Dystopian truth is stranger than dystopian fiction.
In New York City, the police now maintain an unknown number of military-grade vans outfitted with X-ray radiation, enabling cops to look through the walls of buildings or the sides of trucks. The technology was used in Afghanistan before being loosed on U.S. streets. Each X-ray van costs an estimated $729,000 to $825,000.
The NYPD will not reveal when, where, or how often they are used.
“I will not talk about anything at all about this,” New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told a journalist for the New York Post who pressed for details on the vans. “It falls into the range of security and counter-terrorism activity that we engage in.”
He added that “they’re not used to scan people for weapons.”
Here are some specific questions that New York City refuses to answer:
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?
Those specifics are taken from a New York Civil Liberties Union court filing. The legal organization is seeking to assist a lawsuit filed by Pro Publica journalist Michael Grabell, who has been fighting New York City for answers about X-ray vans for 3 years.