Security officials to scan D.C. area license plates


From the AP / WTOP:

Homeland security officials in the Washington area plan to dramatically expand the use of automated license plate readers to prevent possible terrorist attacks.

Officials from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia have agreed to install 200 license plate readers on police vehicles, at airports and along roads. The plan announced Friday will be funded by federal homeland security grants for the area.

[…]

The readers will scan every license plate that passes by and will run the numbers through federal criminal and terrorist databases.

New York officials recently said they plan to scan license plates of all cars entering Manhattan.

If cameras prevented crime, we wouldn’t see all the footage on the nightly news of the armed gunman robbing the local convenient store. In the best of scenarios, camera footage can be used to investigate crimes that have already occurred. A terrible example of such is the well-known footage of the 9/11 hijackers walking through airport security.

Lets analyze the flawed logic behind DHS’ license plate scanners:

  1. Terrorists do bad things.
  2. Cameras can scan license plates and compare the data to terrorist databases.
  3. Law enforcement can catch terrorists.

Did you catch it? The break in logic happens somewhere between items 1 and 2; if there’s a “terrorist database,” and we know who the terrorists are (and, apparently have their license plate number already), why are we waiting for the plate scanners to pick them up? Why aren’t warrants being issued for the arrest of these suspected terrorists?

Instead of being tough on terrorism, DHS is acting like a kid in a candy store: the gobstoppers and gumballs of technology are sweet and taste really good, but are actually nothing but a bunch of empty calories. And the taxpayers are getting stuck with the cavities.

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