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Giving Terrorists a Heads-up


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A proposed law would force the NYPD to publicize the details of its surveillance technology.

Heather Mac Donald

June 18, 2017


A bill in New York’s city council would require the New York Police Department to reveal crucial details about every surveillance technology that the department uses to detect terrorism and crime. Ninety days before the NYPD intends to implement a new surveillance technology, it would have to post on the Internet a technical description of how the new tool works, and how the department plans to use it. The public would have 45 days to comment on the proposed technology; the police commissioner would then have 45 days to respond to the public comments before he could actually start using the new capacity.  Existing technologies would also have to be retroactively submitted to public review. 

Perhaps aware that this moment may not be ideal for promoting what would be, in effect, a terrorists’ manual on how to evade discovery in New York City, the bill’s supporters have hilariously taken to casting it as a pro-illegal alien, anti-Trump gesture. New York is a “sanctuary city, now in open resistance to the Trump administration,” two members of the Brennan Center for Justice wrote in an op-ed advocating for the so-called Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act.  (The Brennan Center wrote the POST Act for council members; the center has pushed similar bills across the country, including in Seattle and Oakland, two cities that have been particularly vulnerable to “anti-fascist” violence.) The city council press release claims that the bill “strengthens New York City’s commitment as a sanctuary city . . . as the Trump administration seeks to increase surveillance across America.”

In fact, the proposed law has nothing to do with New York’s deplorable status as a sanctuary city. Criminal illegal aliens avoid lawful deportation in New York because city and police officials release them back to the streets in defiance of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests, not because of sophisticated surveillance technologies. But though the bill would have no effect on the city’s campaign to thwart immigration enforcement, it would impede the city’s ability to stay one step ahead of terrorist planning. Memo to the council: counterterrorism is not a leisurely activity compatible with lengthy public review and administrative red tape. It requires nimbleness and speed in the face of a rapidly evolving threat. And disclosing to the enemy the extent of, and details about, your surveillance capacities provides an invaluable blueprint for foiling those capacities. 








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