Law and Disorder Radio – FBI to Expand Domestic Surveillance Powers – Hosts: Heidi Boghosian, Michael Steven Smith & Michael Ratner – Produced by Geoff Brady

Law and Disorder Radio 


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CCR: Representing Families of Suicide GTMO Prisoners

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 FBI to Expand Domestic Surveillance Powers

On many of our shows, we’ve discussed the broad overreaching powers and underhanded tactics the FBI uses when targeting environmental or pro-Palestine activists, mosques and Muslim-Americans. Now, new expanded FBI guidelines would allow agents easier access to search commercial or law enforcement databases, conduct lie detector tests, search people’s trash and conduct physical surveillance. Read: Anything Goes: The New FBI Guidelines

Though the guidelines are still under review, they would allow agents further access into people’s lives without suspicion of wrongdoing. The guidelines will be part of a new edition of the FBI manual, the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide. Civil libertarians criticize the guidelines in light of recent cases such as the Fort Dix Five, the Newburgh Four and Yassin Aref in Albany, where the FBI is accused of entrapping people by infiltrating poor or specific ethnic and religious communities. Michael Ratner’s forthcoming book: Hell No: Your Right To Dissent in Twenty-First Century America

Attorney Mike German:

  • The government is saying they have unfettered authority to look into your private life without any justification, and they’re claiming they don’t need any factual basis to suspect you of wrongdoing.
  • National Security Letters were initially a tool to go after KGB spies, it was expanded to international terrorists. What the Patriot Act did is expand it to anyone who’s relevant to an investigation of spies or terrorists.
  • The fact that the government had no reason to suspect you was no longer relevant if they could use this tool.
  • That was originally set to sunset in 2005. Inspector General audit on the FBI’s use of this tool. There were five IG reports, that found the FBI were using these tools against people two or three times removed from the person of the investigation.
  • Phone records, bank records, credit history and they gag the bank or place from telling you.
  • IG audit found between 2003 and 2006 there were over 200,000 National Security Letters.
  • Its the FBI manual, the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, the FBI’s internal policy. Their internal authority created by the Department of Justice.
  • These were initially designed to curb the abuse. As an FBI agent for 16 years, I found it useful to focus on the people doing bad things, not straying from that and focusing on people saying things I didn’t like, or doing something I didn’t think was right but wasn’t illegal.
  • The outgoing administration in 2008 had radically altered the guidelines. People who are completely innocent and not suspected of doing anything wrong can come under suspicion and investigation under these assessments.
  • The 2008 guidelines allowed the FBI to map communities based on race and ethnicity and track racial and ethnic behavior and facilities.
  • Under these new guidelines in 2011, an FBI agent would be allowed to search private databases, data aggregators, that pull together all sorts of information based on marketing, state and local law enforcement information – includes if you’ve also been a victim of crime or witness to a criminal act. No factual predicate required.
  • It doesn’t require attorney general approval to open an assessment. There’s no necessity to identify what federal crime they think you’re violating.
  • The tools include physical surveillance, they can stand outside your house, follow you around 24/7. They can get an informant to start engaging you in a false pretense, and your friends or neighbors.
  • They can interview your neighbors, they can interview your employer.
  • When you become a subject of investigation you get on the terrorist watch list.
  • The scary thing the Inspector General revealed is that these abuses were all under the 2002 guidelines. He said where he found violations, under the 2008 guidelines, this would all be perfectly legitimate.
  • We at the ACLU are not just seeing the abuse with the FBI but within state and local law enforcement. You can visit the ACLU Spy Files page; we’ve documented spying and obstruction of first amendment activity in 31 states and the District of Columbia.
  • It was predictable because these laws were put in place to prevent exactly that, because that’s what the state and local police and the FBI were doing in the absence of rules.
  • It’s not surprising that when you take those rules away, they go into political spying mode.
  • It’s very frustrating, because so much of what’s happening is happening is secret.
  • Scott Crow: He found under a FOIA request, the FBI had gone to the IRS to find some small tax violation that they could put him in jail for. Because they suspected him of something, yet they had years of investigation and found no wrongdoing.
  • Mike German’s book, Thinking Like A Terrorist, is a look at what terrorists are trying to accomplish, that is to coerce the government into taking measures that actually take away the government’s legitimacy.
  • Past Law and Disorder interview with Attorney Mike German.

Guest –  Mike German, ACLU attorney and former FBI agent. German develops policy positions and proactive strategies on pending legislation and executive branch actions concerning domestic surveillance, data mining, freedom to travel, medical and financial privacy, national ID cards, whistleblower protection, military commissions and law enforcement conduct. German currently serves as an adjunct professor for Law Enforcement and Terrorism at the National Defense University and is a Senior Fellow with German graduated from the Northwestern University Law School, and graduated cum laude from Wake Forest University with a B.A. in Philosophy. A sixteen-year veteran of federal law enforcement, German served as a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, where he specialized in domestic terrorism and covert operations. As an undercover agent, German twice infiltrated extremist groups using constitutionally sound law enforcement techniques. These operations successfully prevented terrorist attacks by winning criminal convictions against terrorists.