Black Friday

National license plate surveillance is a reality, FOIA documents reveal

Ray Walsh

Ray Walsh

January 29, 2015

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union went public about information it had received using  the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), that shows the extent of yet another clandestine operation that is being carried out by intelligence agencies in the United States, this time by the DEA.

The Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA) is a federal law enforcement agency that works alongside the FBI and Immigrations and Customs to combat drug trafficking and consumption in the US. According to the ACLU documents gained from the department of justice,  the DEA has been using its power to compile a comprehensive database of every number plate in the country, which it is using to track the location and whereabouts of every car.

As if this revelation about the US spying on its citizens (yet again,) wasn’t bad enough, the ACLU also points out that the documents are heavily censored and  incomplete, meaning that the extent of the spy program could be even more pervasive than is assumed. What the documents do show, is that the DEA is working in cohorts with local enforcement agencies to use number plate reading technology to spy on Americans all over the US.

“These records do… offer documentation that this program is a major DEA initiative that has the potential to track our movements around the country. With its jurisdiction and its finances, the federal government is uniquely positioned to create a centralized repository of all drivers’ movements across the country — and the DEA seems to be moving toward doing just that.”

As with all spying capabilities, the privacy hazards that  technologies such as number plate reading involve only become apparent when you combine their capacity with other available technologies, such as the US Marshals Service’s ability to use electronic equipment on planes to gather cell phone locations and identifying information (by mimicking cell phone towers) as they fly by, or the FBI’s (admitted) use of Stingray technologies.

What the American citizen is facing is a multi-faceted attack on their freedom. By using a number of Agencies which appear not to be working together to gather and compile information about its citizens, the US government is taking the (not long ago considered insane and impossible)  ‘Big Brother’ conspiracy to ever new levels, and turning the dystopian fantasy of  a draconian Orwellian society (like the one found on the pages of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’) into a stark reality.

Talking about how government security agencies are slowly “amplifying”  their powers,  Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with ACLU said,

“On this as on so many surveillance issues, we can take action, put in place some common sense limits or sit back and let our society be transformed into a place we won’t recognize – or probably much like.”

Last year the Washington Post reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had cancelled its plans to to track license plates nationally, but now it would seem that this was only true because the DEA had already begun the process of keeping these same records.

In addition to this, your vehicle registration plate is also being scanned and tracked by corporate interests in the form of ‘Vigilant Solutions’. VS is an independent contractor that works in conjunction  with the Digital Recognition Network (DRN), and has already been to court to fight for its right to spy on American citizens, citing the First Amendment. The company works hand in hand with the US’ law enforcement data center (Fusion center),  providing it with any information that it needs while at the same time selling the private information about the whereabouts of 50 million vehicles to any corporation or independent body that is willing to pay, so that they may (according to their website),  “make better, more profitable decisions.”  

It is pretty obvious that the American public are being spied on, spied on and lied to, while all the time being subjected to more and more censorship at the hands of corporations. Corporations that use their incredible wealth to force virtual monopolies on America (and the world) using DRM technology, and which lobby attorney generals in order to force bent legislation through the judiciary system, allowing them to keep their vile deceptions a secret.

The time has come for the American public to make a stand against the way in which vital technological breakthroughs (that could be used for the common good) are instead  being purposefully and perversely used against  them in order, to turn them into nothing short of capitalist slaves.

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