DEA chief: US abandoned plan to track cars near gun shows

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ABC News – by Eric Tucker

The Drug Enforcement Administration abandoned an internal proposal to use surveillance cameras for photographing vehicle license plates near gun shows in the United States to investigate gun-trafficking, the agency’s chief said Wednesday.

DEA Administrator Michelle Leonhart said in a statement that the proposal memorialized in an employee’s email was only a suggestion, never authorized by her agency and never put into action. The AP also learned that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives did not authorize or approve the license plate surveillance plan.  

Automated license plate scanners take pictures of every vehicle that passes their field of view and record the information in a database that can be used to track a vehicle’s movements over time.

Federal, state and local police agencies routinely use the cameras mounted on patrol cruisers or in fixed locations, such as utility poles or busy intersections. Collectively, they capture the movements of millions of vehicles each day. Private companies, including tow truck agencies, also use them.

The scanners have raised significant privacy concerns even though they generally only record cars and trucks driving on public roads. There are no consistent, national rules that govern how police can use the information, how long it can be saved and how widely the records can be shared with other police agencies.

The Wall Street Journal reported the DEA’s aborted plan in Wednesday’s editions.

4 thoughts on “DEA chief: US abandoned plan to track cars near gun shows

  1. cant keep track of Eric’s guns to Mexico , but they are watching the law abiding in this country , purchasing legal property? sounds about right

    maybe its time we post security at these shows and not allow any Law enfarcement to loiter in the parking lots

  2. DEA admits plan to monitor license plates at gun shows, claims it was ‘never authorized’

    “DEA Phoenix Division office is working closely with ATF on attacking the guns going to [redacted] and the guns shows, to include programs/operation with [license-plate readers] at the gun shows.”

    “When we received this document we concluded that these agencies used license plate readers to collect information about law-abiding citizens attending gun shows,” ACLU wrote in a blog post.

    “An automatic license plate reader cannot distinguish between people transporting illegal guns and those transporting legal guns, or no guns at all; it only documents the presence of any car driving to the event. Mere attendance at a gun show, it appeared, would have been enough to have one’s presence noted in a DEA database.”

    “We were certainly glad to hear them say this, as we had rationally, based on the scrap of information left unredacted in the document, concluded that gun show monitoring was underway,” Bennett Stein and Jay Stanley wrote in the ACLU blog post. “After all, this would not be the first time that the government has used automatic license plate readers to target the constitutionally protected right to assemble.”

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