Push for explosion detection equipment in Arlington County raises privacy concerns

- There are new details emerging about the Department of Defense's push to install bomb detection equipment in Arlington County. It could happen this summer and the government says the goal is to identify an explosion caused by a terrorist attack in an urban area.

Arlington County is home to shops, restaurants, homes and the Pentagon. But it could potentially also be the home to explosion detection devices if the Department of Defense has its way.

However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has concerns about the plan and how it impacts the constitutional right to privacy.

“We would like to see transparency,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst for the ACLU. “What exactly are the devices that they are putting on there and do any of them have constitutional implications like microphones that might record people as they walk around. That is something we should know about and we should have assurances it will not be included.”

The Department of Defense would like to install an explosive detection device in the county at an undisclosed location as early as August.

It is no surprise, Stanley said the ACLU is ready to battle any plan resembling Big Brother watching without the public's consent. But does safety trump privacy in this instance?

“Everybody wants to be kept safe, and if this is in fact an important thing, the DoD should be open so we can see that it is not just a boondoggle,” Stanley told us.

The government said the bomb detection sensors would monitor air pressure, radiation, light and more to determine the size, location and altitude of an explosion. Computer networks would also monitor radio frequency signals and collect data to help pinpoint what was detonated, where the materials came from and who launched or supported the attack.

Arlington County's board could approve the proposal on Saturday. The ACLU plans to attend their meeting.

If the government's proposal is approved, the county could become the first of several nationwide to house bomb detection equipment in its own backyard.

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