Orwellian police tracking system to be activated in Massachusetts

Lawyer: Cop scanner ‘crosses line’

Civil libertarians are raising the alarm over the state’s plans to create a Big Brother database that could map drivers’ whereabouts with police cruiser-mounted scanners that capture thousands of license plates per hour — storing that information indefinitely where local cops, staties, feds and prosecutors could access it as they choose.

“What kind of a society are we creating here?” asked civil rights lawyer Harvey Silverglate, who along with the ACLU fears police abuse. “There comes a point where the surveillance is so pervasive and total that it’s a misnomer to call a society free any longer.”

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At first glance, it appears that the device is only a practical use of technology, giving police a modern tool to help them do faster and more efficiently, what they have done since the two-way radio was introduced to the police car. There is nothing illegal about police running a license plate number to make sure the car is insured and properly registered, or is not being searched for by police for whatever reason. Rather than manually calling in each license plate number to headquarters, this system automatically scans and cross-references the license plate of every vehicle the police cruiser passes by.

Of course, even with this though there have been some horror stories. In the past, a police officer generally would not take the time to run a license plate number without cause. Some sort of suspicion about the vehicle which garnered their attention to begin with. But with this new tech today, the alarm will sound for all sorts of things that the officer would never have known about otherwise. That may sound like a good thing at first, but consider a story I heard out of Texas a few years ago when they rolled out these new cameras.

A man was driving a car registered to his brother. His own car had been in an accident, and he was using his brother's vehicle to get to and from work while his own car was being repaired. Although the man had broken no traffic laws, he was stopped by a police officer who had gotten a "hit" on the license plate from the Automatic License Plate Recognition device. As it turned out, the man who owned the car had a warrant out for his arrest after falling behind on child support payments. When the man showed the officer his license, the officer believed he was using an alias, and was in fact the same man for whom the warrant had been issued. The brother was arrested and then spent the next six months in jail before it all got straightened out. Oh, and by the way, the whole thing was simply a computer error from the start, As it turned out his brother didn't even have any children. The warrant had been meant for another man by the same name.

But this system does more than just scan license plates at up to 30 plates a second. It does not only scan and analyze the data, it stores the information as well, permanently, effectively turning police cars into tracking devices that keep tabs on every move of every law-abiding citizen on the road. Quite obviously the potential for abuses of such information is very high and may indeed actually put citizens in danger. Now we might imagine how it could be used by police to circumvent Constitutionally protected liberty, how it might be used by rogue police officers to commit crimes, and all sorts of scenarios of that nature. The database coming online in Massachusetts will be shared with police agencies at all levels of government, local, county, state, and Federal, making it quite difficult to manage who is accessing what and why, with no laws or oversi9ght to protect the interests of citizens. From there it is not difficult to imagine that the information will be shared with other groups, say like your car insurance company who may use such data to raise your rates. But lastly, there is no reason to believe that this information is not a matter of public record and subject to Freedom of Information requests. Which means that all your ex spouse, current stalker, potential employer, or anyone else has to do to track your traveling habits, is file a form. 

In a ruling last year by the US Court of Appeals in regards to GPS tracking technology, they articulated what sort of information may be gleaned by knowing a person's travel habits...
“A person who knows all of another’s travels can deduce whether he is a weekly churchgoer, a heavy drinker, a regular at the gym, an unfaithful husband, an outpatient receiving medical treatment, an associate of particular individuals or political groups – and not just one such fact about a person, but all such facts.”

This system has already come online here in NY without much discussion whatsoever. The first I ever heard about it being used locally here in the Hudson Valley, was after the system had already been deployed and was mentioned in a news blurb as being the key that led police to the suspects.in a horrific crime. A sheriff's department patrol vehicle had reportedly passed by the suspects driving away from the scene where they had ditched and burned another car, but did not know it until later when the data stored from the Automatic License Plate Recognition device was cross-reference as part of the investigation.

So of course one horrific crime it all it takes for the average Joe to fall in line with the rhetoric and submit to Big Brother once again. Which of course is also how 9/11 is being exploited nationwide in the last decade as we have become a full-blown fascist police-state dictated to by more new agencies than I could even name. But it's no surprise that the NYPD is leading the charge with this technology, creating a "ring of steel" in downtown Manhattan as shown by a New York Times article from a few months ago.

Massachussets State Police spokesman David Procopio defends the use of the system saying....

“What about the rights of someone who is already a victim to have their assailant brought to justice? There’s a freedom to being able to live your life not worried about being the victim of crime that’s also a freedom worth protecting.”

Your rights end where my freedom begins Mr. Procopio. Just because one may be the victim of a crime, in no way gives them the right to infringe upon my liberty in the shallow hopes that such an infringement will lead to the capture and successful prosecution of the assailant. Furthermore, there is no law, nor will the ever be any law, that would give one the "freedom" to live a life without worry. So it all comes down to a matter of where one draws the line. Where do you draw the line? With the police tracking every movement of all citizens? Perhaps you would draw the line at submitting to a surgically implanted chip, or a tracking beacon stuffed in your rear end, cameras in your bedroom perhaps to monitor whether or not you are having "deviant" sex, maybe an explosive collar with which police can blow your head off at any time with the push of a button, just to be on the safe side. Where, where do you draw the line America?

My line got crossed a few miles back folks.

"Those who are willing to give up essential liberty for temporary security shall lose both and deserve neither." ~Benjamin Franklin

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