The wall separating “foreign” intelligence operations from domestic criminal investigations has finally, fully collapsed. The FBI is now acting on a rule change initiated by the Bush administration, and finally massaged into actionable policy by Obama: Now, FBI agents can query the NSA’s database of Americans’ international communications, collected without warrants pursuant to Section 702 of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act. That law put congress’ stamp of approval on the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, which was widely denounced as totalitarian when the New York Times‘ James Risen exposed it to the world in 2005.
The New York Times reports:
Until now, National Security Agency analysts have filtered the surveillance information for the rest of the government. They search and evaluate the information and pass only the portions of phone calls or email that they decide is pertinent on to colleagues at the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies. And before doing so, the N.S.A. takes steps to mask the names and any irrelevant information about innocent Americans.
The new system would permit analysts at other intelligence agencies to obtain direct access to raw information from the N.S.A.’s surveillance to evaluate for themselves.
What does this rule change mean for you? In short, domestic law enforcement officials now have access to huge troves of American communications, obtained without warrants, that they can use to put people in cages. FBI agents don’t need to have any “national security” related reason to plug your name, email address, phone number, or other “selector” into the NSA’s gargantuan data trove. They can simply poke around in your private information in the course of totally routineinvestigations. And if they find something that suggests, say, involvement in illegal drug activity, they can send that information to local or state police. That means information the NSA collects for purposes of so-called “national security” will be used by police to lock up ordinary Americans for routine crimes. And we don’t have to guess who’s going to suffer this unconstitutional indignity the most brutally. It’ll be Black, Brown, poor, immigrant, Muslim, and dissident Americans: the same people who are always targeted by law enforcement for extra “special” attention.