Last night's edition of the CBS News program 60 Minutes included an extensive feature on the anti-terror capabilities of New York City's police. In the segment, Commissioner Ray Kelly told Scott Pelley that NYPD has "some means to take down a plane"—a claim clarified and kind-of-debunked by Wired's Noah Shachtman, and at the Christian Science Monitor.
Also featured in the guided terror-tour, the city's massive artificial-intelligence surveillance camera panopticon. But don't worry, it's a good thing. Snip from the 60 Minutes transcript:
Kelly has built something else that most New Yorkers never see. It is nearly impossible now to walk a block in lower Manhattan without being on television. There are 2,000 cameras, and soon there will be 3,000 - all of which feed into this control center housed in a secret location.
Jessica Tisch: Nobody has a system like this.
Jessica Tisch helps run this $150 million surveillance system that monitors the cameras and all those radiation detectors. A powerful computer, using artificial intelligence actually watches all of the cameras at once and it knows if a package has been left in one place too long.
Oh, great. Technology of this kind can always be trusted to work properly. The people operating it can always be trusted not to abuse. Public funds spent on surveillance are always money well spent. And AI is always a good thing, as we know from science fiction.
At Mother Jones, a piece that echoes my reaction as I watched this last night: why was there not one peep, not one, about privacy or civil liberties? They couldn't find anyone who has a problem with the secret "Ancestries of Interest" list? Not a single dissenting voice? Not a word of concern about the NYPD's CIA-assisted surveillance of the city's Muslim community? Writes MoJo's Adam Serwer, the segment felt like "practically a promotional video for the department."
And it aired on the same day this video went viral of an NYPD officer macing protesters in the face—an officer accused of abuses before. Good to know such abuses could never happen with the fancy new lethal technology teased in the 60 Minutes piece.