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Law Enforcement Goes Back to School This Fall (And, OMG, It's Totally Going to Flunk Civics!)

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September 12, 2008

Well, we knew they were coming and we knew they’d be bad but we just didn’t know how specifically and constitutionally repulsive they’d be. That all changed today. I’m talking about the new FBI guidelines. Yes. Those.

The ACLU and various other groups met with the FBI today to go over the guidelines which will govern investigations into, among other things, national security, civil disorders and demonstrations. What our people walked out with was a greater understanding of just how low the bureau intends to set the bar when it comes to beginning “assessments” (essentially the step before investigations). And it gets so much worse. Read our release for the dirty details.

(One funny little piece of the puzzle is that these guidelines will be put into place on October 1 and agents have already been trained. And this is when they bring in the groups that care about your privacy. Clearly, our opinion means a lot.)

Evidence? We don’t need no stinkin’ evidence! Putting the horse before the cart, agents will now be allowed to gather evidence before anyone asks them to produce evidence to justify the investigation they’ve ALREADY BEGUN. You know reasonable suspicion? Kiss it goodbye.

So, staring October 1, things FBI agents will be able to do with flimsy, little or possibly even no evidence:

  • Begin surveillance
  • Begin harvesting informants
  • Conduct undercover interviews

Absolutely insane, right? Right. Does anyone else feel like the Bush Administration is going practically kamikaze before it gets booted out of the White House? They’re practically daring Congress to pull out the big guns to shoot their policies down but, if you read this blog regularly, you can probably already guess that this Congress won’t.

Mike German is our very own National Security Policy Counsel and a 16-year veteran of the FBI. He spoke about the guidelines earlier this week when he appeared with some other advocacy group representatives at the National Press Club for an event thrown by the American Constitution Society. You should take a look. He does a lot of the talking And he’s a lot smarter than me.

Looking ahead — Next week, FBI Director Mueller will be testifying/explaining himself before both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. Get out your Cracker Jacks — legislative double-header! Look for questions on NSLs and these pesky guidelines. There may be some live blogging going on so be sure to come on over and check it out.