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Taking Too Much License With Our Civil Liberties

The Department of Homeland Security has scuttled a plan by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to create a national license plate database that would allow ICE to track all of us everywhere we went.

ICE had already begun soliciting proposals from firms to create the database through commercial and law enforcement tag readers that are able to scan every vehicle in their path. The scheme was described as an important tool to track and arrest illegal immigrants but was dropped after privacy advocacy groups caught wind of it and raised a ruckus.

Well-ruckused, advocacy groups.

Once this system was in place, every law-abiding citizen in the country could have had his or her movements tracked.

We’ve seen this sort of thing before. The NSA has been collecting, in bulk and indiscriminately, everything it can get its hands on, from call records, location data, e-mails and text messages from Americans who have committed no crime.

One of the most disturbing features of the license plate plan is that it was being pursued without the knowledge of ICE’s top leadership.

So what else is going on that neither the American people nor those tasked with supervising our governmental agencies know anything about?

And what else is being planned?

Security and law-enforcement are crucial but every tool to combat crime can just as easily become a weapon against our individual liberties.

The phrase “in the wrong hands” comes to mind but the greatest danger for our civil liberties is that the government will view the “wrong hands” as the right hands because those “wrong hands” would be at the end of the government’s own arms.

Rogue use may seem far-fetched but it shouldn’t, not when ICE can actually begin to solicit proposals for a license plate data base without its own leadership knowing about it.

Meanwhile, the US Army is deploying two blimps, called aerostats, in the sky above I-95 in Maryland, 45 miles northeast of Washington, the stated mission to determine their efficiency in detecting cruise missiles or enemy aircraft heading to the nation’s capital.

At their height of 10,000 feet, these two blimps can provide extraordinary detection and observation capabilities over a huge swath of the United States—from Boston to Raleigh, westward to Lake Erie, according to a story in the Washington Post.

The military installs incredibly powerful surveillance cameras in the aerostats deployed in Afghanistan that can detect and film individuals and vehicles from miles away and a test above Baltimore last year confirmed the ability to zero-in on individuals in an urban setting.

The Army, the Post reports, claims that it has “no current plans” to employ such cameras or infrared censors on the two aerostats floating above government-owned land in Maryland.

No current plans.

That we know of.

Or that the Army knows of.

But who knows for sure?

This we do know—the United States should never be allowed to become the United Aerostats of America.

—JKW—