On-Again/Off-Again Democracy In New York

Andrew Denney reports in Panel Supports City’s Denial of Data on NYPD Surveillance that the NYPD can refuse to acknowledge the existence of records requested under the state equivalent of FOIA.

From the post:

Police properly applied a legal doctrine allowing it to refuse to acknowledge the existence of records, requested under state Freedom of Information Law, that related to surveillance programs, a Manhattan appeals court found.

The ruling by the Appellate Division, First Department, settles a dispute between two trial judges who disagreed in 2014 as to whether the New York City Police Department could use the “Glomar Doctrine.” The policy allows federal departments to cite security concerns to neither confirm nor deny the existence of records requested under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

The doctrine is named for an inquiry into a salvage operation of a Soviet nuclear submarine by a ship named the Hughes Glomar Explorer.

An NYPD spokesman commented:

“We are all safer because of this ruling, which confirms that the NYPD is not required to reveal the targets of counterterrorism surveillance,” department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci said.

I would agree with Paolucci had he said:

“Illegal, unauthorized and abusive ‘counterterrorism surveillance’ will be safer because of this ruling.”

National (think FBI) and local law enforcement authorities have long histories of illegal misconduct, a large amount of which is only discovered years or even decades later. There is no reason to believe that “counterterrorism surveillance” is any less prone to similar abuses.

Without public oversight and transparency, “counterterrorism surveillance” is a recipe for an ongoing abuse of the rights.

Having denied the access needed for meaningful public oversight, the courts and NYPD should not complain about uncontrolled releases of the same information.

When faced with an on-again/off-again democracy, what alternative does the public have?

I first saw this in a tweet by North Star Post.

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