Fact Check: The Post Act & National Security

Last week, the New York City Council introduced a bill to increase transparency and oversight over the NYPD’s use of sophisticated new surveillance technologies and information sharing networks. Rather than embrace a commitment to greater transparency and dialogue, the NYPD reacted to the POST Act with hyperbole and hysteria. Time for a fact check.

March 6, 2017

Last week, the New York City Council introduced a bill to increase transparency and oversight over the NYPD’s use of sophisticated new surveillance technologies and information sharing networks. Dubbed the Public Oversight of Police Technology (POST) Act, the legislation requires the NYPD to disclose basic information about the surveillance tools it uses and the safeguards in place to protect the privacy and civil liberties of New Yorkers.

The Brennan Center strongly supports the POST Act, especially at a time of heightened anxiety about federal access to local police data. New Yorkers should not be left wondering what kinds of data the NYPD is collecting or whether it will wind up in the hands of federal agencies that will use it for their own purposes.

But rather than embrace a commitment to greater transparency and dialogue, the NYPD reacted to the POST Act with hyperbole and hysteria. According to the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for legal affairs, the transparency reports would help terrorists and end up in Al Qaeda’s “Inspire Magazine.”

Time for a fact check.  The POST Act is carefully calibrated to ensure that the NYPD can continue to keep the city safe while providing policymakers with the information necessary for effective oversight. It would not “tip off the bad guys”; it is consistent with federal practice; and the failure to disclose such basic information can actually harm law enforcement.

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Image by Flickr user Brett Sayer, (CC BY-NC 2.0).