Thursday, July 12, 2012

Prying eyes in the desert

Had up to here with airport security, TSA, drones and government data-mining of phone calls and e-mail? Well, the latest device in the government's ongoing war against your right to be left alone are license plate recognition devices in the Arizona desert.

That's right. Clusters of cameras have been placed in the Arizona desert - in some cases quite far from the Mexican border. These clusters include both regular surveillance cameras as well as devices that read license plate numbers and send the data to a site in Virginia for storage. The device also records the date, time and location of the car tracked.

Of course the government claims this is the latest tool needed to fight the scourge of drugs. The information retrieved by the devices can then be shared with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies for whatever purpose they deem necessary.

The DEA has installed the devices in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Next up are plans for installing them further inland.

Writes, G.W. Schultz of the Center for Investigative Reporting:
In their unending battle to deter illegal immigration, drug trafficking and terrorism, U.S. authorities already have beefed up border security with drug-sniffing dogs, aircraft and thousands more agents manning interior checkpoints. 
Now, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has decided it wants more, and the Justice Department agency doesn't care whether someone has even set foot in Mexico.
Need I go any further?

Bet you didn't know that just by driving down the highway in Arizona, minding your own business, you were under suspicion for illegal activity. The notion is absurd. I'm also surprised that Homeland Security didn't get involved in this and claim that the devices would cut down on terrorist activity in the Southwest.

Oh, no terrorist activity in the Arizona desert? Well, that's just a little detail we don't need to worry about at this time.

This country was founded on the principle that the people have a right to be left alone by the government. The Bill of Rights enshrines that doctrine. But with a judiciary that would rather kowtow to law enforcement than exercise sound judgment, our right to be left alone has withered away to the point of extinction.

The Fourth Amendment is on life support as the result of a thousand paper cuts over the years. Judges are more worried about outcome than they are principle. You know the drill - if the court were to uphold the words of the Fourth Amendment, the bad guys would get away; therefore we must make an exception to the rule in this case... and in that case... and in this other case. You do it enough, there is no doctrine left.

We have the right to be left alone. The police don't have the right to interfere with your daily routine unless they have reasonable suspicion (itself an example of the courts taking liberties with the Fourth Amendment) that you have engaged in some type of criminal activity. These devices in the desert are only the latest method the government has dreamed up to circumvent that basic notion.

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