Days after the NYPD announced plans to expand their anti-terror surveillance network to a huge swath of midtown, it's been revealed that the department is also quickly amassing a vast database of cell phone users. Officers have been instructed to remove suspects' cell phone batteries when making an arrest, for the twofold purpose of "avoiding leakage" and also documenting the phone's International Mobile Equipment Identity number [IMEI]. The IMEI number is registered with the service provider whenever a call is made, and can be used to connect the dots between suspects. Naturally, the NYCLU is pissed.

Christopher Dunn at the NYCLU tells the Daily News he's troubled that the NYPD is "taking phones apart to get information" without warrants: "It's hard to believe they feel there's a real need to take out the battery to prevent leakage. Instead, it looks like they're doing this to circumvent the warrant process." But an NYPD source insists the information is just used to build cases, not to create some kind of dystopian Orwellian police state, so stop being so paranoid!

The IMEI numbers will join a database of more than 20 million 911 callers, amassed for the Real Time Crime Center, a computer "nerve center" with information on millions of state criminal, parole and probation records; city criminal complaints and summonses, including 311 calls about specific locations; over 31 million national crime records; and more than 33 billion public records. At least those were the numbers when it opened in 2005.