Intrusive New FBI Surveillance Guidelines Proposed

The New York Times reports some members of Congress were briefed earlier this month on a Department of Justice proposal for new FBI guidelines that loosen surveillance restrictions and that a few Senators lodged objections.

The senators said the new guidelines would allow the F.B.I. to open an investigation of an American, conduct surveillance, pry into private records and take other investigative steps “without any basis for suspicion.”

The plan “might permit an innocent American to be subjected to such intrusive surveillance based in part on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or on protected First Amendment activities,” the letter said. It was signed by Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey gave this unreassuring description of the plan: [More...]

Mr. Mukasey emphasized that the F.B.I. would still need a “valid purpose” for an investigation, and that it could not be “simply based on somebody’s race, religion, or exercise of First Amendment rights.”

Couldn't be based "simply" on those things? Does that mean it could be based partially on those things? Apparently yes, and they've been doing it since 2002.

In 2002, John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, allowed F.B.I. agents to visit public sites like mosques or monitor Web sites in the course of national security investigations. The next year, Mr. Bush issued guidelines allowing officials to use ethnicity or race in “narrow” circumstances to detect a terrorist threat.

So some Democrats are objecting now.

The Democratic senators said the draft plan appeared to allow the F.B.I. to go even further in collecting information on Americans connected to “foreign intelligence” without any factual predicate. They also said there appeared to be few constraints on how the information would be shared with other agencies.

They should have balked in 2001 with the Patriot Act. Once you give the Government new powers, it rarely gives them back. They also should have objected when Ashcroft made his pitch for the 2002 Guidlines. And when he revised them in 2003.

A lawyer for the ACLU says the new guidelines will make it easier to use data-mining to create profiles:

“This seems to be based on the idea that the government can take a bunch of data and create a profile that can be used to identify future bad guys,” he said. “But that has not been demonstrated to be true anywhere else.”

As to why Bush is doing this now:

As the end of the Bush administration nears, the White House has been seeking to formalize in law and regulation some of the aggressive counterterrorism steps it has already taken in practice since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mukasey says in light of the objections, he won't sign the new guidelines before September 17 when a hearing is held.

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  • Display: Sort:
    The Democrats (4.85 / 7) (#1)
    by shoephone on Thu Aug 21, 2008 at 03:15:33 AM EST
    have lost all credibility on the issue of constitutional protections. As you stated, the time to object was back in 2001 when the odious Patriot Act was first proposed. And then there's that little matter of the unconstitutional FISA bill that many Senate Democrats, including our presumptive presidential nominee, were only too happy to sign onto.

    The likes of Russ Feingold and Dick Durbin are cancelled out by ever-ready complicitors like Jay Rockefeller and Sylvester Reyes. Even Sheldon Whitehouse seems to give nothing but lip service these days.

    I miss Stephanie Tubbs Jones already. She didn't stand for this kind of cr*p. What a rarity she was.

    Without our civil liberties we are not America. I'm not sure what we are -- an amalgamation of 50 land masses, but certainly not a nation unified by principles or truths held to be self-evident. The Democrats have made excuse after excuse for their failure to protect our constitution, but they helped send us down this rabbit hole.

    And I'm supposed to keep giving these traitors my money and my votes? Ha. That's a real knee-slapper.

    Thank you for you eloquent comment (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by Andy08 on Thu Aug 21, 2008 at 10:09:50 AM EST
    I grew up in a totalitatrian state, where bugged phones where the norm and people talked in codes or completely tuned out and muted all critisicim out of fear...People disappeared so it was no joke.
    I am not suggesting we are on that path but, it comes as an undescribible pain that the US home of the brave and land of the free is not underminding
    people's free speech. Many argue: ah I don't have anything to hide: they miss the point entirely.

    You have to have lived it to understand its full meaning. It is very frightening and very serious.

    People may not disappear but the fact that some innocent people can be held with no habeas corpus under the new laws b/c of suspicion and without being able to see what's the evidence against them is intimidating enough. Surely we want to be safe. Surely there are many who really wish us harm and try to be among us every day. But a police state cannot be the answer.

    One of the reasons I am so angry at the Dems in Congress  my party is that I cease to see the difference with Reps. when it comes to these issues. If they will not stand up and have some spine and more importantly some ingenuity and thought to come up with alternatives that do not intrude on society. I keep on asking: If not the Dems who?? Dems need to wake up.

    These erosions once they become a norm, are close to undoable for generations. Ee have no poitical courage nor ingenutity to keep us safe while still respecting what has made America great.


    Amen! (none / 0) (#5)
    by blueaura on Thu Aug 21, 2008 at 01:00:54 PM EST
    The Democratic party is frustrating me to no end. It's nice to see people like Senators Feingold and Durbin (who I now consider to be my good senator) taking this stuff seriously, but it's nowhere near enough.  The party isn't behind it, and more often than not they just wimp out when it matters.

    Add (none / 0) (#6)
    by Andy08 on Thu Aug 21, 2008 at 01:13:25 PM EST
    HRC to that list. She too is taking it seriously.

    And let's not forget that these (none / 0) (#8)
    by Anne on Thu Aug 21, 2008 at 03:58:45 PM EST
    same Democrats voted to confirm Mukasey to replace Gonzales, and if they didn't understand that Mukasey was going to be tasked with completing all of Bush's plans, and that their confirmation of him  - a much smarter man than Gonzales - was going to make it that much easier, they are even more clueless than I thought.

    My blood still boils when I think about Schumer being Mukasey's biggest cheerleader.

    I share your anger and despair of getting people elected who have a commitment to these principles.


    "Valid purpose".... (4.50 / 2) (#2)
    by kdog on Thu Aug 21, 2008 at 09:52:45 AM EST
    sun god only knows what they can stretch that to mean...coming from an organization that thinks a potted plant is a "valid reason" to invade your home.

    Paging Russ: (none / 0) (#4)
    by Ben Masel on Thu Aug 21, 2008 at 12:17:16 PM EST
    i';ll be on the streets in Denver with a "STOP GOVERNMENT SPYING" banner. come join me, hold the other end.

    Is it within the realm.. (none / 0) (#7)
    by lentinel on Thu Aug 21, 2008 at 02:44:55 PM EST
    of possibility that our constitutional scholar standard bearer  (presumptive) would take a stand against this abomination?

    We already have a protection (none / 0) (#9)
    by eric on Thu Aug 21, 2008 at 04:16:58 PM EST
    from this sort of thing and it's called the Fourth Amendment.  Bush want to "formalize" this policy?  Then he better amend the Constitution.