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Saturday, October 29, 2011

When Government Knows No Limitation: New DOJ Rules Allow More Intrusive Searches

I was once told by someone involved in a federal investigation not to let any identified federal law enforcement officer into your house without: a) a warrant and b) your lawyer present. At the time, this notion seemed a bit less than cooperative. Shouldn’t law-abiding citizens be able to live their lives free from the fear that our own government would underhandedly manipulate our rights in their pursuit of an investigation? After all, the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution enumerates a limitation on the federal government, one that prevents “unreasonable search and seizure.” Today, this enumerated protection is being ignored by – of all institutions – the U.S. Justice Department, under the darkened shadow of Attorney General Eric Holder.

A recent column by The Atlantic’s Emily Berman, a Furman Fellow and Brennan Center Fellow at NYU School of Law, informs the citizenry:

It just got easier for the federal government to collect information about innocent Americans — and those Americans have had surprisingly little say in the matter.
On October 15, the FBI reportedly implemented new rules that relax restrictions on, and oversight of, the FBI’s intelligence collection activities. Although they are not available to the public, reports indicate the changes permit FBI agents to search an individual’s trash with the goal of finding material that might pressure him into becoming a government informant, grant agents the authority to search commercial or law enforcement databases without first opening an investigation, and reduce the type of investigations subjected to heightened oversight because of their relationship to protected First Amendment expression, association, or religious practice.
This is the third modification of the FBI’s intelligence collection authorities since September 11, 2001. First in 2002, again in 2008, and finally, just last week, amendments were adopted with scant public attention and with minimal — if any — congressional involvement. Groups and communities concerned about the new rules’ impact on civil liberties, particularly the risk of religious or ethnic profiling, also had no constructive input.
Read the rest of the article

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