The PJ Tatler

The Government Is Spying on Your Car

Current and former administration officials have confirmed that the Justice Department has been building a massive database to track real-time movement of vehicles in the United States. The secret spy program collects and stores hundreds of millions of records about motorists.

The Wall Street Journal reports: “The primary goal of the license-plate tracking program, run by the Drug Enforcement Administration, is to seize cars, cash and other assets to combat drug trafficking, according to one government document. But the database’s use has expanded to hunt for vehicles associated with numerous other potential crimes, from kidnappings to killings to rape suspects, say people familiar with the matter.”

We’re getting pretty close to establishing a department of pre-crime here in America.

Initially, the cover story for the wholesale snooping on citizens’ automobiles was that the government was trying to fight the drug cartels. “What hasn’t been previously disclosed is that the DEA has spent years working to expand the database ‘throughout the United States,’’ according to one email reviewed by the Wall Street Journal.

The database is not just used by the Feds. There is a “wealth of information in the hands of local officials who can track vehicles in real time on major roadways.”

Now, here we have an interesting juxtaposition between this story, revealing that local law enforcement can track your car in real-time, and the story I wrote about yesterday where law enforcement officials are lobbying the Waze app to disable the feature where citizens are able to track and locate police officers as they drive. This situation is entirely INVERTED. It’s the citizens who need to keep an eye on their government, not the other way around.

The documents disclosing the latest government snoop effort were obtained by the ACLU via a FOIA request. A DOJ flak responded: “It is not new that the DEA uses the license-plate reader program to arrest criminals and stop the flow of drugs in areas of high trafficking intensity.”

The Journal describes the database:

The DEA program collects data about vehicle movements, including time, direction and location, from high-tech cameras placed strategically on major highways. Many devices also record visual images of drivers and passengers, which are sometimes clear enough for investigators to confirm identities, according to DEA documents and people familiar with the program.

Serious stuff.

“The documents show that the DEA also uses license-plate readers operated by state, local and federal law-enforcement agencies to feed into its own network and create a far-reaching, constantly updating database of electronic eyes scanning traffic on the roads to steer police toward suspects.”

The ACLU is not pleased about the program. “Any database that collects detailed location information about Americans not suspected of crimes raises very serious privacy questions,’” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU. “It’s unconscionable that technology with such far-reaching potential would be deployed in such secrecy. People might disagree about exactly how we should use such powerful surveillance technologies, but it should be democratically decided, it shouldn’t be done in secret.”

Add this to the disclosures that airplanes are mimicking cell phone towers to collect flyers’ cell phone data and collecting metadata from digital communications, and it’s indisputable that we live in a police state now.