The Federal Bureau of Investigation has decided that its 14,000 agents do not have enough legal power to snoop through people’s databases or spy on people.
According to the New York Times the FBI has edited its operations manual, which has the catchy title, Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, to allow its spooks to do a little more snooping.
Valerie E. Caproni, the FBI general counsel, said the bureau had carefully considered each change to its operations manual. After all, it takes a lot of thinking about how to give yourself more power.
Of course, the FBI needs all these rule changes to protect the US from the huge number of terrorist attacks carried out by skilled operatives that are plaguing the Land of the Free.
Not surprisingly, American Civil Liberties Union’s Michael German said it was unwise to further ease restrictions on agents’ power, especially if they lacked a firm reason to suspect someone of wrongdoing.
Some of the most notable changes in the rule book apply to the lowest category of investigations, called an “assessment.”
This is what allows agents to look into people and organisations “proactively” and without clear cut evidence of them doing anything.
Basically this means that an agent has to suspect a person. Obviously, the only reason they would harbour any suspicions is if they have a gut reaction, perhaps based on the fact that the person has a beard, a turban and a tendency to worship a different God.
Under current rules, agents must open such an inquiry before they can search for information about a person in a commercial or law enforcement database.
Under the new rules, agents will be allowed to search such databases without having to tell anyone. This is brilliant if you are an agent and happen to notice a nice looking person you might like to ask out.
German points out that the change would make it harder to detect and deter inappropriate use of databases for personal purposes.
Caproni said it was too cumbersome to require agents to open formal inquiries before running quick checks. Agents could not put information uncovered from such searches into FBI files unless they later opened an assessment, obviously if it is a person’s phone number they were looking for, they would only write it down in their little black book.
The new rules will also relax a restriction on administering lie-detector tests and searching people’s rubbish.
Under current rules, agents cannot use such techniques until they open a “preliminary investigation,” but now they can pull people off the street and wire them up to some bogus technology which has never been proven to work.
Searching rubbish bins and forcing lie detector tests appear to be the same category so snuffling in someone’s recycling. It is unlikely you will find anything, but it does mean that you can scare the b’geesus out of your target and convince them to become a grass.
Caproni insisted that information gathered that way could also be useful for other reasons, like determining whether the subject might pose a threat to agents.
After all, if they have doodled lots of guns on the napkins they have thrown away, perhaps with “death to the FBI” scribbled underneath, it might be a good idea to visit their house carrying a weapon or two.