If You Drive on a Highway; Chances are the Police are Tracking You

The article was shared with the CopBlock Network by a reader named Joe, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page. The article was originally posted on the blog of the ACLU. It details the growth of the surveillance state under the guise of stemming the movement of substances some people deem “illicit.”

Are you the property of someone else? Do they have “right” to tell you what you can and cannot put in your body? Do they have the right to track your movement using your own dime? Personally hat’s not the kind of society I want to live in. As this article correctly notes “

Anyone who thinks all of the above will never happen doesn’t know much about history.” The best solution is not to further compound problems created and exacerbated by drug prohibition, arbitrary political boundaries, and claimed double-standards for law enforcement, but simply to not give them any credence by recognizing and acting as if you own yourself, because you do!

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The DEA wants to capture the license plates of all vehicles traveling along Interstate 15 in Utah, and store that data for two years at their facility in Northern Virginia. And, as a DEA official told Utah legislators at a hearing this week (attended by ACLU of Utah staff and covered in local media), these scanners are already in place on “drug trafficking corridors” in California and Texas and are being considered for Arizona as well. The agency is also collecting plate data from unspecified other sources and sharing it with over ten thousand law enforcement agencies around the nation.

We know that automated license plate scanning (ALPR) technology is rapidly being deployed by local police around the country. However, its use by a federal agency raises new issues and questions. To begin with, the federal government is in more of a position to create a centralized repository of drivers’ movements, so federal deployment of the technology is even more serious a matter than widespread local deployment.

In addition, a federal agency is required by law (the Privacy Act of 1974) to disclose to the American people how it is collecting, using, and sharing data about them. However, 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.)

We have received reports from ACLU affiliates along what the government calls the “SWB” (southwest border) that ALPR technology appeared to be in use at border checkpoints. And we did find mention of ALPR in DEA written testimony to Congress. In May 2009, DEA and Justice Dept. officials mentioned the agency’s use of the technology along the border. They wrote:

Within the United States, DEA has worked with DHS to implement its ‘License Plate Reader Initiative’ (LPR) in the Southwest border region to gather intelligence, particularly on movements of weapons and cash into Mexico. The system uses optical character recognition technology to read license plates on vehicles in the United States traveling southbound towards the border. The system also takes photographs of drivers and records statistical information such as the date, time, and traffic lane of the record. This information can be compared with DEA and CBP databases to help identify and interdict vehicles that are carrying large quantities of cash, weapons, and other illegal contraband toward Mexico.

The word “particularly” in that statement is particularly ominous. In March 2011 written testimony, a top DEA official updated the picture:

DEA components have the ability to query and input alerts on license plates via an existing DEA database, and other law enforcement agencies can do the same via EPIC [the DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center]. DEA and CBP are currently working together in order to merge existing CBP LPRs at the points of entry with DEA’s LPR Initiative. In addition, the FY2010 SWB supplemental provided $1.5 million to expand the LPR initiative by purchasing additional devices and barrels and support maintenance to allow DEA to monitor traffic and provide intelligence on bulk currency transiting toward Mexico.

Law enforcement officials defended the program in part by describing it as an extension of already existing ALPR deployments in the rest of the state. But rather than mollifying the legislators, this answer prompted them to resolve to hold hearings on those local uses of the technology.

As usual, the authorities also tried to package their proposal with all kinds of soothing promises: the data would not be used except to catch drug traffickers and to investigate “serious crimes.” The data would not be cross-referenced with other databases containing driver’s names (and therefore presumably to the vast realms of other information that that would be available). The data would not be used to locate people with outstanding traffic tickets and misdemeanor warrants.

This is what you call sugaring a pill so that people will swallow it. Anyone who thinks all of the above will never happen doesn’t know much about history. We’ve seen this dynamic many times—a new surveillance technique is unveiled supposedly for use only against the most extreme criminals and is quickly expanded to much broader use. (To take just one example: DNA testing was first applied only to convicted murderers, then to all convicts, then to certain arrestees who haven’t even been convicted of a crime.)

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About Kelly W. Patterson

a lifelong resident of Las Vegas, who's been very active in local grassroots activism, as well as on a national level during his extensive travels. He's also the founder/main contributor of Nevada Cop Block, served as editor/contributor at CopBlock.org and designed the Official Cop Block Press Passes. ____________________________________________________________________________ Connect with Kelly at these social networks; Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

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19 Responses to “If You Drive on a Highway; Chances are the Police are Tracking You”

  1. david May 22, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    i need to know if there is a law on right to travel in the constitution or not with a drive license i read some where you dont need one

  2. Timbo May 22, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    The US Constitution doesn’t give the explicit ‘right to travel.’ They didn’t really feelthe need to add that because it’s such a basic thing. At least that’s my feeling on why it’s not in there.

  3. WhenTennesseePigsFly May 23, 2012 at 1:43 am #

    The right to travel free is not in the US Constitution per se… But so is a lot of other things we take for granted.

    The right to travel freely amongst the states is found in the Privlidges and Immunites Clause…

    The right is Not a federal right but a states right, one the federal government cannot interfere with.

    US Supreme Court case Paul v. Virginia, 75 U.S. 168 (1869)

  4. Steve H. May 23, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    DEA could get Congress to pass a law that requires the license plate data to be painted in big letters on the tops of cars and trucks, so that the drones can collect all that data. Also, it is difficult to know from the air who is driving the vehicle, so they could require drivers to stop every couple of hours along the road, exit the car and look up in the air for a minute or two, that way the drones can use facial recognition to see who is driving the car and who are the passengers. If drivers fail to do this, the vehicle could be disabled by the drone through the “black box” in the car.

    Also, as robotic science progresses, police cars with robot cops could be dispatched to “arrest” the occupants of the car. If the occupants resist arrest from the robots then real human cops could be dispatched and additional charges could be levied against the driver and passengers. This whole process could be totally mechanized.

  5. Dan May 23, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    You don’t need a license to dive a car/bike anywhere in the US of A, you do however, need one when the Police pull you over!

  6. t. May 23, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    Sounds like great technology. This’ll keep the trafficers on their toes.

  7. PSOSGT May 24, 2012 at 12:50 am #

    LOL @ dan!! That’s funny./ Tenn hit it on the head. Obviously cars weren’t arround when the constitution was written. And freedom to travel is in there allowing you to move from 1 state to another without needing paperwork allowing you to go there. Everything else is left up to the states. I.e. the requirement for driver’s license’s.

    As for collecting plate information. I’m not sure the privacy act of 1974 applies. There is no expectation of privacy for your license plate.

  8. JJarom May 24, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    I’ve seen cameras (or the black balls like malls have) up on traffic lights or electricity line poles around here in Buffalo, NY. They’re watching.

  9. Reason May 24, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    “A motorist has no privacy interest in her license plate number.” Olabisiomoosho v. City of Houston, 185 F.3d 521, 529 (5th Cir. 1999)

    “Every court that has addressed this issue has reached the same conclusion. The Tenth Circuit has held on two occasions that license plates are ‘in plain view on the outside of the car’ and thus are ‘subject to seizure’ because there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.” U.S. V. Ellison, 462 F. 3d 557(6th Circ. 2006; citing United States v. Matthews. 615 F. 2d 1279, 1285 (10th Cir. 1980) and United States v. Walraven, 892 F.2d 972 974 (10th Cir. 1989)

  10. WOLF May 24, 2012 at 11:00 pm #

    NOW YOU KNOW HOW THE JACKBOOTS ARE DOING THEIR “I’LL GET YOU MY PRETTY AND YOUR LITTLE DOG TOO” JOBS.

    YOU PEOPLE HAD BETTER START PAYING ATTENTION, ARMING YOURSELVES, AND PREPARE TO EITHER SHOW YOUR TRAVEL PAPERS OR BECOME AN OUTLAW.

    WITH THEY’RE USING OF DRONES TO SNOOP, AIR FORCE STATING THEY WILL USE BLIMPS FROM IRAQ TO SPY ON PEOPLE, AND UNDECLARED MARTIAL LAW IN CHITCAGO OVER THE G8 SUMMIT.

    COPS ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND, BUT AMERICA’S LARGEST STREET GANG AND GOV’T AUTHORIZED KILLERS. WANT SHOT??? TRY PULLING UP YOUR PANTS IN FRONT OF A COP. THAT’S ALWAYS THEIR EXCUSE “I WAS AFRAID FOR MY SAFETY” LYING MUTHERFUCKING ANIMALS ARE WORSE THAN THE MUSLIMS.

  11. Reason May 24, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    Well, we know now that Wolf is a person who who conduct a hate crime on society especially against Muslims. That statement is a bit racist, so no one is going to listen to ignorance.

  12. Centurion May 25, 2012 at 1:01 am #

    @ when, Privileges and immunities Clause is part of the constitution#1 #2 Freedom of movement and travel was ruled in U.S. Supreme Court Paul vs Virginia 75 U.S.168 – freedom of movement and travel is a fundamental right to all citizens. But it also advised that the fed cannot restrict or grant free travel, that it belonged to the states and the only states that copied the free travel clause was the original 13 colonies and is still on the books of all those states.

  13. Centurion May 25, 2012 at 1:10 am #

    As for the electronic cameras, I think its a dam shame that the gov. would come to this. Crazy born again christians have been telling people for years the gov. wants to track us. Real I.D. federal I.D. card , plate scanners in cameras,recognition trackers in all new vehicles , million dollar servers tracking our phone calls, server monitoring computers to track facebook and tweet accounts, universal recognition software to track every ones store purchases , and the federal wool over your eyes onstar , now the feds can even tell when your seatbelt is on or off and how fast you were going on certain streets you were on.

  14. t. May 25, 2012 at 7:38 am #

    WOLF: You remind of the title of the old Paul Simon song….STILL CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS.

  15. Rwolf October 17, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    Should U.S. Government Pay Americans’ Drug Rehab Costs—If the Government Is Helping–Cartel(s) Import Illegal Drugs?

    If The latest revelations are true, mentioned in the October 5, 2012 New American article “Stratfor Sources: U.S. Troops in Mexico as Feds Aid Cartels” that U.S. Government supports certain drug cartels as “first reported by Narco News”, after WikiLeaks released hacked e-mails from Stratfor, it would appear to confirm accusations made last year by a top Sinaloa operative Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, that U.S. government offered his criminal syndicate virtual immunity to import multi-ton quantities of drugs across the border.

    If U.S. government is helping the Sinaloa Cartel criminal racketeering enterprise or other Cartel import tons of drugs into the United States—Americans injured by those illegal drugs should not hesitate to file Civil Racketeering Lawsuits against the U.S. Government and the law enforcement agencies that participated in helping Cartels import illegal-drugs.

    U.S. criminal courts order defendants as a condition of probation, to attend and pay for expensive private and non-profit drug rehab programs creating a $12-Billion dollar industry. If e.g. the Sinaloa Drug Cartel is the predominant importer of drugs into the United States because of U.S. Government support, shouldn’t the U.S. Government pay the drug rehabilitation costs of American drug users? It would appear Californians injured by a Cartel’s illegal-drugs that U.S. Government helped import into the United States, could sue U.S. Government and any law enforcement agency that assisted the Cartel import illegal-drugs under The California Drug Dealer Liability Act Effective January 1997. In brief the “Act” provides a civil remedy for damages to persons in a community injured as a result of the use of an illegal controlled substance. These persons include parents, employers, insurers, governmental entities, and others who pay for drug treatment or employee assistance programs, as well as infants injured as a result of exposure to controlled substances in utero (” drug babies”). This “Act” enables them to recover damages from those persons in the community who have joined the marketing of illegal controlled substances. A further purpose of this Act is to shift, to the extent possible, the cost of the damage caused by the existence of the market for illegal controlled substances in a community to those who illegally profit from that market.

    Consequently if U.S. Government supports the Sinaloa Cartel or other Cartel that import illegal-drugs into California, victims of illegal-drug use should be able to sue the U.S. Government along with all other participants.

    Every year innocent landlords of residential rental property and motels defend their property against Government Civil Asset Forfeiture because unbeknownst to an owner, a tenant or guest at their property is alleged by government to have sold or distributed illegal drugs. It is a conflict of interest for U.S. Government to forfeit real estate from innocent landlords if Government participates is supporting illegal-drug Cartel criminal enterprise to import illegal drugs into America—foreseeable to taint innocent landlords’ property.

    Many U.S. Cities have blocks of blighted buildings caused by illegal drug activity that collapsed real estate values and collected property taxes communities depend on to support their infra structure. If U.S. Government is helping the Sinaloa Drug Cartel or other cartel flood America with illegal drugs, cities and counties economically damaged by U.S. Government’s illegal-drug activities should file Civil RICO Suits to recover damages from the U.S. Government and law enforcement agencies that helped a Drug Cartel import illegal drugs into the U.S. See California Drug Dealer Liability Act Effective January 1997, other states passed similar bills.

    Illegal-drug distribution in America increasingly corrupts police. If U.S. Government actually offered or actually helped the Sinaloa Drug Cartel or other Cartel import illegal-drugs into the U.S as alleged in numerous reports, what kind of message is U.S. Government sending law enforcement. Almost every week the news reports police arrested for selling illegal drugs, taking bribes, falsifying evidence to arrest U.S. Citizens. Police corruption can only get worse if U.S. Government supports drug-Cartels import illegal-drugs into the United States.

    See the October 5, 2012 New American Article at:
    http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/crime/item/13118-stratfor-sources-us-troops-in-mexico-as-feds-aid-cartels

  16. chris ponte March 14, 2013 at 6:15 am #

    any know locations of checkpoints in Oregon?

  17. chris ponte March 14, 2013 at 6:16 am #

    any known checkpoints in Oregon?

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