Watch CBS News

NYCLU To Court: Police Should Disclose Info On Secret X-Ray Vans

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The New York Civil Liberties Union says the public has the right to know about how the NYPD is using unmarked X-ray vans in the city.

The civil rights group has filed a brief urging an appeals court to uphold a judge's ruling in January that the NYPD must disclose information requested by an investigative journalist at ProPublica. The department had denied a Freedom of Information Law request for records revealing the Z Backscatter Vans' usage and public health risks as well as whether warrants were obtained and how long images captured by the vehicles were held.

The military-grade surveillance equipment uses radiation to capture images inside cars or buildings and has been used to detect roadside bombs in Afghanistan.

The vans cost between $729,000 to $825,000 each, the NYCLU said.

"People should be informed if military grade x-ray vans are damaging their health with radiation or peering inside their homes or cars," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a news release. "New Yorkers have a right to protect their health, welfare and privacy."

The NYPD has argued that releasing the information would hamper investigations and endanger the lives of New Yorkers.

Judge Doris Ling-Cohan in January called that claim "mere speculation."

The NYCLU says other agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, have revealed the same types of information about similar technology.

"Fair policing requires the NYPD to be willing to tell New Yorkers when it is using technologies that significantly intrude on their privacy," said NYCLU Senior Staff Attorney Mariko Hirose. "The NYPD is out of step with the growing recognition that public awareness of how law enforcement conducts surveillance is important for democracy."

The Brennan Center for Justice joined the NYCLU on the brief.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.