By Naomi Spencer
25 August 2008
In recent weeks, Bush administration officials have introduced a number of provisions that substantially widen the powers of intelligence and law enforcement agencies to conduct spying and other operations within the US against American citizens.
Last week, several news outlets reported that the Justice Department had drafted new rules on intelligence gathering operations which it plans to ratify on October 1, the first day of the new fiscal year and one month before the November elections.
Although details of the draft have not been made publicly available, officials told the Associated Press (AP) that the changes give explicit permission to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to spy on Americans even if there is no basis for suspicion of criminal activity or allegations of wrongdoing. According to an August 20 report by the AP, officials speaking on condition of anonymity said “the new policy would let agents open preliminary terrorism investigations after mining public records and intelligence to build a profile of traits that, taken together, were deemed suspicious.”
The FBI would be authorized to conduct activities such as “long-term surveillance, interviewing neighbors and work-mates, recruiting informants and searching commercial databases for information on people.”
There can be little doubt that among those targeted will be the sizable and growing segment of the population actively opposed to the government’s policies. “Pretext interviews” and the use of “recruited informants”—who infiltrate targeted organizations—are deeply anti-democratic and unconstitutional tactics that the FBI, in the anti-communist Cold War era, widely employed against socialists and civil rights groups.