Millions Of Cars Tracked Across US In ‘Massive’ Real-Time DEA Spy Program

The DEA database has the potential to track every driver's movements, the American Civil Liberties Union has warned.

The DEA database has the potential to track every driver’s movements, the American Civil Liberties Union has warned. Photograph: DA Barnes/Alamy

The Drug Enforcement Administration was monitoring license plates on a “massive” scale, giving rise to “major civil liberties concerns”, the American Civil Liberties Union said on Monday night, citing DEA documents obtained under freedom of information.

“This story highlights yet another way government security agencies are seeking to quietly amplify their powers using new technologies,” Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with ACLU, told the Guardian.

“On this as on so many surveillance issues, we can take action, put in place some common sense limits or sit back and let our society be transformed into a place we won’t recognize – or probably much like.”

The advocacy group said the DEA records it obtained from the justice department were heavily redacted and incomplete.

“These records do, however, offer documentation that this program is a major DEA initiative that has the potential to track our movements around the country. With its jurisdiction and its finances, the federal government is uniquely positioned to create a centralized repository of all drivers’ movements across the country — and the DEA seems to be moving toward doing just that.”

If license plate readers continued to proliferate without restriction and the DEA held license plate reader data for extended periods the agency would soon possess a detailed and invasive depiction of people’s lives, the ACLU said, especially if combined with other surveillance data such as bulk phone records or information gleaned by the US Marshals Service using aircraft that mimic cellphone towers.

“Data-mining the information, an unproven law enforcement technique that the DEA has begun to use here, only exacerbates these concerns, potentially tagging people as criminals without due process,” the ACLU warned.

The Wall Street Journal, citing official documents and anonymous officials, reported that the programme built a national database to track vehicles in real time and stored hundreds of millions of records about motorists.

The primary goal was to seize cars, cash and other assets to combat drug trafficking but the database expanded to monitor vehicles associated with other potential crimes, it said.

Officials have publicly acknowledged they track vehicles near the Mexican border to combat drug trafficking.

But the database’s expansion “thoughout the United States”, as one DEA email put it, worried Senator Patrick Leahy, who sits on the Senate judiciary committee.

“The fact that this intrusive technology is potentially being used to expand the reach of the government’s asset forfeiture efforts is of even greater concern,’’ he told the Wall Street Journal.

Leahy called for additional accountability and said Americans should not have to fear that “their locations and movements are constantly being tracked and stored in a massive government database”.

A spokesman for the justice department, which includes the DEA, said the program complied with federal law. “It is not new that the DEA uses the license-plate reader program to arrest criminals and stop the flow of drugs in areas of high trafficking intensity,’’ the spokesman said.

According to the ACLU, the government-run national license plate tracking program dates from 2008. Information had trickled out over the years but far too little was known about the program, the ACLU said.

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Jeb Bush Resigns as George W. Bush’s Brother

by Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In the strongest sign to date that he intends to seek the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has officially resigned his position as George W. Bush’s brother.

“No longer being related to his brother is a key step to clearing Jeb’s path to the nomination,” an aide said on New Year’s Day. “We expect his poll numbers to soar on this.”

According to the aide, the former Florida governor resigned his post as brother in a ten-minute phone call with George W. Bush, after which he blocked the former President’s phone number and e-mail address.

In an official statement, George W. Bush said that he “understands and supports” his former brother’s decision.

“If I were him, I would no longer be related to me either,” he said.

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Bitz of Newz From Borowitz

Romney: You Bastards Will Never See My Tax Returns Now

Romney: You Bastards Will Never See My Tax Returns Now

Hillary Begs Romney to Reconsider

Hillary Begs Romney to Reconsider
I guess the Republicans figure they have a better shot with a candidate whose brother left the economy in smoldering ruins.
No Reports of Anyone Asking Romney to Reconsider
With Romney out of the race, who will speak for the wealthy white man? Every other Republican, I guess.

Romney Incredibly Relieved That He Can Keep All His Houses

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney told supporters on Friday that he was “incredibly relieved” to be able to keep the approximately five to ten residences he owns across the country.

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Lang Lang, Andre Watts, Chris Botti and Pink Martini Among Guest Artists in Buffalo Philharmonic’s 2015-16 Season

kleinhans sketch
Buffalo, NY – The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2015-16 Season celebrates the 75th anniversary of Kleinhans Music Hall, with major guest artists such as Lang Lang, Chris Botti and Andre Watts, and works showcasing the hall’s exquisite acoustics, including the monumental Alpine Symphony by Strauss, Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony and Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. Patrons will be able to enjoy it all in greater comfort, thanks to major upgrades planned to the hall.
This year, subscribers who renew by March 15 and pay with cash or check will be able to keep the same price as the previous year. Subscription packages range from as few as five concerts, to full seasons of Pops or Classics. To subscribe, call (716) 885-5000 or visit bpo.org today.

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What Is Hydraulic Fracturing ?

Hydraulic fracturing is a means of extracting natural gas, oil, petroleum and other substances from       shale rock layers. Concerns have been raised, however, about the impact of hydraulic fracturing on surrounding groundwater. As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is undertaking studies and analyses of the possible effects of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. The study is expected to be completed in late 2014.

Among the concerns the EPA cites:

1) Stress on surface water and ground water supplies because of the use of water in hydraulic fracturing

2) Contamination of underground sources of drinking water and surface water; and

3) Air pollution caused by release of chemicals and gases into the surrounding air.

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California Hydraulic Fracturing Water Contamination

Hyrdraulic Fracking Causes Earthquakes, Study Finds
Santa Cruz, CA:  According to results from a new study just published in the prestigious journal Science,there is a direct association between injecting water into the ground and earthquakes: injecting water into the ground is a practice used in the highly controversial natural gas extraction technique known as hydraulic fracking or fracturing.
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Freedman in the Family Court Race

Ready to make changes in the system

When the Erie County legislature created a seventh Family Court judgeship, many in the system urged Brenda Freedman to run. After all, as an attorney referee she knows the ropes and she had flirted with the job in 2013.

Freedman has over 25 years of experience in family law. She is one of only a handful of specially selected Court Attorney Referees, and works in both NYS Supreme Court as well as Erie County Family Court. She presides over cases of divorce, custody, visitation, and domestic violence. It’s this specialized perception that qualifies her for the bench.
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What’s Going On At the Waste Water Treatment Plant?

AmherstTownHall2

From Dan Ward:

There is a letter posted on the Town’s website from Jeffrey D. Angeil, Amherst’s Assistant Municipal Engineer.  It was recently sent to Richard Rink P.E. at the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation in Buffalo.  It’s good for transparency – however its all gobbledy-gook “engineerese” to the uninitiated.

Basically it’s the Town telling the state how it’s fixing the problems with the sewer plant.  The state inspected the plant and found it to be in violation of its NYS DEC permit- the permit is what allows the TOA – who owns the plant – to discharge treated sewage into Tonawanda Creek, which flows into the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence Seaway, Atlantic Ocean, and then the world. No permit, no discharge. Screw up on your permit, you (us) can be fined. Or the state slaps your hand, and the Town “consents” to an order to remedy.

I think what we really need to know is the nature and extent of the violations, and why they were allowed to exist to begin with.  This is a management issue for the Supervisor – Engineering Dept runs the plant – his responsibility – an Executive Branch Department – I know – I used to sit in his Chair.  Maybe if he wasn’t still practicing medicine several days a week he would be on top of this.

Don’t you think we should know how much this mismanagement has cost us?  How about a taxpayers’ lawsuit for waste and fraud to recover “our” loss?

This has been hidden out there – on the website – in plain sight – hoping no one will notice.  How about an accounting of the Supervisor’s (not some employee’s) responsibilities here???   This sort of incompetence and mismanagement should be an issue in the 2015 Amherst Town elections.

Response from Martin Gugino:

The last page is a spreadsheet that shows that substantial repairs have been ongoing since 2011 – of the order of millions of dollars per year.

Parts of the plan have been discussed at the Town Board. I think at our first meeting, Mr. Marlette said to Charlie that there is no chance that the Town would knowingly accept fracking waste, as the town was embarked on this long expensive project of fixing prior neglect and had no intention of jeopardizing that effort.

Reply from Dan Ward:

This is a real environmental time bomb IMO …the original plant was built with about 90% Federal money (still ours, but a different pocket) back in early 70s…it was supposed to serve Amherst, Clarence and Newstead…that governance agreement has never really been hammered out ..they doubled the capacity some time back but it was all a paper exercise …nothing new was built, the numbers were just changed…its an item that no one seems to understand, nor wants to talk about…the way the plant is constructed, upstream from Tonawanda town and city, they would be the chief complainants – or should be – but I have never heard them – when we screw up. Getting cited for a violation of permit is a BIG deal…should not happen…the Town should be pressing Congressmen Higgins and Collins for more Federal aid, maybe get some of that $urplus Cuomo has now to reconstruct …but you never hear a peep…out of sight, out of mind.  Supposing some environmental lawsuit was filed against the town for downstream damage from fracking or just regular pollution…???  One of the ways a permit can be violated is the discharge of untreated sewer water into Tonawanda Creek…which you could be fined for if you did it as a homeowner, the Town can do it – on a much bigger scale- after a big rainstorm event. We need more capacity at the WWTF to prevent this, and even more as the Town, and Clarence continue to grow..And a local law to prevent taking fracking waste water ….there is some history here, albeit not fracking waste per se, but the Town did accept wastewater used in the process when the Bass Island gas field was opened up in Chautauqua County, it processed as a fee item for profit…

From Maratin Gugino:

Dan, I accept everything you say, but everyone knows that the City of Buffalo dumps untreated sewage into the River when storm water drives the system flow over capacity. How does that figure in, or are they “grandfathered” in some way, or do they have some kind of ongoing plan for remediation?

For my information, is Buffalo’s sewage treatment plant on the island previously known as Squaw Island? How convenient for them. The river is right there.

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Amherst Needs Clerks and Maintenance Workers

Town of Amherst

1) Serious minded volunteers are needed for the Government Study Committee. If you are interested  contact Pat Welch, Chairman of this Committee.

2) Robert McCarthy, Personnel Director said publicly that the Town needs clerks and maintenance people.  Contact Bob in the Personnel Department in Town Hall.

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Several Businesses Would Be Among Casualties of Exchange Street Stadium Site

James Sandoro looks over his property that, after the recent purchase of the Ethox Medical complex, stretches from Chicago Street to Michigan Avenue. The Pierce-Arrow Museum owner is worried a new Bills stadium built on Exchange Street would affect his business.
James Sandoro looks over his property that, after the recent purchase of the Ethox Medical complex, stretches from Chicago Street to Michigan Avenue. The Pierce-Arrow Museum owner is worried a new Bills stadium built on Exchange Street would affect his business.

Chef’s among places that might have to move

Louis Billittier Jr. favors a new Bills stadium downtown.

But he doesn’t want it built just down the street from Chef’s, which he co-owns.

One of the three favored downtown sites from a consultant’s study places a new stadium within an area bordered by Michigan Avenue and Chicago Street, and Swan and Exchange streets. But that site – the smallest of the three – would require the loss of a portion of Seneca Street between Michigan and Chicago, putting the stadium grounds right at the doorstep of one of Buffalo’s most popular restaurants.

For that reason, a likely consequence of the “Exchange Street site” would result in Chef’s – a dining institution that opened in 1923 – having to move.
Read more…

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