In the wake of the recent NSA scandal, Americans probably feel like their privacy is being invaded more than ever these days.
Well, this isn’t going to make you feel any better. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the Federal Government has been expanding an extensive license plate tracking system all across America, monitoring the activities of millions of drivers.
While the program – launched in 2008 by the Drug Enforcement Agency – began under the pretense of public safety, reports suggest that it has moved past that point, and very clandestinely, has been monitoring average motorists.
When the program began, the goal was to track license plates in the Southwestern United States that might be involved in drugs, human trafficking, or other illicit activities across the Mexican border. But new reports claim that, while never publicly disclosed, the plan was always to expand and start surveilling drivers nationwide, ostensibly in the name of public safety.
Apparently, the surveillance has been ongoing for quite some time already, allowing local and federal law enforcement agencies to track drivers in real time on the country’s roadways. And you never even knew about it.
If the fact that your license plate is being tracked without your consent isn’t troubling enough, wait, because there’s more. The program has been using cameras and GPS equipment, strategically placed on U.S. highways; cameras which take photos detailed enough to confirm the identity of the driver and passengers in a vehicle. Make no mistake – you are being watched.
Even more concerning is the fact that the Wall Street Journal was unable to find any court ruling approving such blatant violations of our basic rights. However, they did find a transcript between a DEA official and a Border Protection officer claiming that it was unlikely Congress would approve funds for the program, essentially stating it was best to keep the license plate tracking on the down-low. Shady.
Of course, the recent developments have prompted an outcry by the American Civil Liberties Union and concerned citizens across the country. The fear is that such technology could easily reach the point of U.S. agencies creating a massive, real-time database monitoring every single driver on the road in America, which would lead to scores of problems, unwarranted stops and seizures, and civil rights violations.
While the program has met some of its initial goals – reports from 2010 indicate that the technology led to the seizure of 98 kilograms of cocaine, 7336 kilograms of marijuana, and $866,380 in cash – the fact that such technology is expanding past the explicit point of catching criminals is troubling, to say the least.
It remains to be seen how all of this will play out, and whether such measures will be found to be defensible under the Constitution, but make no mistake – there are more eyes on you than ever, especially when you’re on the road.