First, They Came for the Geiger Counters


New York City Council, at the suggestion of the Department of Homeland Security, is looking at legislation that requires anyone who has or uses a detector that measures chemical, biological or radioactive agents to get a license from the Police Department.

According to the New York Times, "The purpose of the bill is to reduce unwarranted anxiety and damage from false alarms of terrorist attacks."

But the unintended consequence (or is it intended?) is that non-governmental groups, activists, environmentalists or anyone who monitors anything from greenhouse gases to PCBs has to get a licence and they know where you are. Evidently the right to bear arms is in the constitution but the right to know what is in the air is not.


Steven Chillrud, Greg O’Mullan and Wade McGillis, research scientists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia, wrote the op-ed for the Times. Their position:

"Even though we believe that the current city administration would use the law rationally, once such a vaguely worded statute is passed, it opens the door for abuse. If it passes here, Homeland Security will probably use it as a model for other cities."

"Restriction of environmental information is rarely in the public’s interest. The ability of scientists and citizens to gather data quickly and efficiently should be fostered, not suppressed." ::New York Times