|image credit: ACLU|
The War on Drugs has been threatening the fundamental rights of ordinary Americans, and greatly impinging upon states rights, as agencies like the DEA continue to claim that their federal authority supersedes local decisions.
Despite protections afforded under the U.S. Constitution, the federal DEA has been trying to initiate a blanket sweep of all license plates traveling along Interstates 15 and 70 in Utah, with the intent to store the information in a centralized database.
Furthermore, as noted by the ACLU which attended a recent hearing about the rollout, this federal agency is employing a scanning technology called ALPR to collect data from "unspecified other sources and sharing it with over ten thousand law enforcement agencies around the nation."
The deployment of any personal data collection technology by a federal agency carries with it additional responsibilities under the Privacy Act of 1974. For now, it appears that the DEA will be adhering to those guidelines after local resistance to the new initiative. Or, are they merely planning an end-run once they think people have forgotten about the issue?
The Privacy Act of 1974 requires any federal agency engaged in the collection of personal data to disclose to the American people exactly what will be collected, how it will be stored, and whether that information will be shared. It makes this quite clear under "conditions of disclosure":
No agency shall disclose any record which is contained in a system of records by any means of communication to any person, or to another agency, except pursuant to a written request by, or with the prior written consent of, the individual to whom the record pertains.
This is followed by 12 conditions which enable an expansion of scope and function, but detail very specific controls and scenarios for establishing just cause and the accounting of any disclosure.
The DEA desires to sidestep the requirements of the Privacy Act altogether by arguing that no personal data is being collected, only the tag of the vehicle. This argument is clearly grasping at straws, as it implies that the car must have registered itself, as well as having the capability to drive itself.
A license plate contains a vast amount of personal information about who exactly is responsible for that vehicle, regardless of who is driving it at the time. Moreover, people have a right to privacy under the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well as additional rights pertaining to data collection afforded by the Privacy Act.
Regardless, the ACLU has noted that:
we were not able to find a Privacy Act notice anywhere in the Federal Register in which the DEA describes any collection of license plate data. (The two recent DEA Privacy Act notices we found do not mention the practice.) [source]The truth of the matter is that the DEA has been working closely with the Department of Homeland Security for some time, and has implemented license plate readers at border checkpoints and key corridors in California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. However, in addition to reading license plates, the ACLU refers to testimony where Justice Dept. officials point to the ability to take photos of drivers and compare all data collected with various databases in order to ascertain true identity. Until now, this has been justified by what the ACLU has labeled the Constitution-Free Zone; a 100-mile swath that encircles the country and includes 2/3 of the U.S. population.
The problem is that many types of "border control" technologies are now being applied throughout America without even passing consideration to the above-mentioned zone, as is clearly the case with this latest proposal in Utah.
State resistance to this type of federal intrusion has been extremely limited. However, in the case of this section of highway through Utah along I-15 (clearly inland), the Beaver County Sheriff seems to be listening to the public outcry over privacy violations and has decided to halt the plan immediately, while the Washington Country Sheriff has requested additional information. (Source)
This is certainly positive news, as it demonstrates the power of activism and the ability to get results at the local level. However, we need to be ever vigilant against duplicitous federal agencies.
As we have seen with the Secure Communities biometrics program, what began as a border control operation is now present in nearly 30 states, while ICE outright lied about the scope and intent of the program.
Unmanned drones began by patrolling the borders of Mexico and Canada and now are embraced by Congress to fly throughout America under FAA control. We were told first that this would never happen in America, then on a limited scale, but we now learn that there are 110 potential drone bases inside the United States. But the drones would not be weaponized we were told, yet that, too, is now being discussed openly, while warrantless surveillance and cooperation with local law enforcement continues to spread.
DNA collection has been in use by the DEA and Federal Marshals along the border, but is now being proposed for anyone fingerprinted anywhere, including children.
This is the very nature of incrementalism, and why it is important to immediately resist any discussion that offers the potential for the federal government to expand as they see fit.
It is important to note that with all of these technologies, their use has rapidly expanded from apprehending "dangerous criminals" to simply anyone and everyone included in the ever-widening dragnet of total surveillance.
Under the guise of "public safety" i.e. catching criminals, finding missing children, deporting illegal aliens, combating gun and drug trafficking -- federal authorities continue to get their way and invade the lives of everyday Americans by using fear to trump the wider (and more proven) danger of an out-of-control federal government that continues to misapply the technology and direct it toward average, innocent Americans.
It is the federal government itself where these anti-crime technologies should be directed, as every new revelation about their involvement in drug and weapons trafficking, child kidnapping, and worse, proves that on average they are infested with many more dangerous criminals than the public they target.
Local sheriffs are receiving a heavy dose of federal propaganda, as well as some nice funding and new tech, which often results in comments like the following from Beaver Country Sheriff, Cameron Noel:
It is to capture criminals only, it doesn’t violate any normal citizen’s rights. It is just a shame ... the citizens lose out. All we wanted it for was to pick up hardened criminals off the freeway.Those of us who have been studying, cataloging and observing the incremental nature of federal control beg to differ. And we will continue pressing our officials to uphold what we know to be our absolute right to freedom. When we do this with conviction, we force even the brainwashed such as the Beaver County Sheriff to utter the following frustrated concession:
"I just said to heck with it."
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