The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 24      July 4, 2011

U.S. government, FBI tighten
squeeze on rights of workers
(front page)
The FBI is revising its procedures manual to further broaden the powers of its 14,000 agents to spy on individuals and organizations, according to a recent article in the New York Times. The move comes on the heels of President Barack Obama’s decision in May to renew provisions of the Patriot Act, which give the FBI wide latitude to wiretap and spy on individuals, gaining access to their bank records, medical histories, and personal papers such as diaries and letters.

The soon-to-be released new edition of the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide builds on earlier revisions made in 2008, which authorized agents to “proactively” begin investigations—euphemistically referred to as “assessments”—without even the pretense of evidence beforehand. More than 11,600 of these assessments were initiated by the FBI in a four-month period beginning in late 2008, according to the U.S. Justice Department. The 2008 manual also allowed agents to maintain information on individuals without any alleged justification and loosened restrictions on infiltrating groups and use of informants.

Aspects of the new guidelines—referred to by FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni as just some “fine-tuning”—were summarized in a meeting between officials and selected “privacy advocates,” the Times reported.

According to the Times, FBI agents are no longer required to record when they conduct an “assessment” using the massive network of databases at their disposal, leaving no trail. Spies can also now search the trash and use “lie detector” tests on anyone without even the most flimsy evidence of any wrongdoing, as long as they state such snooping could turn up information that could be useful in pressuring that person to become an informant.

Under the 2008 rules “surveillance squads” were to be used only once during the “assessment” phase. Agents will now be able to conduct physical spy operations repeatedly without any evidence of alleged criminal activity. The new rules also say FBI spies and provocateurs can attend up to five meetings of an organization without revealing their identity before special, secret rules governing that activity go into effect.

Wider latitude for FBI snoops is being put in place as the agency steps up probes and disruption operations against individuals and groups who oppose government policy. Last September FBI agents raided the homes of 14 antiwar activists in Chicago and Minnesota. The 14, along with nine other activists subpoenaed in North Carolina and California, have refused to testify before a grand jury.

“The Obama administration has long been bumbling along in the footsteps of its predecessors when it comes to sacrificing Americans’ basic rights and liberties under the false flag of fighting terrorism,” stated a June 19 New York Times editorial. “Now the Obama team seems ready to lurch even farther down that dismal road than George W. Bush did.”
Related articles:
Socialists respond to suit attacking workers’ rights  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home