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Millions of cars tracked across US in ‘massive’ real-time DEA spy program

American Civil Liberties Union warns scanning of license plates by Drug Enforcement Agency is building a repository of all drivers’ movements.

The United States government is tracking the movement of vehicles around the country in a clandestine intelligence-gathering programme that has been condemned as a further official exercise to build a database on people’s lives.

The Drug Enforcement Administration was monitoring license plates on a “massive” scale, giving rise to “major civil liberties concerns”, the American Civil Liberties Union said on Monday night, citing DEA documents obtained under freedom of information.

“This story highlights yet another way government security agencies are seeking to quietly amplify their powers using new technologies,” Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with ACLU, told the Guardian.

“On this as on so many surveillance issues, we can take action, put in place some common sense limits or sit back and let our society be transformed into a place we won’t recognize – or probably much like.”

The advocacy group said the DEA records it obtained from the justice department were heavily redacted and incomplete.

“These records do, however, offer documentation that this program is a major DEA initiative that has the potential to track our movements around the country. With its jurisdiction and its finances, the federal government is uniquely positioned to create a centralized repository of all drivers’ movements across the country — and the DEA seems to be moving toward doing just that.”

If license plate readers continued to proliferate without restriction and the DEA held license plate reader data for extended periods the agency would soon possess a detailed and invasive depiction of people’s lives, the ACLU said, especially if combined with other surveillance data such as bulk phone records or information gleaned by the US Marshals Service using aircraft that mimic cellphone towers.

“Data-mining the information, an unproven law enforcement technique that the DEA has begun to use here, only exacerbates these concerns, potentially tagging people as criminals without due process,” the ACLU warned.

The Wall Street Journal, citing official documents and anonymous officials, reported that the programme built a national database to track vehicles in real time and stored hundreds of millions of records about motorists.

The primary goal was to seize cars, cash and other assets to combat drug trafficking but the database expanded to monitor vehicles associated with other potential crimes, it said.

Officials have publicly acknowledged they track vehicles near the Mexican border to combat drug trafficking.

But the database’s expansion “thoughout the United States”, as one DEA email put it, worried Senator Patrick Leahy, who sits on the Senate judiciary committee.

“The fact that this intrusive technology is potentially being used to expand the reach of the government’s asset forfeiture efforts is of even greater concern,’’ he told the Wall Street Journal.

Leahy called for additional accountability and said Americans should not have to fear that “their locations and movements are constantly being tracked and stored in a massive government database”.

A spokesman for the justice department, which includes the DEA, said the program complied with federal law. “It is not new that the DEA uses the license-plate reader program to arrest criminals and stop the flow of drugs in areas of high trafficking intensity,’’ the spokesman said.

According to the ACLU, the government-run national license plate tracking program dates from 2008. Information had trickled out over the years but far too little was known about the program, the ACLU said.

Found at the Guardian.

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left alone for 132 years

Archaeologists conducting surveys in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park came upon a gun frozen in time:  a .44-40 Winchester rifle manufactured in 1882. It was propped up against a juniper tree.

“They just happened to notice the rifle under the tree,” said Nichole Andler, Basin National Park’s chief of interpretation. The public will get a chance to view the rifle over the weekend.

Although staff have no idea how the rifle ended up there, “it looked like someone propped it up there, sat down to have their lunch and got up to walk off without it,” Andler said.

It’s remarkable that anyone was able to spot the gun back in November, as it had blended in so well with…

Read More HERE

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Florida Without Oranges

A disease is decimating the citrus industry, leading some to wonder what’s next for parts of the Sunshine State.

PLANT CITY, Fla.—More than a century ago, Martha Sue Hawkins’ ancestors homesteaded on this flat land in central Florida. Her grandfather planted the first orange groves in the 1900s, and then her father added more trees as Americans started getting used to the idea of orange juice on their breakfast tables.

By the time Martha Sue and her husband Richard Skinner took over the property, they had 2,600 trees stretching out across 15 acres in neat rows, and made a handy profit selling the oranges to processing plants each year, which would make the fruit into juice.

But in 2012, the Skinners pulled up every single tree. Their groves had been infected by the Asian citrus psyllid, a tiny bug that carries a bacteria which attacks a tree’s vascular system, eventually killing it. The disease, which showed up in Florida in 2005, has created a phenomenon known as citrus greening that is decimating the orange and grapefruit industries in the state.

Florida may produce as few as 89 million boxes of oranges this year, forecasters say, down 63 percent from the 242 million boxes the state produced a decade ago. In a state where citrus is on the license plates and 75,000 people made their living from it just a few years ago, this could have a huge impact. It’s not just growers like the Skinners who are feeling the pinch—citrus generates jobs for the companies that fertilize the trees, the people who pick them, the processing plants that make the juice, and the advertisers that figure out how to sell it.

One report, released in December by the University of Florida, estimated that citrus generates $10.68 billion annually in the state, contributing $326 million to state and local coffers. But because of citrus greening, the study estimated, the industry in the 2012-’13 season employed 18 percent fewer people than five years ago, and generated about $1 billion less each year since 2007. There are now 476,000 acres of citrus in the state, down from 750,000 in 2000.

Read much more HERE.

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Oh, Iranians and Israelis Should be Friends

Despite Obama’s hissy fit about Netanyahu’s visit, Kerry has been working around the clock brainstorming ways to get Israel and Iran to empathize with each other and make nice. Here’s his list:

Schedule Netanyahu and Ahmadinejad for the next episode of Wife Swap.

Sponsor a Peter, Paul and Mary concert during a peace summit at Camp David. Distribute hammers for audience participation. The delegation with the most men left standing after the hammer song gets their demands met.

Get them to agree to settle their differences with a winner-take-all sailboarding competition.

Invite both delegations to Theresa’s place for the annual Heinz Pork Chop Cook off.

Figure out how to say ‘reset’ in Hebrew and whatever language Iranians babble in.

Convince the Iranians that denying the Holocaust is just as bad as denying global warming.

Hezbollah gets custody of Jerusalem Monday through Wednesday and every other weekend.

Slyly let the Ayatollah in on his suspicion that Obama is the hidden imam.

Threaten to cut Israel’s nuclear weapons in half to see who wants them the most.

Get them both to just agree that both genders should be circumcised.

Tell them if they don’t start getting along with each other, Obama is going to get very cross.

Have they tried Xanax?

Convince the Iranians that using nuclear weapons against Israel will only produce a race of super powerful Jewish mutants.

Return the region to pre-1 AD borders and let Rome deal with it.

From HERE.

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