Emails reveal massive spying program aimed at identifying people who attend gun shows, tracking where they live
Federal agents not only spied on Americans attending gun shows, they may have compiled lists of them, including what cars they drive.
The revelations, found in previously unknown government emails, raise disturbing questions about the extent of federal spying on law-abiding Americans while at the same time missing multiple warnings about avowed Islamic terrorists in Orlando and New York.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
Emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show agents with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency crafted a plan in 2010 to use license-plate readers—devices that record the plate numbers of all passing cars—at gun shows in Southern California, including one in Del Mar, not far from the Mexican border.
Agents then compared that information to cars that crossed the border, hoping to find gun smugglers, according to the documents and interviews with law-enforcement officials with knowledge of the operation…
… There is no indication the gun-show surveillance led to any arrests or investigative leads, but the officials didn’t rule out that such surveillance may have happened elsewhere. The agency has no written policy on its use of license-plate readers and could engage in similar surveillance in the future, they said.
“The law-enforcement officials with knowledge of the operation confirmed ICE got local police officers to drive around the parking lot at the gun show and use their license-plate readers to collect all of the cars’ information,” the Journal reports.
The spying program is part of a long-standing effort by the Obama administration to blame gun shows and private dealers for crimes committed by Mexican drug cartels.
That includes “Operation Fast and Furious”, in which the Obama administration illegally sold guns to known Mexican drug cartels.
Under the Bush administration, those who purchased the weapons were immediately arrested before they could leave the premises. But in October 2009, the Obama administration changed their procedure, allowing the cartels to keep the weapons so the White House could track where they were being used for crimes.
As a result, weapons provided to Mexican drug lords by the Obama administration were traced to over 300 murders in Mexico and the United States, including that of U.S. Border Patrol Agent, Brian Terry.
The Obama administration used that statistic to argue against legal gun sales to Americans by licensed U.S. dealers.
The license plate scanner program goes even deeper, spying on Americans who are not even suspected of committing any crimes.
The Obama administration moved ahead with the program, employing local law enforcement to carry it out, because federal agents declined to take part in it.
“Drug Enforcement Administration had considered conducting such surveillance at gun shows, but scrapped the plans for unclear reasons,” the Journal reports. “Emails and interviews with law-enforcement officials show ICE went ahead with the strategy in 2010, relying on local police to do so.”
It is possible, and perhaps likely, the federal government kept the license plate records of Americans attending gun shows.
Under the 1994 crime bill which authorized the creation of the National Instant Check System for gun purchases, the federal government is prohibited from keeping records of who underwent background checks to buy a firearm from a federally-licensed dealer.
But they’re doing it anyway.
“The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the go-to federal oversight agency, conducted an audit of ATF and found it does not remove certain identifiable information, despite the law explicitly mandating it do so,” The Daily Caller reported, referring to records sent to federal agencies by licensed gun dealers. “GAO conducted reviews for four data systems, and concluded at least two of ATF’s systems violated official protocols.”
If the federal government is breaking the law to compile and keep lists of Americans who bought firearms, it would be safe to assume that, not only are they compiling information grabbed through license plate scanners, but it is being done on a much wider basis.