Grabell v. NYPD

October 7, 2015

ProPublica journalist Michael Grabell requested records related to the New York Police Department's use of Z Backscatter Vans under New York's Freedom of Information Law. When the NYPD refused to comply, asserting that the release of information would endanger the Department's counterterrorism program, Grabell filed suit in New York. The court ruled that most of the information must be released. Grabell is represented by Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic. We argued that the NYPD's use of backscatter x-ray technology is a matter of significant public interest and has been the subject of extensive reporting. Considering the detailed information already available to the public about backscatter x-rays, NYPD's contention that any release of information concerning the technology could allow terrorists to exploit "limitations in the van's x-ray capabilities" is unconvincing. New York's FOIL is an important tool for facilitating public access to information about law enforcement generally, and controversial law enforcement technologies are exactly the kind of matter regarding which public access is essential.