When the City Council voted in January to supply the Dallas Police Department with license plate scanners that automatically check vehicles against a law enforcement database, the decision was nearly unanimous. Most council members viewed it as a useful crime-fighting tool and little more. Only Angela Hunt expressed any serious reservations about the program, and only Hunt voted no.
Her concern centered on civil liberties and the ability of the government to gather data about those not suspected of wrongdoing. Dallas Police Chief David Brown assured the council that the department would be a careful steward of the information, deleting it after a few months, for example, and ignoring vehicles on private property.
The past six months have done little to allay Hunt's concerns. Quite the opposite. Spurred by the Guardian's report that the National Security Agency has been trawling Americans' phone records, and the Washington Post's followup on a similar monitoring of Internet companies, she went on something of a tirade on Twitter.
Not just Feds. Local govt's creating surveillance infrastructure, too: Red light cameras, license plate scanners, sobriety checkpoints— Angela Hunt (@AngelaHunt) June 7, 2013
"Meanwhile, we know less and less about what they do, as they build walls of secrecy behind which they function." @ggreenwald— Angela Hunt (@AngelaHunt) June 7, 2013
"...That's the imbalance that needs to come to an end. No democracy can be healthy and functional..." @ggreenwald— Angela Hunt (@AngelaHunt) June 7, 2013
"..if the most consequential acts of those who wield political power r completely unknown 2 those 2 whom they r supposed to be accountable."— Angela Hunt (@AngelaHunt) June 7, 2013
Would never have gotten illuminating & damning emails on Trinity Project if Dallas' 90-day email deletion policy had been in place in 2007.— Angela Hunt (@AngelaHunt) June 7, 2013
Next Dallas City Council needs to demand transparency and change @1500marilla policies that intentionally keep public in the dark.— Angela Hunt (@AngelaHunt) June 7, 2013
Don't mind me, just burning a few bridges on my way out the door...— Angela Hunt (@AngelaHunt) June 7, 2013
We gave Hunt a call. She echoed what she'd said on Twitter, calling the federal monitoring "unacceptable and detrimental to democracy" and reiterating her concerns about what's happening locally.
"I don't think people realize we're setting up a surveillance system on the local level that can easily" become part of a nationwide network. Her kids started crying at that point so we let her go, but she made her point.