Killing Democracy One File at a Time: Justice Department Loosens FBI Domestic Spy Guidelines
by Tom Burghardt
June 21, 2011
While the Justice Department is criminally inept, or worse, when it comes to prosecuting corporate 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, 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 (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, The New York Times revealed that the Bush White House used the CIA “to get” academic critic Juan Cole, whose 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, The 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.