Arlington County board votes to allow Department of Defense to install explosion detection equipment

- The Arlington County board voted unanimously late Tuesday to allow the Department of Defense to install explosion detection equipment on public property despite objections from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The sensors are meant to help the government respond to a terror attack and will be installed in an undisclosed location next month. This is part of a wider network of such sensors in major cities across the country.

The Department of Defense said the equipment "will be used to help the Federal government's efforts to identify what was detonated, where the materials came from, and who launched or supported the attack."

The ACLU has raised concerns that the department wants to keep details about the equipment and its capabilities concealed from the public and will have exception from the Freedom of Information Act under the agreement with the county.

"The job of the board is to make sure citizens are both safe and free, and that it isn't a choice of one or the other,” said Claire Gastanagnaga, executive director of ACLU Virginia. “And so, in this case, we are not asking for the location of the equipment to be disclosed. We understand that obviously could be a security issue. Recording is our special concern. We think the public should know any time they are being recorded in a public space."

The board addressed those concerns saying the sensors are not capable of recording and can't be modified by the Department of Defense without approval by the board.

Gastanagnaga said she was disappointed by the vote, and that the board would allow information about the plans to remain unavailable to the public.

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