety and health concerns, even U.S. Customs, who’ve used the vans extensively since 2010, has implemented a policy prohibiting their use on occupied vehicles.
However, since the NYPD has refused to release any of the department’s policies or procedures regarding the vans, the public has no idea if people are being scanned at all.
Sadly the choice of NYPD to keep all of this information secret is just one more example of the unaccountable nature of the runaway police state. Even though the NYPD will likely appeal, at least this one judge is refusing to roll over.
Now you just have to wait until the revenue collecting state enforcers will have the ability to see into your entire vehicle using miniature x-ray guns.