Police Allowed to Spy on Americans

State and local police to spy and collect information on groups and individuals.

Police Allowed to Spy on Americans

The US Justice Department has proposed new domestic spying guidelines allowing local state and police agencies to eavesdrop on Americans, reported the Washington Post.

"This is a continuum that started back on 9/11 to reform law enforcement and the intelligence community to focus on the terrorism threat," said homeland security adviser Kenneth L. Wainstein.

The guidelines, quietly unveiled late last month, allow state and local police to spy and collect information on groups and individuals.

Under the proposal, intelligence information could be obtained from public records, the Internet, law enforcement databases and confidential and undercover sources.

Law enforcement agencies would also be allowed to launch a criminal intelligence investigation on terror suspicions.

They also could share information with a constellation of federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

The rules would apply to the country's 18,000 state and local police agencies that would receive about 1.6 billion dollars a year to help cover the costs of their implementation.

The new guidelines are part of domestic intelligence changes recently issued by the Bush administration.

They include a recent executive order reorganizing federal spy agencies and a pending Justice Department overhaul of FBI procedures for gathering intelligence and investigating terror cases.

"[The proposed changes] catch up with reality," said Jim McMahon, deputy executive director of the International Association of Chiefs.

"It moves what the rules were from 1993 to the new world we live in, but it maintains civil liberties."

ABUSES

But rights groups criticized the new rules for encouraging abuses.

"It turns police officers into spies on behalf of the federal government," said Michael German, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.

German, an FBI agent for 16 years, said police may misuse their powers while collecting intelligence, even when no underlying crimes is suspected, such as when a person gives money to a charity that independently gives money to a group later designated a terrorist group.

"If police officers no longer see themselves as engaged in protecting their communities from criminals and instead as domestic intelligence agents working on behalf of the CIA, they will be encouraged to collect more information."

Ever since 9/11, the Bush administration has been spying on Americans and tapping into the country's main communication networks without court warrants.

In 2004, New York police officers spied on protest groups before the Republican National Convention.

It was also disclosed that California state agents eavesdropped on peace, animal rights and labor activists and Denver police spied on Amnesty International and other groups.

Undercover Maryland State Police agents also spied on death penalty opponents and antiwar groups in 2005 and 2006 to emphasize that the policies would require close oversight.

"If properly implemented, this should assure the public that people are not being investigated by agencies who are not trained in how to protect constitutional rights," said former Justice Department official Jamie S. Gorelick.

"The FBI will need to be vigilant -- both in its policies and its practices -- to live up to that promise."

Agencies
Last Mod: 18 Ağustos 2008, 12:41
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