Doubly Ludicrous: DEA war on drugs 'failed' so why log us via license scanners?

Yet again civil liberties clash with technology, endangering privacy in the era of big data as the ACLU fights to uncover info about data mining Automatic License Plate Readers. The ACLU previously warned the DEA tracks Americans' movement via APLRs. But if a former DEA Senior Intelligence Analyst says the DEA failed in the war on drugs, why does it need more power and APLR to log your every move?

You no doubt know the ACLU is very concerned about privacy in regards to Automatic License Plate Readers (APLRs) being "the next big thing in government tracking." Previously the ACLU warned how license plate scanners are creating a "surveillance society" in the USA by "logging your every move." Now the ACLU has sent public record requests to "27 local police agencies, 4 state police agencies, and 6 other state agencies" in Maryland about those APLRs.

The Governor's Office of Homeland Security specifically bragged about "the warehousing of our whereabouts through ALPR data at Maryland's Coordination and Analysis Center, or 'fusion center,' as the 'first statewide networked LPR system of its kind in the nation'.  More than 140 plate readers across the state are currently linked to a central server at the fusion center, and the state hopes to one day connect all ALPRs to this growing monolith of personal data." 

Additionally the ACLU explained:

The privacy issues arise with the retention of the information. A police officer will not forever remember the exact location and time of an innocent motorist's travels. With ALPR technology, those details can be stored indefinitely, creating an ever-growing historical record of the daily comings and goings of every Marylander. As ALPRs become more ubiquitous and that record becomes longer and more detailed, it will become possible for the government to determine a person's exact movements during any given time period.

Industry information claims that ALPRs can "scan up to 3,600 plates per minute on high-speed roads." Yet again civil liberties clash with technology, endangering privacy in the era of big data. Previously the ACLU reported that the DEA tracks Americans' movement and plans to data mine license plate records. The DEA reportedly wants to use this tech for 'intelligence,' for 'statistical information,' and to 'research the movements' of suspects which points 'toward efforts to data mine license data'."

Like every other three-letter-agency's big database, it will also store the information of innocents and not only the movements of drug dealers. What makes this doubly ludicrous is that a former Senior Intelligence Analyst with the Drug Enforcement Administration for 13 years has come forward to say, "The war on drugs has failed. At the DEA, we made the drug problem worse, not better." So now the DEA is being empowered with even more invasive surveillance in the war on drugs?

The Agitator posted an article by Sean Dunagan who previously worked for the DEA but is now someone who has jumped the fence to land on the other side by being a "proud speaker" for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). Dunagan wrote:

It's clear that our 40-year jihad against certain plants and chemicals has done far more harm than good. Despite this, the federal government's drug war strategy, which is founded upon aggressive law enforcement and mass incarceration, remains unchanged.  We continue to arrest nearly a million people a year for marijuana offenses. We remain the world's leading jailer, with an incarceration rate more than five times the global average. And this year, the federal government will spend nearly $4 billion more on drug law enforcement and interdiction than it will on drug treatment.

The aggressive law enforcement comment strikes me as particularly true when it comes to surveillance of Americans who are suspected of absolutely no wrongdoing, including this push to read, store and data mine license plates. The Worcester Telegram & Gazette interviewed ACLU spokesman Christopher Ott who said, "The promoters of these scanners will often say they help identify stolen vehicles, which can be good. What we're worried about is if they're keeping all that data and building a de facto database of people's movements that can be referred to in the future. 'Was this car here or there' on ordinary people."

This tracking of Americans' movements and dumping it into fusion centers is a bit like NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake saying the government considers you automatically suspicious until it can prove otherwise. America is not a land of guilty until proven innocent; just as we are not all potential domestic terrorists, we are also not all drug dealing, murdering addicts under a smoky haze of suspicion. In thinking about the DEA backing APLRs in the war against drugs, consider what Dunagan wrote about the DEA strategy so far. "What has this strategy gotten us?  The highest drug abuse rates on the planet and 50,000 corpses in Mexico."

The American people-along with a growing chorus of world leaders-are rapidly waking up to this reality. Just 10 percent of the public now believes that the drug war is succeeding, and a majority now favors marijuana legalization. To mix metaphors a bit, public opinion is undergoing a sea-change and is quickly approaching an inevitable tipping point.

Although congress is resisting efforts to reduce secrecy, most Americans realize the surveillance society is out of control. Let's hope We the People soon reach the tipping point of enough is enough about this shadowy world of Total Information Awareness that we live in. After all, when we passed a decade after 9/11 and massive surveillance continued to grow, the ACLU said it's time to reclaim privacy and American liberties. "Privacy rights in America are based on the fundamental principle that our government must have actual suspicion that someone is breaking the law or actively preparing to do so before monitoring Americans in our daily activities. It is not enough for the government to decide to spy on us just in case we are engaged in wrongdoing."

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