[News] Killing Democracy One File at a Time: Justice Department Loosens FBI Domestic Spy Guidelines

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Sun Jun 19 17:38:55 EDT 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Democracy One File at a Time: Justice Department Loosens FBI Domestic 
Spy Guidelines

While the Justice Department is criminally inept, or worse, when it 
comes to prosecuting 
thieves who looted, and continue to loot, trillions of dollars as 
capitalism's economic crisis accelerates, they are extremely adept at 
waging war on dissent.

Last week, <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/13/us/13fbi.html>The New 
York Times disclosed that the FBI "is giving significant new powers 
to its roughly 14,000 agents, allowing them more leeway to search 
databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to 
scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention."

Under "constitutional scholar" Barack Obama's regime, the Bureau will 
revise its "Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide." The "new 
rules," Charlie Savage writes, will give agents "more latitude" to 
investigate citizens even when there is no evidence they have 
exhibited "signs of criminal or terrorist activity."

As the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (<http://bordc.org/>BORDC) 
recently pointed out, "When presented with opportunities to protect 
constitutional rights, our federal government has consistently failed 
us, with Congress repeatedly rubber-stamping the executive authority 
to violate civil liberties long protected by the Constitution."

While true as far it goes, it should be apparent by this late date 
that no branch of the federal government, certainly not Congress or 
the Judiciary, has any interest in limiting Executive Branch power to 
operate lawlessly, in secret, and without any oversight or 
accountability whatsoever.

Just last week, 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/16/us/politics/16cole.html>The New 
York Times revealed that the Bush White House used the CIA "to get" 
academic critic Juan Cole, whose <http://www.juancole.com/>Informed 
Comment blog was highly critical of U.S. imperial adventures in Iraq 
and Afghanistan.

The former CIA officer and counterterrorism official who blew the 
whistle and exposed the existence of a Bush White House "enemies 
list,", Glenn L. Carle, told the Times, "I couldn't believe this was 
happening. People were accepting it, like you had to be part of the team."

Ironically enough, the journalist who broke that story, James Risen, 
is himself a target of an Obama administration witchhunt against 
whistleblowers. Last month, Risen was issued a grand jury subpoena 
that would force him to reveal the sources of his 2006 book, State of War.

These latest "revisions" will expand the already formidable 
investigative powers granted the Bureau by former Attorney General 
Michael B. Mukasey.

Three years ago, 
Washington Post informed us that the FBI's new "road map" permits 
agents "to recruit informants, employ physical surveillance and 
conduct interviews in which agents disguise their identities" and can 
pursue "each of those steps without any single fact indicating a 
person has ties to a terrorist organization."

Accordingly, FBI "assessments" (the precursor to a full-blown 
investigation) already lowered by the previous administration will, 
under Obama, be lowered still further in a bid to "keep us 
safe"--from our constitutional rights.

The Mukasey guidelines, which created the "assessment" fishing 
license handed agents the power to probe people and organizations 
"proactively" without a shred of evidence that an individual or group 
engaged in unlawful activity.

In fact, rather than relying on a reasonable suspicion or allegations 
that a person is engaged in criminal activity, racial, religious or 
political profiling based on who one is or on one's views, are the 
basis for secretive "assessments."

Needless to say, the presumption of innocence, the bedrock of a 
republican system of governance based on the rule of law, like the 
right to privacy, becomes one more "quaint" notion in a National 
Security State. In its infinite wisdom, the Executive Branch has 
cobbled together an investigative regime that transforms anyone, and 
everyone, into a suspect; a Kafkaesque system from which there is no 
hope of escape.

Under Bushist rules, snoops were required to open an inquiry "before 
they can search for information about a person in a commercial or law 
enforcement database," the Times reported. In other words, somewhere 
in the dank, dark bowels of the surveillance bureaucracy a paper 
trail exists that just might allow you to find out your rights had 
been trampled.

But our "transparency" regime intends to set the bar even lower. 
Securocrats will now be allowed to rummage through commercial 
databases "without making a record about their decision."

The ACLU's Michael German, a former FBI whistleblower, told the Times 
that "claiming additional authorities to investigate people only 
further raises the potential for abuse."

Such abuses are already widespread. In 2009 for example, the 
pointed out that "Anti-terrorism training materials currently being 
used by the Department of Defense (DoD) teach its personnel that free 
expression in the form of public protests should be regarded as 'low 
level terrorism'."

As I 
in 2009, citing a 
by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (<https://www.eff.org/>EFF), 
the Bureau's massive Investigative Data Warehouse (IDW), is a 
data-mining Frankenstein that contains more "searchable records" than 
the Library of Congress.

EFF researchers discovered that "In addition to storing vast 
quantities of data, the IDW provides a content management and data 
mining system that is designed to permit a wide range of FBI 
personnel (investigative, analytical, administrative, and 
intelligence) to access and analyze aggregated data from over fifty 
previously separate datasets included in the warehouse."

Accordingly, "the FBI intends to increase its use of the IDW for 
'link analysis' (looking for links between suspects and other 
people--i.e. the Kevin Bacon game) and to start 'pattern analysis' 
(defining a 'predictive pattern of behavior' and searching for that 
pattern in the IDW's datasets before any criminal offence is 
committed--i.e. pre-crime)."

Once new FBI guidelines are in place, and congressional grifters have 
little stomach to challenge government snoops as last month's 
disgraceful "debate" over renewing three repressive provisions of the 
USA Patriot Act attest, "low-level" inquiries will be all but 
impossible to track, let alone contest.

Despite a dearth of evidence that dissident groups or religious 
minorities, e.g., Muslim-Americans have organized violent attacks in 
the heimat, the new guidelines will permit the unlimited deployment 
of "surveillance squads" that "surreptitiously follow targets."

In keeping with the Bureau's long-standing history of employing paid 
informants and agents provocateurs such as 
Darby and a host of others, to infiltrate and disrupt organizations 
and foment violence, rules governing "'undisclosed participation' in 
an organization by an F.B.I. agent or informant" will also be loosened.

The Times reports that the revised manual "clarifies a description of 
what qualifies as a "sensitive investigative matter"--investigations, 
at any level, that require greater oversight from supervisors because 
they involve public officials, members of the news media or academic scholars."

According to the Times, the manual "clarifies the definition of who 
qualifies for extra protection as a legitimate member of the news 
media in the Internet era: prominent bloggers would count, but not 
people who have low-profile blogs."

In other words, if you don't have the deep pockets of a corporate 
media organization to defend you from a government attack, you're 
low-hanging fruit and fair game, which of course, makes a mockery of 
guarantees provided by the First Amendment.

As I 
last month, with requests for "National Security Letters" and other 
opaque administrative tools on the rise, the Obama administration has 
greatly expanded already-repressive spy programs put in place by the 
previous government.

Will data extracted by the Bureau's Investigative Data Warehouse or 
its new Data Integration and Visualization System retain a wealth of 
private information gleaned from commercial and government databases 
on politically "suspect" individuals for future reference? Without a 
paper trail linking a person to a specific inquiry you'd have no way 
of knowing.

Even should an individual file a Freedom of Information Act request 
demanding the government turn over information and records pertaining 
to suspected wrongdoing by federal agents, as Austin anarchist 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/29/us/29surveillance.html>Scott Crow 
did, since the FBI will not retain a record of preliminary inquiries, 
FOIA will be hollowed-out and become, yet another, futile and 
meaningless exercise.

And with the FBI relying on 
<https://www.eff.org/press/archives/2011/05/19>secret legal memos 
issued by the White House Office of Legal Counsel justifying 
everything from unchecked access to internet and telephone records to 
the deployment of government-sanctioned 
on private computers during "national security" investigations, 
political and privacy rights are slowly being strangled.

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