Upcoming DHS head Napolitano backs invasive surveillance tech

"She sees technology as the panacea of all our law enforcement problems and immigration issues," said Alessandra Soler Meetze, head of Arizona’s American Civil Liberties Union chapter. "It’s like she’s embracing these technologies without taking the time to appreciate the privacy implications."


Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Harold Sanders said the state’s 25 license plate scanners are "tremendously helpful" because they check for stolen cars by instantly comparing a license plate with a national crime database. The system has read 1.6 million plates and led to 122 arrests since mid-2006, Sanders said.

If confirmed as Homeland Security secretary, Napolitano will have opportunities to deploy technology, including sensors along U.S. borders and airport body scanners that look for weapons on passengers by taking images underneath clothing.

"She’s going to have a lot more money to play with" for technology, Meetze said.

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In a speech in 2007, Napolitano, a former state attorney general, called for "technology-driven border control." She advocated more radar, motion sensors and aerial surveillance to spot illegal entrants.

Napolitano spokeswoman Jeanine L’Ecuyer said the governor takes a practical approach. "It makes sense to use technology as a tool for law enforcement. I don’t think she sees it as the be-all and end-all," L’Ecuyer said.

Napolitano views DNA samples for suspects as "the modern equivalent of fingerprints" and hoped the new ID card would expedite border crossings, L’Ecuyer said. Face-recognition technology could "detect violent wanted fugitives" at state entry points, Napolitano said in a March 2007 letter to President Bush. The technology never got launched, L’Ecuyer said.

Bryan Turner, head of the conservative John Birch Society in Arizona, said he feared the ID cards would become mandatory and people who didn’t have one would be presumed to be illegal residents.

State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Phoenix Democrat, said Napolitano "looks for a balance between protecting civil liberties and ensuring safety."

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