MANHATTAN (CN) – The New York Civil Liberties Union demands that the Department of Homeland Security provide information about a “massive” surveillance program for southern Manhattan, claiming the DHS responded to its FOIA requests with only “eight pages of heavily redacted records.”
The NYCLU claims the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative will erect “a network of thousands of cameras to monitor and track vehicles and pedestrians in the area south of Canal Street in Manhattan.”
It claims this web of equipment will allow the NYPD, and possibly the federal government, to create a database tracking millions of New Yorkers.
The NYCLU says the network of spy cameras will cost $100 million, but that little is known about the program “other than its price tag.”
“The Department of Homeland Security is helping the NYPD conduct blanket surveillance of millions of law-abiding New Yorkers, but it refuses to share even basic details about this costly project,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “A system of this scope, expense and intrusiveness cannot be carried out in secret. The public has a right to this information.”
The NYCLU says it submitted a FOIA request to five DHS offices in October 2007 requesting all files it sent to or received from the NYPD and the City of New York about the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative. The request also sought files in which DHS discussed other video surveillance systems, such as London’s Ring of Steel.
The NYCLU says it wanted to know how much money the federal government was spending on it, what information it would collect about law-abiding citizens, how the police would use it, whom they would share it with, how long it would be stored and what privacy protections were in place.
But it says none of the five DHS offices revealed any of that information.
The NYCLU appealed, and DHS told it only that its request is being processed.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency gave NYCLU the eight heavily redacted pages.
The NYCLU says three other offices, including the National Protection and Programs Directorate, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, and the Office of Structure and Geophysical Tradition, stonewalled it entirely, claiming they found no records on the subject.
The NYCLU wants to see the record.