The NYPD Doesn't Want You To Know About Their Roaming X-Ray Vans: Gothamist

"There should be no secrets in the NYPD," Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told a crowd a month after he was appointed by Mayor de Blasio. "We are going to do more to open up the organization, to make it more inclusive, to make our information more readily available to the public." Except when it comes to the NYPD's x-ray vans. Or its guidelines for FOIL requests. Or any piece of information, no matter how minor or publicly available, that does not serve the NYPD's purposes.

Yes Virginia, the NYPD does use Z Backscatter Vans (ZBVs) to pry into vehicles and shipping containers and who knows what, because the largest municipal police department in the country refuses to provide even the most cursory details about the vans, which cost around $800,000 apiece.

In December of 2014, a state judge ordered the NYPD to release information related to a FOIL request from ProPublica on ZBVs, which use the same kind of technology found in the "porno scanners" used by the TSA, before they replaced them with less powerfully intrusive technology. (FOX News reported that the Department of Homeland Security also uses ZBVs.)

"While this court is cognizant and sensitive to concerns about terrorism, being located less than a mile from the 9/11 site, and having seen firsthand the effects of terrorist destruction, nonetheless, the hallmark of our great nation is that it is a democracy, with a transparent government," State Supreme Court Judge Doris Ling-Cohan wrote in her decision.

Rather than turn over the information, the NYPD appealed. Yesterday, the NYCLU filed a request to submit an amicus brief in the case to ask the appellate court to enforce the lower court's decision.

"How is the NYPD ensuring that innocent New Yorkers are not subject to harmful x-ray radiation? How long is the NYPD keeping the images that it takes and who can look at them? Is the NYPD obtaining judicial authorization prior to taking images, and if so, what type of authorization? Is the technology funded by taxpayer money, and has the use of the vans justified the price tag?" NYCLU attorney Mariko Hirose writes in the filing.

“Those are issues I’d prefer not to divulge to the public at this time,” NYPD Commissioner Bratton told the Post yesterday. “I will not talk about anything at all about this — it falls into the range of security and counter-terrorism activity that we engage in.”

http://gothamist.com/2015/10/14/nypd_secret_x_ray_van.php