With everybody’s eyeballs and earlobes focused on the economy and the election, the Justice Department pushed through rule changes that allow the FBI to go back to the bad old days of spying more aggressively on Americans. Civil libertarians and even some lawmakers are in an uproar. The Center for Investigative Reporting has a must-read report that explains why.
Center for Investigative Reporting:
Among the powers agents now have for an assessment:
• Conduct surveillance without an otherwise required court order.
• Obtain grand jury subpoenas for personal telephone and e-mail accounts.
• Recruit informants for feeding information about a group or person to the bureau.
• Examine records maintained by federal, state and local government agencies, which are typically not accessible to the public, like police databases profiling past criminal suspects.
In particular, the powers allow agents to “collect information relating to demonstration activities,” according to the guidelines, for the purpose of protecting “public health and safety” before a major event, like the party conventions that occurred in St. Paul and Denver. The bureau can gather intelligence to determine where political demonstrators are lodging during the event, how they’re traveling there, where demonstration activities are planned and how many people will attend, all without advanced proof that a national-security threat exists.