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The Justice Department has been secretly gathering and storing hundreds of millions of records about motorists in an effort to build a national database that tracks the movement of vehicles across the country, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. The newspaper said the main aim of the license plate tracking program run by the Drug Enforcement Administration was to seize automobiles, money and other assets to fight drug trafficking, according to one government document. While U.S. officials have said they track vehicles near the Mexican border to combat drug cartels, it had not been previously revealed the DEA had been working to expand the database "throughout the United States," the Journal said, citing an email. The Journal quoted Senator Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, as saying the use of license plate readers "raises significant privacy concerns." A spokesman for the Justice Department, which oversees the DEA, told the paper the program complied with federal law.
By Jonathan Allen and Barbara Goldberg NEW YORK/MAPLEWOOD, N.J. (Reuters) - A massive, wind-whipped blizzard slammed into the U.S. Northeast on Monday, creating havoc for more than 60 million people and forcing New York City to shut down on a scale not seen since Superstorm Sandy devastated the region in 2012. States of emergency were declared in at least six states - New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire - as people were urged to stay home with transit systems, including the New York City subway, suspending services and roadways closed amid white-out conditions. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a travel ban for all but emergency vehicles on every road in 13 counties in southern New York state, including New York City, suburban Westchester and Long Island, with the threat of a $300 fine for violators. His peers in Connecticut and Massachusetts imposed similar bans on driving.