Conservative critiques of Big Brother
A reader forwarded a link to an interesting pair of stories from the Rockwall County News (July 26). See here (pdf) - the articles in question are the second and third ones on the first page, scrolling down, with these headlines:
- Will you be the next peaceful traveler? A scenario and analysis of judicial practice
- The Police State is Here
Texas let DEA install license plate readers
Speaking of fusion centers and gathering data on ordinary Americans, the national ACLU has launched a research effort to gather information about automatic license plate readers. Their press release mentions:
The Drug Enforcement Administration is planning to install a network of plate readers on major highway systems nationwide. The Department of Homeland Security clocks every car that enters the country. Local and state police departments operate many thousands of ALPR systems nationwide—how many and to what extent, we aren’t sure. Together these programs form a network of data points that can tell the government a lot about our lives.The Texas Department of Transportation in 2008 rejected a DEA request to install license plate readers on Texas highways, however another recent ACLU blog post stated that "scanners are already in place on 'drug trafficking corridors' in California and Texas." I was unaware that 2008 decision had been reversed. Does data from license plate readers, one wonders, funnel up into so-called "fusion centers"? Who besides DEA has access to this information?
Cops get database with Texans' Rx prescription information
Texas is developing other large databases that a civil libertarian may fear would be uploaded into fusion centers or used by various government entities for reasons unrelated to the purpose for which they were created, particularly a "new state online database of patient prescription drug information." Reported the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "DPS officials say the database is secure and, beginning this month, available to registered users who provide licensing information, including law enforcers." And if it's available to "law enforcers," why couldn't the data be uploaded to fusion center databases?
On the political economy of the militarization of domestic policing
While we're on the subject of conservative critiques of the criminal justice system, check out this academic article critiquing the "the political economy of the militarization of domestic policing" from the perspective of the Law and Economics movement. Here's a notable passage attributing abuses to the government's near "monopoly" on use of force:
One reason governments are able to effectively exploit their citizens is because they maintain a monopoly, or near monopoly, on military force. It is the concentration of military power, with its weaponry, organizational structure, and tactics that serves as the ultimate tool of government abuse. The threat of violent force raises the cost of deviations from government decree and can be used to repress citizens. As per the paradox of government, this leads to the central concern that while force can, in theory, serve the function of protecting citizens from threats to their person and property, it can also be used by the political elite to undermine the very rights government is tasked with protecting.Fourth Amendment as a campaign issue
Finally, Grits found it fascinating that legislative efforts to restrict TSA pat downs at airports became a campaign issue in the Texas GOP US Senate runoff, and it seems highly likely the topic will be revived next year when the Texas Legislature meets again. For many years the only time the Fourth Amendment came up in Texas campaigns was when politicians (from both parties) promised to scale back its protections in response to the "war on drugs" and/or the "war on terror." The measure turned out to be immensely popular with the GOP base and perhaps could open the door to more legislation aimed at bolstering Fourth Amendment protections (which couldn't happen soon enough to satisfy this correspondent).