Living in an Imperial World: More Power to 'Em
As posted by David, here's good news for fans of the agency that brought you Ruby Ridge, Waco, Richard Jewell at the '96 Olympics, and other great moments in law enforcement history:
Rule Changes Would Give FBI Agents Extensive New Powers
By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 12, 2008
The Justice Department will unveil changes to FBI ground rules today that would put much more power into the hands of line agents pursuing leads on national security, foreign intelligence and even ordinary criminal cases.
The overhaul, the most substantial revision to FBI operating instructions in years, also would ease some reporting requirements between agents, their supervisors and federal prosecutors in what authorities call a critical effort to improve information gathering and detect terrorist threats.
The changes would give the FBI's more than 12,000 agents the ability at a much earlier stage to conduct physical surveillance, solicit informants and interview friends of people they are investigating without the approval of a bureau supervisor. Such techniques are currently available only after FBI agents have opened an investigation and developed a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed or that a threat to national security is developing.
Authorities say the changes would eliminate confusion for agents who investigate drug, gang or national security cases.
The overhaul touches on several sensitive areas. It would allow, for example, agents to interview people in the United States about foreign intelligence cases without warrants or prior approval of their supervisors. It also would rewrite 1976 guidelines established after Nixon-era abuses that restrict the FBI's authority to intervene in times of civil disorder and to infiltrate opposition groups.
"We wanted simpler, clearer and more uniform standards and procedures for domestic operations," said a senior Justice Department official. "We view this as the next step in responding to post-9/11 requests that the FBI become better at collecting intelligence and using that intelligence to prevent attacks."
The move comes a year after the Justice Department's inspector general documented widespread lapses involving one of the bureau's most potent investigative tools, secret "national security letters" that FBI agents send to banks and phone companies to demand sensitive information in terrorism probes...
For those who read the whole thing, you'll note that the professional journalists at the WaPo don't follow up on the issue raised in that last paragraph.
Consequences for abuses of existing investigative tools couldn't possible be relevant to a discussion of even more latitude being granted to the Federal state security police.
But I'm sure that the McCain/Palin team will address the issue.