NYCLU sues DHS over mid-Manhattan surveillance scheme

Published 10 June 2009

DHS wants to build a $92 million surveillance system in Lower Manhattan; civil liberties organizations sues DHS over plans to expand plan to mid-Manhattan

The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit against DHS seeking information about a planned surveillance network in downtown Manhattan. The NYCU said it filed the suit because DHS failed to disclose records about the project.

New York Times’s A. G. Sulzberger writes that the civil liberties group, concerned about potential invasion of privacy, filed a similar lawsuit last year against the New York Police Department. That case is pending in state court.

The $92 million Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, introduced in 2005, aims to prevent terrorist attacks. It intends to establish a sweeping surveillance network of closed-circuit video cameras, license plate readers, and explosive trace detection systems in the area between Canal Street and Battery Park, a project similar to the “ring of steel” in downtown London. In April Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly proposed building a similar surveillance system in Midtown Manhattan.

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the civil liberties group, said that neither the city nor the federal government has been forthcoming with information about the project, with two Freedom of Information Act requests generating only eight heavily redacted pages from the Homeland Security department. In February the city briefly posted proposed privacy guidelines for public comment. “We’re just trying to understand what this project is about and what its impact will be on New Yorkers who are not suspected of any wrongdoing,” Ms. Lieberman said. “It’s a terrible idea for the government to engage in a massive surveillance project without any public comment about it.”