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posted by martyb on Wednesday October 05 2016, @08:37AM   Printer-friendly
from the use-virtual-reality,-instead? dept.

Federal agents have persuaded police officers to scan license plates to gather information about gun-show customers, government emails show, raising questions about how officials monitor constitutionally protected activity.

Emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show agents with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency crafted a plan in 2010 to use license-plate readers—devices that record the plate numbers of all passing cars—at gun shows in Southern California, including one in Del Mar, not far from the Mexican border.

Agents then compared that information to cars that crossed the border, hoping to find gun smugglers, according to the documents and interviews with law-enforcement officials with knowledge of the operation.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/gun-show-customers-license-plates-come-under-scrutiny-1475451302

First they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Muslim.


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  • (Score: 5, Informative) by Thexalon on Wednesday October 05 2016, @11:49AM

    by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday October 05 2016, @11:49AM (#410546)

    There is no reasonable expectation of privacy when you are in public. Which includes leaving your car in a parking lot. Anybody who knows my car license plate could discover that yesterday I went to work, home, the grocery store, and a fast food joint yesterday. Or, if the cops wanted, they could just walk around the parking lot at a gun show and write down as many license plate numbers as they could. The fact is that the cops are supposed to use information like that, collected without needing to violate privacy rights, to create probable cause which turns into warrants for arrest and/or search.

    The reason using scanners to track all the Muslims in the NYC area was a problem, legally speaking, was not that they were using license-plate scanners, but that the group of people they were targeting was defined by their religion, which ran afoul of the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.

    While you might think that the Second Amendment would create the same sort of problem here, you'd be wrong: The Second Amendment says you can have guns and the government can't stop you most of the time, but it does not say you can have guns without the government even knowing you have them.

    I realize this is irritating for the people who think the purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that the population at large will have private arsenals with which to take on the US Army when the revolution comes, but that kind of thinking has always been more fantasy than reality (and it's not like people haven't tried in many different eras). It's a fantasy the gun manufacturers and retailers encourage, because they want people thinking that even though they have a few guns they're happy with, they should buy a whole lot of AR-15's for their friends to have on hand. That's called "upselling".

    --
    The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
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  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05 2016, @12:20PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05 2016, @12:20PM (#410552)

    True, but you run into the issue of targeting for what is essentially a legal act. I doubt you'd be as sympathetic if cops where scanning all the plates at the Green Party's headquarters.

    And then there is the issue of federal officers, who are restricted by the 4th, co-opting local officers who have looser regulations concerning conduct. It's not that far removed from the feds hiring Israelis to conduct mass surveillance of the US since they aren't bound by US law.

    Your quip supposing the motivations of gun owners is just trite.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Thexalon on Wednesday October 05 2016, @02:10PM

      by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday October 05 2016, @02:10PM (#410596)

      True, but you run into the issue of targeting for what is essentially a legal act.

      What they're looking for, as described above, are people who are engaged in the illegal act of gun smuggling. Which, given that smuggled guns are likely to end up in the hands of some really dangerous people, seems like it might be worth the effort. When police are going about their day, they will observe far more people who are not criminals than people who are.

      And then there is the issue of federal officers, who are restricted by the 4th, co-opting local officers who have looser regulations concerning conduct.

      Since when were local officers not restricted by the Fourth Amendment?

      As far as my understanding of the motives of gun owners, that mostly has to do with talking to the friends of mine who are gun owners, who often talk about those kinds of things. And also many many conversations on Soylent and other places on the justification for opposing universal background checks for gun owners, which amount to "if the government knows who has guns, when they get all oppressive and take away everyone's guns they'll know whose door to knock on, and we can't have that". My experience is that those gun owners that are really paranoid about the government knowing they are gun owners is that these aren't the folks that want a pistol to protect themselves or a rifle for hunting, but the guys who think their very survival depends on being able to fight the US government.

      --
      The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Arik on Wednesday October 05 2016, @02:42PM

        by Arik (4543) on Wednesday October 05 2016, @02:42PM (#410619) Journal
        "What they're looking for, as described above, are people who are engaged in the illegal act of gun smuggling."

        But who they are targeting, as determined by looking at the actions rather than listening to the justifications, are legal firearms enthusiasts, buyers, sellers, even just window-shoppers. They think that somewhere in this massive crowd of americans going about their business completely in accord with the law there might be a smuggler who does not, so they stalk everyone there. By the same logic they could arbitrarily decide that there was probably an enviro-terrorist active inside the green party HQ and therefore target everyone that visits it.

        "As far as my understanding of the motives of gun owners, that mostly has to do with talking to the friends of mine who are gun owners, who often talk about those kinds of things."

        Either your friends are idiots, or you systematically misunderstand what they say. Just from observing others, I'd have to guess the latter is more likely, but either is possible.

        "My experience is that those gun owners that are really paranoid about the government knowing they are gun owners is that these aren't the folks that want a pistol to protect themselves or a rifle for hunting, but the guys who think their very survival depends on being able to fight the US government."

        Yeah you sound like you don't get it at all.

        The point to an armed citizenry is not to fight the government. It's to deter tyranny. Very different things.

        If you look historically, Germany, Turkey, USSR, Cambodia, etc. there was a chain of dominos. Weapon registration preceded weapon confiscation, and weapon confiscation preceded full scale tyranny, and there's a reason for that. A government which rules a disarmed and helpless populace feels less need to act with restraint. A government which knows its own population is armed and could, in the extreme, resist it, is simply by virtue of that knowledge a government which is better behaved, more desirable. No shots need to be fired, it only needs to be aware that its people are not helpless before it, is that distinction too fine for you?

        --
        If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
        • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Thexalon on Wednesday October 05 2016, @03:04PM

          by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday October 05 2016, @03:04PM (#410628)

          The point to an armed citizenry is not to fight the government. It's to deter tyranny. Very different things.

          So let me get this straight: You aren't actually prepping to fight the government, you are only threatening to fight the government but aren't actually willing to carry it out. And somehow, the government won't notice that this is an empty threat, and respond as if it were a real threat.

          I have a much simpler way of deterring tyrannical governments in democracies such as the US: Vote for somebody who won't do that and will stop those who try. This has been working well enough regardless of available guns for a couple of centuries.

          --
          The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05 2016, @03:17PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05 2016, @03:17PM (#410636)

            Till now.

          • (Score: 3, Insightful) by redneckmother on Wednesday October 05 2016, @03:25PM

            by redneckmother (3597) on Wednesday October 05 2016, @03:25PM (#410643)

            Respectfully, I must disagree with your assertion that voting can or will change anything.

            To me, it is painfully obvious that the electoral system is rigged in the US.

            Few people who SHOULD be elected ARE elected, and those in power remain in power.

            --
            Mas cerveza por favor.
            • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Joe Desertrat on Wednesday October 05 2016, @08:46PM

              by Joe Desertrat (2454) on Wednesday October 05 2016, @08:46PM (#410817)

              Respectfully, I must disagree with your assertion that voting can or will change anything.

              The problem is that democracy requires an informed participating public to work as intended. We have neither in the US. Too many people do not vote in primaries and general elections. Too many people have no interest in issues that will truly affect them, if they become politically concerned at all it is in getting outraged over mirage issues. People are convinced to vote against their own interests not for altruistic reasons, but because they fear someone they consider undesirable will benefit as well. It requires personal effort of every person to be informed, we geeks and nerds discovered long ago that science, math, nature, tech, etc. are far more interesting and important than Keeping Up With The Kardashians, too many people would rather take the easy way out.

              We have roughly a 90% retention rate for a Congress that has roughly a 10% approval rating. They should be voted out, every one, in the primaries. In the House every two years, in the Senate every six years, the President every four years, at least until things start to change. Combine that with 90-100% voter participation, and we would bring the current power structure crashing down.

            • (Score: 2) by J053 on Wednesday October 05 2016, @09:55PM

              by J053 (3532) <{dakine} {at} {shangri-la.cx}> on Wednesday October 05 2016, @09:55PM (#410853) Homepage
              And that's because something like 60% of eligible voters don't fucking bother to vote. Every Member of Congress and/or Senator could be replaced in any election year if people would just get off their asses and go vote for someone else.
          • (Score: 2) by mhajicek on Wednesday October 05 2016, @04:14PM

            by mhajicek (51) on Wednesday October 05 2016, @04:14PM (#410676)

            Would you rather be hanged with a red rope, or a blue rope? You get to vote!

            --
            The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
          • (Score: 1) by Arik on Wednesday October 05 2016, @05:06PM

            by Arik (4543) on Wednesday October 05 2016, @05:06PM (#410707) Journal
            Yeah you just proved my initial diagnosis. Your problem is you don't understand English.
            --
            If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
          • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05 2016, @06:19PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05 2016, @06:19PM (#410751)

            Wow, its like you deliberately misunderstand the point in an attempt to make the point sound ridiculous. People prep to fight and simply hope it doesn't come down to that. Some are empty threats, some are not. Regardless, history has shown that it is entirely possible for a country to go from freedom loving awesomeness (har har) to oppressive fascism with a very short period of time.

            I haven't heard too many stories about preppers going crazy and killing people, but I have heard plenty of stories about government agencies abusing their power. I can ignore a prepper, but I can't ignore a cop pulling me over and confiscating the cash I took out from the bank to buy a used car.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by butthurt on Wednesday October 05 2016, @06:47PM

          by butthurt (6141) on Wednesday October 05 2016, @06:47PM (#410761) Journal

          > By the same logic they could arbitrarily decide that there was probably an enviro-terrorist active inside the green party HQ and therefore target everyone that visits it.

          There was that whole COINTELPRO thing. In the 1980s there were reports about plate numbers being written down during meetings of leftist groups. A group called Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) was investigated.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CISPES#FBI_investigations [wikipedia.org]

          Here's a report about plate numbers being written down as part of that. Sorry for not having a more credible source:

          As a result of the FBI's operations, tens of thousands of names have been added to the bureau’s terrorism files- names of people whose only offense has been to write a letter in support of the nuclear freeze movement (which the FBI obtained by virtue of a mail intercept on the post office box of freeze organizers) or to attend a meeting of CISPES or other groups (where the FBI recorded and traced license plates and other information in order to identify activists)

          The FBI’s five year, nationwide investigation did not result in the arrest of a single activist for criminal or terrorist activities.

          -- http://thoughtcrimeradio.net/2014/10/cointelpro-in-the-80s-the-new-fbi/ [thoughtcrimeradio.net]

          Other groups, says another questionable source, were also investigated:

          The Committee of Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) and 200 other anti- Reagan groups also were targeted by the intelligence community. FBI Director William Sessions - - who eventually moved over to head the CIA -- denied that these operations were ordered by the Reagan White House or that they were politically motivated. When the General Accounting Office attempted to investigate CISPES, the FBI refused to allow the files to be reviewed. However, the GAO did obtain files on 18,144 FBI international terrorism cases between 1982 and 1988.

          -- http://www.angelfire.com/ca3/jphuck/Book16Ch.1.html [angelfire.com]

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05 2016, @03:34PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05 2016, @03:34PM (#410648)

        "if the government knows who has guns, when they get all oppressive and take away everyone's guns they'll know whose door to knock on, and we can't have that". My experience is that those gun owners that are really paranoid about the government knowing they are gun owners is that these aren't the folks that want a pistol to protect themselves or a rifle for hunting, but the guys who think their very survival depends on being able to fight the US government.

        Ironically these same guys are usually the ones who advertise they have guns and are paranoid when they plaster their vehicles with bumper stickers like "NRA - Stand and Fight", "Don't trust the liberal media", "Nobama", "Come and get it (with picture of AK-47)", a Confederate Flag, and "Hillary for Prison". It doesn't take a huge government surveillance program or a sharp person to figure out who these people are, just walk around the parking lots of fairs, churches, and bars with a notepad.

        • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05 2016, @05:57PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05 2016, @05:57PM (#410744)

          Ironically these same guys are usually the ones who advertise they have guns and are paranoid when they plaster their vehicles with bumper stickers like "NRA - Stand and Fight", "Don't trust the liberal media", "Nobama", "Come and get it (with picture of AK-47)", a Confederate Flag, and "Hillary for Prison". It doesn't take a huge government surveillance program or a sharp person to figure out who these people are, just walk around the parking lots of fairs, churches, and bars with a notepad.

          No, ironically, many of us who subscribe to the doctrine of Molon Labe do not advertise ourselves in any way that you would detect. Until you try. And I'd bet we're the rule and the vocalists you'd see are the exception. Only one way to truly know that, though, since our government's systems are still mainly predicated on allowing firearm owners to remain more-or-less anonymous (except for the idiots who try to do things like allow background checks to be logged, requiring state logged "permits" to own weapons, doing license plate scans at gun shows, etc.) And sure, I don't go to gun shows and may have just outed myself (thanks to the NSA or other 3 letter agencies who'd chill out speech if they could.) I'm just one. We the armed citizens of the United States are legion.
          The silliest part? Most of us are absolutely fine with complying with law enforcement and view government, sans true corruption, as a Good Thing. So far. Just because I believe in Molon Labe doesn't mean I'm going to whip out my gun when the police do a traffic stop on me, or otherwise have a legal and rational reason for taking custody of my pistol temporarily.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05 2016, @02:25PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05 2016, @02:25PM (#410608)

      True, but you run into the issue of targeting for what is essentially a legal act.

      There are license plate scanners all over the place that record every license plate that goes past. Many police cars have license plate scanners too. As far as I know driving down the street is still a legal act.

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05 2016, @12:20PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05 2016, @12:20PM (#410553)

    > There is no reasonable expectation of privacy when you are in public.

    That is an archaic assertion. At the time video cameras were larger than washing machines, computers were larger than delivery trucks and both cost significantly more than an entire year's salary. So there actually was an expectation of privacy in public, it was simply inconceivable that pervasive surveillance existed anywhere outside of science fiction. Circumstances have changed, the law needs to change to.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05 2016, @01:40PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05 2016, @01:40PM (#410579)

      So there used to be an expectation of a good probability of privacy even in public places, but with new technologies, this is fading fast.

      This was ensured because folks would not vote for a big enough govt to have staff to watch many given the technology of the time.
      The question is if a lack of expectation of privacy due to the new technology should be used to justify using the new technology.

      The argument that power corrupts the good guys says that this circular argument is a bad idea.
      But not allowing the new technology handicaps law enforcement in the face of bad guys enabled by technology.

      Perhaps the answer is to separate the gathering of information from searching or using it.
      First something bad has to happen,
      Then a very limited search of gathered information is permitted to sort out what happened.
      Given the invasiveness of this search, the 'badness' of the act should control how extensive the search is.
      This coupled with limiting the time that the information is stored and public disclosure of the searches after time might be a useful compromise.
      The problem is how to you build a system that can be trusted to do only this?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05 2016, @02:16PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05 2016, @02:16PM (#410601)

        > Perhaps the answer is to separate the gathering of information from searching or using it.

        That's a modern sword of Damocles for ordinary citizens. If the information is there, it will eventually be abused because that's human nature. We've seen exactly that scenario play out where anti-terrorism investigative powers are constantly being expanded for non-terrorist investigations to the point of frivolity even, like getting involved in protecting a Harry Potter book from leaking before release. [bbc.com]

        There are only two ways to stop abuse of information: (1) don't collect it or, less effectively (2) make searching it a high-effort task, e.g. all security cameras only store their records locally on-site with the camera and are not networked, so if you want footage you have to hoof to each camera and manually copy the recording. Laws of mean can be changed and violated at will, laws of physics can not.

    • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Wednesday October 05 2016, @06:53PM

      by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday October 05 2016, @06:53PM (#410764)

      So are you saying that when you are walking around the grocery store or a county fair or some other public event, you assume that nobody will see what you're doing?

      That's what is meant by a reasonable expectation of privacy: Things going on in your living room or your bedroom are different from walking around on the street.

      --
      The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 06 2016, @01:04AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 06 2016, @01:04AM (#410898)

        Difference being if I whip out my camera and start recording you at the grocery store, you can see me (notice all those warnings in stores that security cameras are in use), I can see you and we are on somewhat of a parity.

        And should I follow you out of the store, make a point to film your plate number, I think a strong case can be made for harassment, and the parallel should be obvious.

        You're smart enough to realize the how close this comes to the stasi, but unfortunately are unable to extend even a modicum of concern to those who you disagree with politically.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 06 2016, @01:32AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 06 2016, @01:32AM (#410908)

        So are you saying that when you are walking around the grocery store or a county fair or some other public event, you assume that nobody will see what you're doing?

        NO, that is not what I am saying. Did you miss all that stuff about cameras and computers? Because poor reading skills are the only explanation I can come up with that doesn't otherwise point towards you being a total fucking idiot.

        Being seen and then forgotten by individual people are the circumstances under which "no expectation of privacy in public" was determined to be a valid concept. Now we are seen by cameras that operate 24x7, never forget and cross reference their memories with thousands and thousands of other cameras at practically no cost.

        Circumstances have changed. Ca-fucking-piche?