Monday, June 13, 2011

FBI ratchets up snoop policies on e-mail, garbage cans

No court order, probable cause affidavit, or warrant necessary under revised policy manual

Washington – FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni says the bureau has upgraded its lowest category – assessment - as a means to investigate possible crime or terrorism.

Under new rules in the updated policy manual, agents are allowed to comb through databases, e-mail and telephone records, or garbage cans at will, all without making a record of the inquiry.

The repeated use of surveillance squads without limits and administering polygraph examinations will be allowed – all without presenting affidavits of probable cause to a magistrate, filing charges, or applying for search warrants – even though no actual “preliminary investigation” has been declared.

The policy adjustments are in response to problems with “national security letters,” which accelerated the process of obtaining evidence under anti-terrorist guidelines under the terms of the Patriot Act, said Ms. Caproni.

The revised guidelines do not make public the precise definition of “undisclosed participation” in an organization by an FBI agent or informant.

“Every one of these has been carefully looked at and considered against the backdrop of why do the employees need to be able to do it, what are the possible risks and what are the controls,” said Ms. Caproni. She categorized the changes in procedure as “more like fine-tuning than major changes.”

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