According to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal, the US Justice Department has been gathering and storing records of hundreds of American motorists. The report claims that this database can track the movements of vehicles across the country.
The news has been confirmed through government documents as well as by former and current government officials. It is believed that the license plate-tracking program was initially used by the Drug Enforcement Administration to curtail drug trafficking by seizing cars, money and other assets. Today, the use of this database has expanded into other crimes including kidnapping, rape and murder.
There has been criticism about the legitimacy of this data gathering but according to a spokesperson for the Justice Department, the program complies with federal law. He said, “It is not new that the DEA uses the license-plate readers program to arrest criminals and stop the flow of drugs in areas of high trafficking intensity.”
However, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the use of license plate readers is a matter of concern as it violates privacy. Sen. Leahy and Sen. Charles E. Grassley have also signed a joint letter to Attorney General Eric Holder in which they have complained about privacy breaches through the use of radar technology.
“Privacy of the home is at the core of the Fourth Amendment,” the two wrote. “More than a decade ago, the US Supreme Court decided that the use without a warrant of thermal imaging equipment that could detect activity inside a home violated the Fourth Amendment.”
Grassley and Leahey have also raised concerns about other technology that law enforcement agencies have been using on the grounds that they have serious privacy implications.
The US constitution clearly states that it protects the citizens against unreasonable search and seizure. However, government and law enforcement surveillance programs for US residents do not completely live by this claim.
There have been concerns about the lack of public discussion about the use of surveillance technology. It is also being questioned whether agencies using these programs have fulfilled any legal processes.