Here's news from the Village Voice about a proposed NY city ordinance which, I suspect, is not unconstitutional — it's just monumentally stupid.
Richard Falkenrath, the NYPD's deputy commissioner for counterterrorism …. and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have asked the City Council to pass a law requiring anyone who wants to own [machines that detect traces of biological, chemical, and radiological weapons] to get a permit from the police first. And it's not just devices to detect weaponized anthrax that they want the power to control, but those that detect everything from industrial pollutants to asbestos in shoddy apartments. Want to test for pollution in low-income neighborhoods with high rates of childhood asthma? Gotta ask the cops for permission. Why? So you “will not lead to excessive false alarms and unwarranted anxiety,” the first draft of the law states.
Note that there is no actual evidence to date of police resources being wasted on such false alarms. They're just planning ahead.
It may not be irrelevant that when the Environmental Protection Agency pronounced the air surrounding Ground Zero as safe, independent testers proved this to be a lie. The proposal would presumably shield the tender psyche of New Yorkers from being confronted with such discomforting truths.
There is a case to be made for thinking about the profusion and deployment of sensors, not least cameras, in our cities. Some rules about how personally-identifiable data can be stored and shared might be a good idea (although there are first amendment constraints).
But this proposal is just wrongheaded at best and the product of a deeply statist mind at worst. And Bloomberg thinks he wants to be President?
Update: Here's some news from Purdue via Slashdot that ought to make Bloomberg's and Falkenrath's heads explode — Cell Phone Radiation Detectors Proposed to Protect Against Nukes,
… researchers are developing a radiation detection system that would rely on sensors within cell phones to locate and track potentially hazardous material. From the Purdue news service: “Such a system could blanket the nation with millions of cell phones equipped with radiation sensors able to detect even light residues of radioactive material. Because cell phones already contain global positioning locators, the network of phones would serve as a tracking system, said physics professor Ephraim Fischbach. 'The sensors don't really perform the detection task individually,' Fischbach said. 'The collective action of the sensors, combined with the software analysis, detects the source. Say a car is transporting radioactive material for a bomb, and that car is driving down Meridian Street in Indianapolis or Fifth Avenue in New York. As the car passes people, their cell phones individually would send signals to a command center, allowing authorities to track the source.'”