A. Barton Hinkle on How Police Drones and License-Plate Readers Threaten Liberty


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Law enforcement officers now have the ability to record thousands of license plates an hour with special license-plate readers, and thereby gradually build a database tracking the whereabouts of millions of everyday citizens. Most of those citizens will never commit a crime. But some will, and having that data could help the police eliminate some possible suspects and focus on others. Did someone in a red Miata rob a liquor store at Broad and 39th on March 13? Let's see who was in that area during the time in question. Likewise, the government can use drones to provide it with constant surveillance from above.

This year the Virginia General Assembly passed bipartisan legislation restricting the use of such technology without a warrant and limiting how long law-enforcement agencies can retain such data. Yet as A. Barton Hinkle reports, to the surprise and dismay of many, Gov. Terry McAuliffe made sweeping changes that, says sponsor Chap Petersen, take "a bill that was designed to protect people's civil liberties" and turns it into "one that basically trashes them."