Excuse Me, Mr. Dunleavy, But Donna Lieberman is Not an Ass


When cops get shot, the whole city mourns. The New York Post’s Steve Dunleavy goes apoplectic. Hey, it’s the guy’s job. And he usually does it well.

But why use the shooting of two of New York’s Finest as an excuse to go after Donna Lieberman, the Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, for merely suggesting that the city take a moment to consider the efficacy of using surveillance cameras and the consequences of living in a society where everyone’s every move is monitored? Dunleavy’s column “Use more cameras to zoom in on slimeballs” is, at times, a pretty personal attack against Lieberman with gems like “Ms. Donna Lieberman made an ass of herself yet again.”

Yikes. Somebody get this guy a drink. Or a badge, so he can go after the real criminals here. And not conflate a police shooting caught on camera with honest questions about spending millions to surveil our every move.

For her part, Lieberman said she thought Dunleavy was out of line, and that she regretted granting the columnist an interview.

“It’s offensive,” Lieberman said. “We make big effort to include the pros and cons of having surveillance cameras….We said that surveillance is not scourge on society but a double-edged sword. He should least get his facts right.”

Lieberman was reacting to a New York Times’ story about a $90-million-plan to set up a web of cameras, license plate readers, and roadblocks to detect and deter terrorism.

The Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, as the plan is called, will resemble London’s so-called Ring of Steel, an extensive web of cameras and roadblocks designed to detect, track and deter terrorists. British officials said images captured by the cameras helped track suspects after the London subway bombings in 2005 and the car bomb plots last month.
If the program is fully financed, it will include not only license plate readers but also 3,000 public and private security cameras below Canal Street.

In a press release that really seemed to steam Dunleavy, Lieberman said “Before the NYPD is allowed to spend tens of millions of public dollars on a plan that will put hundreds of thousands of innocent people into police computers, New Yorkers must have the opportunity to consider the consequences of such a plan and the assurance that it would carry strict privacy protections and external oversight.”

Lieberman said that in some quarters such an attack by Dunleavy would be seen as a badge of honor, but she didn’t really see it that way when the stakes are so high.

“There is nothing in the position that the New York Civil Liberties Union takes that would undermine the safety of New Yorkers,” she said. “It’s just unfortunate that there are columnists out there who enjoy creating devils and then taking pot-shots at them.”