Politics

Virginia State Police Scanned License Plates at Political Rallies

| by Michael Allen
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Virginia State Police used license plate scanners to record information about people who legally attended at least three political rallies in 2008 and 2009.

According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the state police recorded license plate data for every vehicle leaving Virginia and going to Washington D.C. during President Obama’s first inauguration ceremony in January 2009.

In October 2008, police recorded the license plates of attendees at separate campaign rallies in Leesburg, Virginia held by Obama and Sarah Palin.

The Virginia State Police were ordered by the U.S. Secret Service “to capture and store the plate images as an extra level of security for the inauguration.”

The Richmond Times-Dispatch did not say how many vehicles were recorded.

In February of 2009, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli ordered state police to stop storing data in a “passive matter” and start erasing information after 24 hours unless police thought it was relevant to a criminal case. However, the Secret Service, may have copies.

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Police departments across America have claimed they need license plate scanners as a crime-fighting tool, but clearly the devices are used on innocent people.

“It’s a situation where you’re collecting a lot of information on a lot of people to potentially use if something bad happens at some unspecified future time and some unspecified situation,” said Claire Gastañaga, the executive director of the ACLU of Virginia.

“[That logic] would justify a camera on every street corner recording all of our movements at all times, because it would be expedient to be able to have that to refer back to if there’s a bank robbery there two years from now.”

Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch