Court Says NYPD Must Reveal Info on X-ray Spy Vans
Three dimensional X-ray scanning is used by doctors to perform CAT scans and by 3D scanning companies to provide reverse engineering and other non destructive testing. However, in recent years the nation’s largest police department has started using X-ray inspection in unmarked vans. Little is known about these X-ray inspection vans, but now at least some information will be made public.
Thanks to a journalism nonprofit called ProPublica, the New York City Police Department will now have to release any information and documents it has related to the health risks associated with its top secret unmarked X-ray vans.
In a controversial split decision, an appeals court ordered the NYPD to release the information on health risks. However, the appeals court also reversed a lower court ruling that said the department also had to release documents revealing how, when, why, where, and against whom the vans were deployed.
Unfortunately for privacy advocates, the appeals court ruled that the risks of terrorism outweigh the public interest. So far, the NYPD has refused to even say how many of the vans are in operation, and after the split decision they won’t have to.
Let’s be honest, the NYPD doesn’t have a the best track record when it comes to protecting New Yorkers’ privacy. The New York Civil Liberties Union once reported that New Yorkers have been stopped and frisked by NYPD officers more than 5 million times, with black and Latino residents stopped accounting for nine out of 10. When the stop and frisk program hit its peak in 2011, New Yorkers were stopped 685,724 times, even though nearly nine out of 10 suspects were totally innocent. Black and Latino residents accounted for 87% of all stops that year.
So it’s little wonder New Yorkers have trouble trusting the NYPD, especially when they hear the words “top secret X-ray spy vans.”
According to ProPublica, “The vans can drive alongside vehicles or buildings to find organic materials such as drugs and explosives that may be hidden inside. But because the vans use backscatter X-rays, which bounce back from the target to create an image, they may also expose unknowing drivers, passengers and pedestrians to ionizing radiation, which can increase the risk of cancer.
X-rays and CAT scans use low-dose computed tomography to produce 2D images by passing a radiation source through an object. Backscatter X-rays reflect radiation off of the object being scanned. Today, 3D scanning companies use CT scanning for a variety of industrial applications. Of course, 3D scanning companies also take care not to subject unsuspecting citizens to X-rays while they’re sitting in traffic.
More than 20 media organizations filed briefs in support of ProPublica in the case.
ProPublica?s president Richard Tofel said, ?We?re gratified that the court ordered disclosure of any reports on the health and safety risks from the NYPD?s deployment of these vans around our city, and we look forward to the prompt disclosure of such documents.?