WASHINGTON POST: The Justice Department has proposed a new domestic spying measure that would make it easier for state and local police to collect intelligence about Americans, share the sensitive data with federal agencies and retain it for at least 10 years. The proposed changes would revise the federal government’s rules for police intelligence-gathering for the first time since 1993 and would apply to any of the nation’s 18,000 state and local police agencies that receive roughly $1.6 billion each year in federal grants.
Quietly unveiled late last month, the proposal is part of a flurry of domestic intelligence changes issued and planned by the Bush administration in its waning months. They include a recent executive order that guides the reorganization of federal spy agencies and a pending Justice Department overhaul of FBI procedures for gathering intelligence and investigating terrorism cases within U.S. borders. Taken together, critics in Congress and elsewhere say, the moves are intended to lock in policies for Bush’s successor and to enshrine controversial post-Sept. 11 approaches that some say have fed the greatest expansion of executive authority since the Watergate era.
Michael German, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union and a formerly an FBI agent for 16 years, said easing established limits on intelligence-gathering would lead to abuses against peaceful political dissenters. In addition to the Maryland case, he pointed to reports in the past six years that undercover New York police officers infiltrated protest groups before the 2004 Republican National Convention; that California state agents eavesdropped on peace, animal rights and labor activists; and that Denver police spied on Amnesty International and others before being discovered. “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,” German said. “It turns police officers into spies on behalf of the federal government.” MORE
NEW YORK TIMES: For more than five years, President Bush authorized government spying on phone calls and e-mail to and from the United States without warrants. He rejected offers from Congress to update the electronic eavesdropping law, and stonewalled every attempt to investigate his spying program. Suddenly, Mr. Bush is in a hurry. He has submitted a bill that would enact enormous, and enormously dangerous, changes to the 1978 law on eavesdropping. It would undermine the fundamental constitutional principle — over which there can be no negotiation or compromise — that the government must seek an individual warrant before spying on an American or someone living here legally.
To heighten the false urgency, the Bush administration will present this issue, as it has before, as a choice between catching terrorists before they act or blinding the intelligence agencies. But the administration has never offered evidence that the 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, hampered intelligence gathering after the 9/11 attacks. Mr. Bush simply said the law did not apply to him. The director of national intelligence, Michael McConnell, said yesterday that the evidence of what is wrong with FISA was too secret to share with all Americans. That’s an all-too-familiar dodge. MORE