The Campaign Spot

The President Who Boasts of His Love for Privacy Is Monitoring Your Car

From the Tuesday Morning Jolt:

The President Who Boasts of His Love for Privacy Is Monitoring Your Car

What Obama said in the State of the Union address:

As Americans, we cherish our civil liberties — and we need to uphold that commitment if we want maximum cooperation from other countries and industry in our fight against terrorist networks. So while some have moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I haven’t. As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse. And next month, we’ll issue a report on how we’re keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.

You knew he was full of it, you just didn’t know how much. This morning we learn:

The Justice Department has been building a national database to track in real time the movement of vehicles around the U.S., a secret domestic intelligence-gathering program that scans and stores hundreds of millions of records about motorists, according to current and former officials and government documents.

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.

Many state and local law-enforcement agencies are accessing the database for a variety of investigations, according to people familiar with the program, putting a wealth of information in the hands of local officials who can track vehicles in real time on major roadways.

The database raises new questions about privacy and the scope of government surveillance. The existence of the program and its expansion were described in interviews with current and former government officials, and in documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union through a Freedom of Information Act request and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. It is unclear if any court oversees or approves the intelligence-gathering . . . 

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.

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.

Here come the knee-jerk, right-wing administration critics to complain . . . 

Sen. Patrick Leahy, senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the government’s use of license-plate readers “raises significant privacy concerns. The fact that this intrusive technology is potentially being used to expand the reach of the government’s asset-forfeiture efforts is of even greater concern.”

I suppose we should give Leahy a bit of credit. For a lot of progressives, government surveillance of citizens without a warrant is only a problem when Republicans are in charge.

The British were really ahead of the curve on this, weren’t they?

Fear not, subjects! You are secure beneath the never-blinking eyes of government!

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