Monday, August 19, 2013

License plate readers used to record attendees at political rallies


Heeding the demands of the Secret Service, state police in Virginia recorded and collected the whereabouts of potentially millions of people in an effort to monitor attendees at political rallies in 2008 and 2009.
Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in the Virginia state capital show that police agencies utilized license plate readers in order to record information about people traveling to at least three politically-charged events during the 2008 presidential election season.
According to the documents obtained by the paper, Virginia State Police logged license plate data for every vehicle leaving the state en route to neighboring Washington, DC during President Barack Obama’s first inauguration ceremony in January 2009. Three months earlier, the police ran a similar operation to coincide with campaign rallies in Leesburg, Virginia being held by then-candidate Obama and Sarah Palin, the Republican Party’s nominee for vice president.
Mark Bowes, a reporter with The Dispatch, wrote that the United States Secret Service directed state police to use a license plate reader positioned at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA to “to capture and store the plate images as an extra level of security for the inauguration.” Similar requests were made for the preceding rallies outside of DC, he reported.
The Dispatch has not published information about how many vehicles had their location recorded and logged, but Bowes noted that an estimated 1.8 million people attended Pres. Obama’s inauguration in Jan. 2009.

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