“Operation Sentinel”: NYC Panopticon Plans Take Shape

Posted: August 13, 2008 in Articles
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By Noah Shachtman

Plans for New York City’s high-tech defense are beginning to coalesce; the NYPD wants license plate readers and radiation monitors scanning every vehicle entering Manhattan island, and a ring of checkpoints and concrete around the rebuilt World Trade Center site.

Back in April, we presented an early look inside the plans, which also include a network of thousands of surveillance cameras spidering through New York’s financial district.

The latest proposal — called Operation Sentinel — “calls for photographing, and scanning the license plates of, cars and trucks at all bridges and tunnels and using sensors to detect the presence of radioactivity,” the New York Times reports.

Data on each vehicle — its time-stamped image, license plate imprint and radiological signature — would be sent to a command center in Lower Manhattan, where it would be indexed and stored for at least a month as part of a broad security plan that emphasizes protecting the city’s financial district, the spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said. If it were not linked to a suspicious vehicle or a law enforcement investigation, it would be eliminated, he said.

The license plate readers, from what I understand, are, technically speaking, pretty straight forward. The radiation detectors ain’t. I spent some time with an NYPD unit, armed with these sensors. Just about anything would set them off — like a patient getting chemotherapy, for example. And so far, no nuclear smugglers had been caught by the machines.

Continue reading “NYC Panopticon Plans Take Shape” »


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