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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Hush-Hush Security OK in Manhattan

MANHATTAN (CN) - The Department of Homeland Security can redact 18 documents about its massive surveillance video system in Lower Manhattan, said to be modeled on London's "Ring of Steel," a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge John Koeltl last week denied the New York Civil Liberties Union's request to release the redacted portions of the documents.

The NYCLU sought documents about the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, led by the New York City Police Department with partial financing from DHS.

The NYCLU filed its FOIA complaint in June 2009.

The project will cost $100 million and use thousands of cameras to create a database tracking millions of New Yorkers, according to the complaint: "Therefore, the system's planning and implementation raise enormous implications for privacy rights and the lack of public input into the system."

Judge Koeltl wrote: "At this stage of the litigation, after extensive production of documents by the Government and good-faith negotiations between the parties, only portions of 18 documents remain at issue."

Homeland Security claims that the redacted materials are exempt from disclosure, and submitted declarations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Protection and Programs Directorate saying so.

Koeltl found that the redactions break down into five categories: the location of cameras and license plate readers; the types of equipment used; the implementation timeline; the number of buildings and properties protected; and identifying information about the properties.

Judge Koeltl found that that information should be protected.

"The location of license plate readers and cameras is the plainest example: although it is publicly known that the LMSI uses cameras and license plate readers, the specific locations of those devices are unknown, and their disclosure could unquestionably aid criminals in evading detection and thereby circumventing the law. ...

"Similarly, although the mechanics of cameras and license plate readers are 'generally known,' the specific types of devices used by the LMSI, their capabilities, and their means of transmitting data are all unknown. Potential criminals can only guess at what devices are in use and how to circumvent them," according to the Opinion and Order.

The Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment.

The NYCLU did not immediately respond to questions sent by email.

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