The Progressive 
Wednesday, Aug 6, 2008
With these Bush guys, you’ve got to read the fine print.
On July 31, they published in the Federal Register a proposed change to Title 28, Section 23, of the Code of Federal Regulations.
This is the section that governs domestic spying.
The existing language said that information gathered in an intelligence case could be disseminated only “where there is a need to know and a right to know the information in the performance of a law enforcement activity.”
This limitation was designed to protect “the privacy and constitutional rights of individuals,” the statute behind this section states.
Well, that limitation would be null and void.
The new regulations would allow dissemination “when the information falls within the law enforcement, counterterrorism, or national security responsibility of the receiving agency or may assist in preventing crime or the use of violence or any conduct dangerous to human life or property.”
Boy, you can’t get much broader than that.
Wait, you can.
Because the existing language said you could share this intelligence info with “a government official or any other individual, when necessary to avoid imminent danger to life or liberty.”
Now, the Bushies have deleted the word “imminent.”
In these subtle ways, the Bush Administration keeps chiseling away at our freedoms.
This isn’t just an idle exercise.
The ACLU cited Title 28, Section 23, when it raised hell about the Maryland State Troopers who were spying on peace activists.
The troopers were sharing information about nonviolent protesters with at least seven federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, including the National Security Agency.
Under the old regulations, this appears to have been blatantly illegal.
Under the new ones, it would be fine and dandy.
The Maryland snooping was part of a fusion center effort, and the ACLU has been drawing attention to the problems of these fusion centers.
But the changes in these regulations are explicitly aimed at facilitating fusion center snooping.
“The intent of the propose revisions to part 23 is to . . . not create unreasonable impediments to information sharing,” the notice says, citing the work of fusion centers and Joint Terrorism Task Forces.
The ACLU condemns the proposed revisions.
They represent “another incremental shift away from law enforcement acting within the law,” says Mike German, the ACLU’s policy counsel for national security. Since local law enforcement would now be obliged to share information all the way up the NSA and CIA, German says they would be “acting as intelligence agents instead of law enforcement agents.”
This concerns him, as does the way this radical change is coming about.
“If we want them to be spies,” he says, “we should have that debate in public rather than make the change in incremental adjustments to the law.”
The public can send written comments about these proposed revisions to the Office of Justice Programs until September 2.