Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 23, 2005

US News story on NEST teams

Filed under: Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Christian Beckner on December 23, 2005

US News and World Report has a new story about radiation detection teams (NEST teams) covertly monitoring sites such as mosques and office buildings in the United States – from outside of the buildings, but on private property, without warrants:

In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts.

In contrast to the NSA story, this doesn’t seem like a big deal to me, given the less intrusive nature of this type of surveillance: the privacy rights of nuclear materials are fundamentally different than the privacy rights of people. This seems like exactly what the US government should be doing, and living in the DC metro area, I’m damn glad that NEST teams exist and are doing this.

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