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Total surveillance: NYPD launches new all-seeing 'Domestic Awareness System'

Published time: July 30, 2012 18:05
Edited time: July 30, 2012 22:06
AFP Photo / Mario Tama

AFP Photo / Mario Tama

The New York Police Department already has thousands of cameras aimed all over the island of Manhattan, but this literal surveillance state is about to be brought up a notch. The NYPD is teaming up with Microsoft to track action across the city.

Later this week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to come forth with more details about a new surveillance project the head of the NYPD hinted at last week. In conjunction with engineers at Microsoft, the NYPD will unleash an advanced “domestic awareness system” that will combine its already extensive city-wide surveillance system with law enforcement’s established databases in order to track the moves of suspected terrorists.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly first commented on the program over the weekend at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, but those close to the project have failed to extrapolate much further other than on the basics. So far little is known about the Domain Awareness System, but an unearthed Public Security Privacy Guidelines memo dated back to 2009 details some of what is to be expected.

According to the memorandum, the Domain Awareness System is designed to implement “technology deployed in public spaces as part of the counterterrorism program” of the NYPD, and will work in tandem with the closed-circuit television cameras (CCTVs) already used by the force, as well as license plate readers “and other domain awareness devices, as appropriate.”

Currently there are reported no fewer than 3,000 CCTVs operated by the NYPD on just lower Manhattan

In the 2009 memo, the statement of purpose that outlines the need for the NYPD’s latest initiative says that the domain awareness system is designed to facilitate the observation of terrorist activity, aid in the detection and deterring of terrorist attacks, reduce incident response time and “create a common technological infrastructure to support the integration of new security technology.”

The statement continues to confirm that the system will be operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and will not target persons “solely because of actual or perceived race, color, religion or creed,” which the memo insists is operating procedure for all NYPD activities. A recent scandal uncovered by the Associated Press has already revealed that the NYPD has been engaged in surveillance missions outside of their jurisdiction, however, going as far as New Orleans, New Jersey and abroad to stake out American Muslims, including college students. Both Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly have defended this practice.

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