A friend living in Manhattan alerted me to the news this morning that the NYPD is working to get technology that will search pedestrians remotely and without their consent or a warrant. Right now, this is just a dream of the power-hungry. Devices that have been developed – in a collaboration of the NYPD and Pentagon — are only effective at a distance of a few feet. But, they want the range to be 80 out more feet.
The ACLU is having trouble effectively fighting this since they are so caught up with being anti-gun that they must resort to very weak arguments against the technology.
“We have no idea how this technology works, if it is effective and what its error rate is,” [Civil Liberties Union director, Donna Lieberman] said. “If the NYPD is moving forward with this, the public needs more information about this technology, how it works and the dangers it presents.”
An editorial in New York’s free daily by civil rights attorney Norman Siegel did address privacy and the Fourth Amendment, but it also accepted the premise of searches for guns:
As a preliminary matter, does the technology detect metal or guns? If it detects metal…that would certainly be overly broad
The police claim that the device uses infrared energy to see through clothing. My best guess is that it looks for cooler objects against the warmer background of a persons body. If the cold object is the shape of a gun, then you’re in trouble! However, based on how opaque government agencies trend to be about these things, we’ll probably never know how they work and what the false positive rate really is. But it is really irrelevant; the fact it’s that this is a clear violation of our natural rights to privacy and our constitutional protection from illegal searches. Gun or no gun.5:24 pm on January 18, 2012 Email Kathryn Muratore