NYPD: New Plan To Detect Dirty Bombs

The NYPD has a new plan to photograph the license plate of every vehicle entering Manhattan and to “sniff” all vehicles for radioactivity.

The proposal — called Operation Sentinel — relies on integrating layers of technologies, some that are still being perfected. It 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.

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.

Civil libertarians will surely object. The proposal calls for the project to be in place by 2010, but with Bloomberg’s administration coming to an end next year, implementation could hinge on his successor’s approval. A low-grade “suitcase bomb” detonated in the financial district could render a large portion of Manhattan unlivable for decades and could trigger a global economic breakdown.

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