2011-06-14 "America’s Secret Police Grab Still More Power" by Bob Bauman
But I’ll bet the Federal Bureau of Investigation will get away with this latest unconstitutional power grab.
A majority of the U.S. Congress will not act to stop it – because the politicians believe most Americans don’t care enough to understand and be concerned about the growing American police state.
The alarming news [http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/13/us/13fbi.html] is that the FBI is granting significant and highly disturbing new powers to its 14,000 agents, allowing each agent to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention but who have committed no crime – all to be done without a warrant or judicial approval.
This FBI announcement is rather like trying to cure an alcoholic by giving him unlimited access to more booze whenever the drunk wants another drink. Give them the power and they will abuse it.
Respect for the Hoover’s FBI -
As a young American boy, over half a century ago, I was raised to respect J. Edgar Hoover (below) and the FBI. I listened attentively to radio programs like “The FBI in Peace and War” and “Gangbusters” that glorified FBI agents as men whom I was told were defending Americans’ rights.
Perhaps in those bygone days that was the FBI’s role; but not anymore.
Since the terror attacks of 9-11, 2001, U.S. politicians have forced the FBI to assume an odious role not unlike that of the hated Soviet NKVD or KGB or the Okhrana of the Romanov Tsars – a totally un-American role of spying on any and all citizens without regard to the strictures imposed by the Fourth Amendment or the Bill of Rights.
Record of Abuse -
The record of the FBI in the last decade is one long list of abused powers and unconstitutional acts, followed by apologies and promises to sin no more — but only when they were caught [http://sovereignsociety.com/2003/11/14/11-14-03-stealth-attack-act-or-lose-your-brfreedom-a-letter/].
In 2002, I reported that the FBI quietly had been asking offshore banks and other financial institutions to review their records for transactions involving scores of U.S. small businesses, organizations and people, none of whom had been charged with any crime.
The FBI’s supposed object was to find terrorists and their cash. The use of these “national security letters” (NSLs) marked a drastic change in the relationship between law enforcement and the financial industry, which used to surrender records to government agents only after official proof of probable cause that a crime had occurred, or was about to occur, and after a search warrant was issued by a federal judge or magistrate.
This latest FBI power grab announced today has been around since 2003 when I told my readers about President George W. Bush’s plan for a huge expansion of FBI “administrative subpoenas” against suspected terrorists without a showing of probable cause. Under the 2003 Bush plan any FBI agent on their own could decide where to search, what to search for and who to arrest.
These secret subpoena powers were originally proposed after 9/11 but dropped by Congress as too extreme. Even before then J. Edgar Hoover repeatedly asked Congress to give his agents this broad power and was rebuffed repeatedly. But in those days the Congress usually understood and respected the U.S. Constitution they were sworn to uphold.
DOJ Criticizes FBI Abuse -
In 2007 I wrote about a U.S. Justice Department’s Inspector General Report criticizing the FBI abuse of these national security letters in obtaining thousands of telephone, business and financial records without prior judicial approval [http://bauman.sovereignsociety.com/2011/06/14/2007/03/09/fbi-abuses-patriot-act-powers-we-told-you-so/].
The DOJ report said the FBI lacked controls to assure the subpoenas were issued properly. Although they citied the PATRIOT Act as their authority, the DOJ found the FBI issued illegally more than 20,000 NSLs.
Before the 2001 PATRIOT Act became law, NSLs only could be issued narrowly against a few individuals suspected of the very serious crime of espionage, defined as “spying to obtain secret government information.” But the PATRIOT Act apparently allows NSLs to be used against anyone, including U.S. citizens, even if they are not suspected of espionage or any other criminal activity.
As I reported [http://bauman.sovereignsociety.com/2011/06/14/2010/01/21/more-patriot-act-abuse/], the FBI went right ahead, again based on the PATRIOT Act, secretly using NSLs to demand sensitive customer information from telephone and internet communications companies, financial institutions and credit agencies even when individuals were not under suspicion of terrorism and, of course, without prior judicial approval.
So blatant was this FBI abuse that the U.S. Department of Justice’s own Office of the Inspector General once again publicly criticized their actions.
This OIG report was the third since 2008 that detailed the FBI’s flagrant abuse of NSLs. The FBI responded with assurances that they had this under control and wouldn’t do it again.
Is This Constitutional?
Over more than two centuries scores of U.S. Supreme Court cases have defined the constitutional rights embodied in the Fourth Amendment that prohibit government searches without a judicial warrant based on a prior showing of probable cause.
Until the PATRIOT Act, police requests for search warrants had to be based on a reasonable belief that the person under investigation had committed or was about to commit a crime.
The truth is that the government in general, and the FBI in particular, really don’t need these huge police powers. They already have authority to investigate and prosecute anyone whenever there is probable cause to believe a crime has been or is about to be committed. They also have authority to engage in surveillance of anyone when there is probable cause to believe that person represents a foreign power or is a spy, whether or not the person is suspected of a crime.
In my opinion, while destroying our liberty and privacy, these broadly expanded police and FBI powers have not increased measurably our national security or safety.
When the FBI SWAT team arrives at your home or office door it will be too late to protest. Let your senators and congressman know how you feel — even if they ignore you, you will have done your patriotic duty.
God save America.