It’s got an unassuming title, but the “New York State Public Health Legal Manual” might just be the scariest book of the year. It’s the state’s official legal guide to cataclysmic disaster, outlining in dry legalese what to do if, for example, there isn’t enough medicine to treat everyone in a biological terror attack, the New York Times reports. It also covers the legal nuances of seizing property, slaughtering infected livestock, forcing evacuations, and warrantless searches. “It is a very grim read,” says one the courts’ chief of operations.
In a state of emergency, the guide notes, the government may “establish curfews, quarantine wide areas, close businesses, restrict public assemblies, and … suspend local ordinances.” Constitutional protections “should not prove to be an obstacle,” because the constitution permits “expeditious actions in emergency situations.” None of this is new, just a guide to existing laws, but New York’s Civil Liberties Union is spooked anyway, arguing that the issues in the book are “nuanced, thorny and difficult, and hard to capture in CliffNotes.”