By Joshua Kopstein
A street artist who hung satirical posters criticising police surveillance activities has been arrested after an NYPD investigation tracked him to his doorstep. With the help of a small crew, the artist now identified as Essam Attia had placed the fake Big Brother-style adverts in locations throughout Manhattan, using a fake Van Wagner maintenance van and uniforms to avoid detection.
In a video interview with Animal New York prior to his arrest, a voice-scrambled and silhouetted Attia explained that he placed the provocative ads to “create a conversation” about disturbing trends in police surveillance, alluding to recent efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to “facilitate and accelerate the adoption” of unmanned aerial drones by local police departments. The posters also followed recent expansions in NYPD surveillance powers which allow officers to monitor citizens by creating fake identitieson social networking sites.
The NYPD’s response seems to have proven Attia’s point: months after forensics teams and a “counter-terrorism” unit was spotted on the scene, the NYPD last Wednesday successfully tracked down and arrested the 29-year-old art school vandal, who identified himself in the video as a former “geo-spatial analyst” serving US military operations in Iraq.