The American Civil liberties Union (ACLU) is complaining that their version of the Proceeds of Crime law is leading to mass surveillance of the public.
A number of law enforcement agencies there have become obsessed with the money-earning potential of this law to the extent that officers are regularly seizing any valuables found in cars which have been pulled over either for minor traffic violations or because of the whims of the police involved.
The DEA (the Drug Enforcement Agency)in particular is being accused of bending the law to enable them to seize more money.
In order to trawl more effectively the ACLU say that the US government was planning a nationwide network of vehicle number plate reading cameras so it could track everyone's movements. As with the wholesale harvesting of citizens' data from the Internet, government agencies plotted to use powerful super-computers to number-crunch the details of everyone's car journeys.
The plan was not necessarily about catching 'criminals' but providing sufficient 'probable cause' to stop large numbers of vehicles and thereby seize lots of money.
The ACLU warned that the build-up of a vehicle surveillance database, the existence of which first surfaced on Monday, stemmed from the DEA’s appetite for asset forfeiture.
In a letter to Holder on Wednesday, senators Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy wrote that they “remain concerned that government programs that track citizens’ movements, see inside homes and collect data from the phones of innocent Americans raise serious privacy concerns.”
Citing the ACLU’s first batch of documents, which were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, the senators referred to the attorney general’s flagging of the forfeiture problem. “Any program that is dedicated to expanding the Justice Department’s forfeiture efforts requires similar oversight and accountability,” they wrote.
Clark Neily, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, a Virginia-based libertarian law firm, said Americans would be disturbed to know that law enforcement’s quest for revenue impelled mass surveillance.
“It’s deeply concerning and creepy,” Neily said. “We’re Americans. We drive a lot.”
The Guardian Newspaper