Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Bush-era rule expands FBI power

with 2 comments

Interesting story by Daphne Eviatar:

Veterans groups and conservatives roared last week when news broke that the FBI was targeting veterans in a broad probe of extremist groups. But little noise was made in December, when the Bush administration quietly granted the FBI wide-ranging authority to investigate individuals or groups, regardless of whether they are suspected of criminal activity.

The Attorney General guidelines, proposed last summer and adopted by Attorney General Michael Mukasey, appear to be particularly problematic. Although in the past these guidelines required that the FBI have at least some factual basis for believing that the target of an investigation was engaged in criminal activity, in December 2008, Mukasey instituted new guidelines that authorized the FBI to conduct “assessments” of suspects without requiring any factual basis for suspicion.

Specifically, the Mukasey Guidelines, purportedly “to prevent future terrorist acts against the American people,” allow the FBI to use physical surveillance; interview a person’s neighbors, landlord, colleagues or friends; recruit and assign informants to attend political or other meetings under false pretenses – essentially to act as an undercover spy; and to retrieve personal data from commercial databases; all without having a factual basis to believe that the target of the investigation has done anything wrong.

“I’m a former FBI agent and I can tell you it’s beyond bizarre,” said Michael German, policy counsel on National Security, Immigration and Privacy with the American Civil Liberties Union, and a 16-year veteran of the FBI.

The Attorney General Guidelines were first created in 1976 in the wake of the revelation of intelligence and law enforcement abuses during the Watergate era and revealed by the Church Committee. “The guidelines always required articulable facts to support a reasonable suspicion that someone was violating the law,” said German. “That’s a very low standard.”

Similarly, the Code of Federal Regulations has long required that state and local law enforcement agencies receiving federal funding “collect information concerning an individual only if there is reasonable suspicion that the individual is involved in criminal conduct or activity and the information is relevant to that criminal conduct or activity.”

Reasonable suspicion is much less than the standard for an arrest, which requires “probable cause.”

“But you need to articulate why you think this person deserves your attention,” said German. “I would say to FBI agents, if you can’t articulate why you’re investigating this person then you probably shouldn’t be out there.”

Under this new “assessments” authority, however, the FBI can recruit informants and send them, undercover, into any organization to spy on them. To critics, that seems eerily reminiscent of FBI counter-intelligence programs in the 1960s and early 70s, used to spy on political leaders and organizations that the government considered radical, such as the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 April 2009 at 3:14 pm

2 Responses

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  1. shaving? Whats up with the political post and the shaving book?




    21 April 2009 at 4:53 pm

  2. My blog follows my interests, including shaving, politics, cooking, movies, jazz, and so on. If you want to see only the shaving posts, you can click “shaving” in Category Search. If you use a reader, such as Google Reader, you can subscribe to posts in a particular category by subscribing to, for example, “” to get shaving posts, or “” to get food-related posts. (Don’t enter the quotation marks when you subscribe.)



    21 April 2009 at 6:00 pm

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