“The Justice Department sharply eased restrictions on domestic spying Thursday, handing the FBI broad, new authority to monitor Internet sites, libraries, churches and political organizations for clues to terrorist plots….
Ashcroft, claiming FBI agents in the field have been hampered by a range of bureaucratic restrictions, said the new guidelines would help them to do their jobs….
He said, for instance, that under present guidelines, FBI agents 'cannot surf the Web, the way you and I can,' and cannot simply walk into public events to observe people and activities.
The new guidelines give FBI agents more freedom to investigate terrorism even when they are not pursuing a particular case.” [Yahoo News] (Emphasis mine.)
At what point are we as a society going to decide that giving up our right to privacy is NOT worth the trade-off of possibly finding a terrorist somewhere, someday. It's bad enough that the FBI can walk into any library and get patron records without having to prove just cause (and the library can't even tell anybody about it), but now agents can investigate anyone, anywhere, with no cause what-so-ever. And not just libraries.
Where is this going to end?
“But as word of the new guidelines circulated yesterday, some civil liberties groups expressed fears of a Big Brother government monitoring its citizens.
'The FBI is now telling the American people, 'You no longer have to do anything unlawful in order to get that knock on the door,' ' said Laura Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington office. 'You can be doing a prefectly legal activity like worshiping or talking in a chat room, they can spy on you anyway….'
The new rules will allow agents to surf the Internet for Web sites that might give hints to terrorist activity, according to the description. The new guidelines will allow investigators to seek out and 'identify sites and forums in which bomb-making instructions, preparations for cyberterrorism, child pornography, and stolen credit card information are openly traded and disseminated….'
The ACLU's Murphy said, however, that the new guidelines could open the door to the same kind of problems evident in the FBI's aggressive surveillance and harassment of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.”
How long before that list includes actions John Ashcroft finds personally objectionable (euthanasia, adult pornography, abortion, etc.)? [The Shifted Librarian]