In the latest episode of "You Might be a Terrorist" policies, the New York Police Department is set to expand its counterterrorism surveillance networks to fight street crime. Last year, the NYPD created a "Domain Awareness System" to tie together its network of surveillance cameras (you're always being watched in the Big Apple), license plate readers, radiation detectors (you can't be too careful in a city constantly ravaged by supervillains), 911 calls records (that sounds familiar), criminal records and more. The system conveniently displays all this info for cops about town on a user-friendly "dashboard." Soon, cops will be provided with a mobile device that can connect to the dashboard from anywhere.
Oh, and in addition to all this information being readily available to cops, the city is also doubling the number of public and private surveillance cameras. NYPD is also increasing the number of license plate readers (which take pictures of every car that passes by one, because hey, why not) around the city and attaching 100 more to squad cars.
What do these readers do? Well, originally the readers would alert police to cars owned by suspected terrorists, but now they will be used to find cars belonging to violent fugitives, homicide suspects and non-dangerous piggy banks like drivers with expired licenses.
The system was developed by Microsoft, by the way.
Enter the civil liberties lawyers. The New York Civil Liberties Union said that "a comprehensive license-plate reader system is akin to attaching police GPS devices to our cars, since the system allows the police to track movements throughout the city."
In response to this claim, the NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism said, "We'll see how the law evolves, but I don't think that in any case the [DAS system] violates anyone's expectation of privacy."
Enter our old friend Andrew C. McCarthy of the National Review Institute. On Tuesday, I mentioned his article stating the National Security Agency's phone record collection does not violate the Fourth Amendment. But he also wrote in that column: "[U]nder the Fourth Amendment as originally understood, it would be a violation for police, without a valid judicial warrant, to attach a GPS tracker to a person's car and monitor his movements." Now, if NYC cameras monitor drivers' movements, isn't the NYCLU correct?
On Wednesday, I wrote about the NSA's collection and retention of phone records essentially treating us all like terrorists, and here comes NYC doing just that, with the added benefit of treating residents like other criminals as well.