Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Nanny With a White House Pedigree

Dr. Richard Falkenrath is NYPD's Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism. In between his Assistant Professorship at Harvard and a stint at the Brookings Institute, Falkenrath was on the National Security staff in Bush's first term.

Based on a recent Village Voice article, however, it's safe to say the Doctor's no conservative:
[H]e and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have asked the City Council to pass a law requiring anyone who wants to own such detectors [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. . .

"There are currently no guidelines regulating the private acquisition of biological, chemical, and radiological detectors," warned Falkenrath, adding that this law was suggested by officials within the Department of Homeland Security. "There are no consistent standards for the type of detectors used, no requirement that they be reported to the police department—or anyone else, for that matter—and no mechanism for coordinating these devices. . . . Our mutual goal is to prevent false alarms . . . by making sure we know where these detectors are located, and that they conform to standards of quality and reliability." . . .

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said the bill aims to fix a problem that doesn't even exist. "I cannot think of evidence or events in our recent past involving false alarms that would create any urgency for this sweeping legislation," he said. "If Manhattanites have any anxiety related to this bill, it is the very marked anxiety that residents have about their air quality."
Put differently, Falkenrath would stop City citizens from getting environmental information. Can't have that--who knows?, with a warning, New Yorkers might wind up protecting themselves, rather than depending on government. As Reason's Radley Balko remarks:
Never mind that such a false alarm triggered by faulty, privately-owned, unlicensed "detectors" has never happened. And the notion of forcing watchdog groups to get permission from the government before attempting to determine if what in many cases is government pollution is pretty farcical.
If anything, Balko low-balls the problem. Coyote Blog wonders whether the draft law means "a license would be required to put a smoke detector in your own house." Would Falkenrath criminalize testing for Radon? By next year, might Manhattan mandate permits to own a Canary?

As Michael at DiscourseNet concludes, "this proposal is just wrongheaded at best and the product of a deeply statist mind at worst." Agreed. I can understand lefty strongholds Harvard and Brookings--but what was Dr. Falkenrath doing formulating national security policy for W?

(via Free Constitution)

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