LA Police: ALL Cars Under Criminal Investigation As Part Of License Plate Reader Surveillance

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Washington Post story declaring cancellation of national license plate database was completely wrong

Steve Watson
March 19, 2014

Police in LA have attempted to justify an Automatic License Plate Reader surveillance program by claiming that every single car in the city is part of a criminal investigation.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recently acquired documents under the Freedom Of Information Act that show the Police Department and the Sheriff’s Department in LA argued that “All [license plate] data is investigatory.” The law enforcement departments also stated that the fact that the data will likely never be connected to any specific crime is insignificant.

The claims were made by police in briefs filed in response to a lawsuit brought by EFF and the ACLU seeking a week’s worth of the License Plate Reader data. The rights groups have taken issue with the surveillance program because the cameras used automatically and indiscriminately photograph all license plates, without any reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.

EFF states that the response from law enforcement is “completely counter to our criminal justice system.”

“We assume law enforcement will not conduct an investigation unless there are some indicia of criminal activity.” the group states. “In fact, the Fourth Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution exactly to prevent law enforcement from conducting mass, suspicionless investigations under “general warrants” that targeted no specific person or place and never expired.”

This video from Vigilant Solutions, a private license plate tracking specialist company, shows how  its system builds a comprehensive dossier on a person simply by capturing or inputting a license plate. Police have access to the databases, as do government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security.

The License reader program, which records the time, date and location of registered vehicles (and therefore their drivers) operates “without an officer targeting a specific vehicle and without any level of criminal suspicion.” the group urges.

“Taken to an extreme, the agencies’ arguments would allow law enforcement to conduct around-the-clock surveillance on every aspect of our lives and store those records indefinitely on the off-chance they may aid in solving a crime at some previously undetermined date in the future.” EFF also warns.

While both law enforcement agencies do admit that there are substantial privacy concerns with the surveillance program, they have done so only as a way of justifying keeping secret all the data garnered from it, EFF argues.

A hearing on the case has been scheduled for next month.

Last month, The Washington Post reported that the Department of Homeland Security revealed via a Federal Business Opportunities solicitation that it was set to activate a national license plate tracking system that will be shared with law enforcement. When privacy advocates balked at the plan, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson immediately ordered its cancellation, according to The Post.

However, as noted this week by Dan Froomkin of The Intercept, it was not the overall program that was “cancelled”, it was only the solicitation for services, pertaining to data retention by a private vendor, that was scrapped.

“…the Post had gotten it all wrong.” Froomkin writes. “DHS wasn’t planning to create a national license-plate tracking database — because several already exist, owned by different private companies, and extensively used by law enforcement agencies including DHS for years.”

“And far from going away, the databases are growing at a furious pace due to rapidly improving technology and ample federal grant money for more cameras and more computers.” Froomkin adds.

“So rather than being the tale of an averted threat, the bulk license-plate tracking saga is actually a story about yet another previously unimaginable loss of privacy in the modern information age.” the writer concludes.

The following video from 8 years ago in 2006 shows that police have been using license plate surveillance for close to a decade.

There is already ample evidence proving that the license plate readers have previously been used by cops to target innocent Americans. In one case, police used the system to track political activists by having their vehicles added to a “hotlist” following attendance at protests. It is not hard to imagine how the system could be further used to target other thought criminals, as this ACLU video highlights:

Rights groups continue to warn that Automatic License Plate Reader programs are just another form of mass surveillance that have been quietly implemented in the US and in many other countries around the world, as we sleepwalk into a Panopticon prison society.


  1. Dear Dom,

    I seem to recall a post by Eightsouth in which he stated that an acquaintance of his was stopped by cops, and while sitting in the patrol car, he noticed his info on the computer screen, which contained the word “FARM”. When he inquired about this fact, he was simply ignored by the patrolman.

    That bothered me so much that I told my friends about the incident and cautioned them to be very careful.

    It seems to be worth having your home and auto (and anything else of value) put in an out of state LLC. Control everything, own nothing.

      • I think that was something a farmer I know told me that happened to him, Linda.
        That farmer asked the cop why ‘farm’ was coming up on the computer in the cop car. He’d gotten pulled over for a burnt out license plate lamp in the early evening while driving his farm truck.
        The cop wouldn’t say.
        The farmer knew a sheriffs deputy in another county real well, so he asked him. The sheriffs deputy said it was so they knew if you had assets worth taking if you didn’t pay the fine.
        If you didn’t have any assets pop up on the computer, they probably wouldn’t pull you over for minor stuff. A poor person is likely to just stiff the cops on the fine, whereas someone with assets would pay up,… or, if they didn’t, or forgot to, the cops could put a lien on the property, which is what they really want to do.

        Life in the Midwest, flyover country, where there’s more pigs and cows than there are people. Maybe it’s different in the big cities? I don’t know.
        It doesn’t look like it.

        • It’s worse.
          End times, man. Even where you don’t see the pigs, they are omnipresent through surveillance systems.
          ATMs, traffic cams, drones, police cars with cameras in them, cell phones, etc.
          For those who saw “The Dark Knight”? That whole surveillance system that was “too big a deal to leave in the hands of one man”? That’s what THEY want, to make their jobs easier.

          Ultimately, SLOTH is the biggest sin humans are guilty of… We’ll applaud those who steal our freedom, as long as it’s not too much work. 😛

          • LOL @ Tor.

            Think of how thigs have progressed, though. If .gov mandated that children be implanted with GPS at birth? Public outrage, revolution…
            But make a cell phone with GPS a “fashion accessory,” and the sheeple obsess over their phone, decorate it, venerate it, worship it, as indicated by their constant ened to be plugged in… And they are tracked by that very same phone almost as surely as if the GPS was implanted in their @$$.

            FORCE them to sign up for purchase habits analysis and other data mining opportuinities, they’ll throw a fit and rebel.
            Suggest they might get discounts by being “one of the insiders” and they’ll pee themselves for the chance to give you their shopping habits… and eating habits, and sleeping habits, and driving habits, and sexual habits, and everything else, too!

            Make it difficult to find somethign quality (by pricing it out of the market) and people will buy whatever crap you offer instead of search for the quality. (Example: London fog coats. I grew up with parents who understood the value of quality. I had three London Fog rain/trench coats growing up. We gave two of them away when I outgrew them. #3 is still at home, though i’ve technically outgrown it, and still has wear in it. If I can un-grow horizontally, I’ll wear it – thinsulate-lined, waterproof for all practical purposes, warm, closes nicely against the cold, probably has a DECADE OF WEAR left. After being purchased in… high school, I think. Freshman year. 4 years of commuting and regular wear, for everything from shopping to driving to shovelling snow. Can’t find that sort of quality any more, everything is disposable – unless I go to a high-end retailer. In “the old days” it was the corner store… Though I exaggerate, but department stores, sure.)

            Make it convenient, spin a “gain”, and you can turn a normal man into a transsexual, for f’ck’s sake. (Found that article on Temple of the Screaming Electron, Good read. Also has a yahoo group backing it up, and was written as a “scholarly” book for BDSM, I believe. Principles are right out of Sun Tzu’s Art of War: The motivators are (1) Fear of loss, and (2) anticipation of gain. Carrot and stick. Then with time, incremental changes add up. Like gun control, or food control or fuel prices being used to make us paupers… )

            And the “good men” don’t want to do anything (fear of loss –> Fear of EVIL ANARCHY), while the evil men stand to profit from it either way: Set to sell Guns in bad times, set to sell goodies in good times. the fear of loss for the evil ones is the fear of losing power, control, and a market supply system… And the anticipation of gain is gaining money, power, prestige, more market share (builds the others), and being able to indluge in whatever they wish without legal repercussions (see the original list of power, money, control…)

            So things need to get REALLY bad before you have a critical mass of people willing to DO SOMETHING. And you’ll always have opposition. (And while I’ve termed them good and evil above, they aren’t necessarily; it’s just easier to use those terms. Right and LEft in politics works, too, ony there I think it’s a zero-sum game: LEft’s power comes at the expense of the Right’s, same with money and control, though they can work together and both profit, too.)

        • Dear Helot,

          Man, I really misread your original post! Thanks for setting the record straight.

          The state I live in really goes for asset forfeiture, so I guess that is where my mind was taking me.

          Thanks again, I don’t want to be spreading false rumors.


          • Hi Linda,

            Virginia (my state) also has aggressive asset forfeiture statutes. Perhaps the worst aspect of them is the presumption of guilt that attends mere possession of “too much” (the amount never defined) cash money.

            Example: A few years ago, I went on a road trip on my motorcycle to buy a vehicle. As is my habit when I go to buy – to negotiate – a vehicle sale, I bring cash with me. As an incentive to the seller and also to expedite the transaction if we agree on terms. Anyhow, I was carrying about $8,000 on me. If I had been pulled over for some traffic violation and the cop had searched me and found the cash, he could simply (and legally) have seized the money on mere “suspicion” that it was “drug money” – and then it would have been up to me to prove that it was not… at my expense, on my time … with no guarantee I’d ever get the money back, even if the authorities had never charged me with an actual criminal offense, much less proved my guilt in court…

          • Virginia (my state) also has aggressive asset forfeiture statutes. Perhaps the worst aspect of them is the presumption of guilt that attends mere possession of “too much” (the amount never defined) cash money.

            There is of course no magic bullet for deflecting cops intent on seizing and forfeiting one’s money. However, everyone should be aware that if a cop asks if you’re carrying a large amount of cash, you are under no obligation to answer! Lying is one option, though one that could cause trouble if the lie is found out. Another option: “I’m not going to discuss my personal affairs with you.” That may of course piss off the cop, but it puts the driver on solid ground legally. Another option: don’t say a thing if the cop asks a question not directly related to the supposed infraction he has stopped you for.

            Whatever you do, do NOT say, “Yes, I’m carrying X thousand dollars in cash.” That answer guarantees you’ll say goodbye to your hard-earned money, and the fat pig will have some new toys to use against the next poor slob.

    • Linda, hhmm, farm eh? Similar to the one I bought back for double price? Naw, nobody ever goes after a farm. dom, what they don’t know, they’ll make up. It’s the new ‘merkun way.


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