Surveillance Is Much More Developed Than You Thought
“Further documents released by the ACLU on Wednesday show that Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials in Phoenix planned on “working closely” with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to monitor public gun shows with the automatic technology in 2009.
Although the DEA has said the proposal was not acted upon, the revelations raise questions about how much further the secret vehicle surveillance extends, which other federal bodies are involved and which other groups may have been targeted.
“The broad thrust of the DEA is to spread its program broadly and catch data and travel patterns on a massive scale,” Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with ACLU, told the Guardian. “This could be a really amazing level of surveillance that we’ve not seen before in this country.”
The ACLU warned that the buildup of a vehicle surveillance database, the existence of which first surfaced on Monday, stemmed from the DEA’s appetite for asset forfeiture, a controversial practice of seizing possessions at traffic stops and vehicle pullovers if agents suspect they are criminal proceeds.
Outgoing US attorney general Eric Holder opened a review into federal asset forfeiture earlier this month. Critics said the proposed reform merely “nibbled” at the problem.
“I think that a number of people would have questions about how the Department of Justice manages its asset forfeiture program,” Loretta Lynch, Holder’s would-be replacement, said before a Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday.
In a letter to Holder on Wednesday, senators Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy wrote that they “remain concerned that government programs that track citizens’ movements, see inside homes and collect data from the phones of innocent Americans raise serious privacy concerns.”
Citing the ACLU’s first batch of documents, which were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, the senators referred to the attorney general’s flagging of the forfeiture problem. “Any program that is dedicated to expanding the Justice Department’s forfeiture efforts requires similar oversight and accountability,” they wrote.”
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