Report: New FBI rules permit agents to snoop without firm evidence

By Sahil Kapur
Monday, June 13, 2011 10:19 EDT
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WASHINGTON – The Federal Bureau of Investigation intends to start allowing agents to track subjects without firm evidence of wrongdoing, several keyed-in officials tell the New York Times.

Existing rules say the FBI’s roughly 14,000 agents need to formally open an inquiry in order to tap the agency’s comprehensive database and surveillance methods. The new rules reportedly say that agents can utilize these resources without having to show evidence of criminal or terrorist activity, even for low-level investigations called “assessments.” The updated manual also eases up a restriction on administering a lie-detector tests as well as searching a person’s trash.

The Times reports that the more lenient rules entail greater oversight for tracking “public officials, members of the news media or academic scholars” — the manual states that legitimate members of the new media include prominent but not low-profile bloggers.

The easing up of regulations has rubbed privacy and civil liberties advocates the wrong way.

“Claiming additional authorities to investigate people only further raises the potential for abuse,” former FBI agent Michael German, who now works for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Times.

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