Join 3,375 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"F.B.I. Agents Get Leeway to Push Privacy Bounds"
June 13, 2011 9:27 AM   Subscribe

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents, allowing them more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.
posted by Trurl (46 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
This should send my innocent elderly relatives into a shredding frenzy.
posted by theredpen at 9:29 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


The take-away here is that digging through trash seems to be the FBI's, like, primary source of information. What the heck do they find in the trash?
posted by silby at 9:31 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think the FBI can grant itself the power to ignore the 4th Amendment (more than they are already ignoring it, I mean).
posted by DU at 9:36 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


We have a Fourth Amendment?
posted by entropicamericana at 9:38 AM on June 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


Banana peels, used paper towels, and those plastic loops that hold individual soda cans together in a six-pack.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:38 AM on June 13, 2011


They can't go through trash if it isn't on the curb.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:39 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just protecting your freedom folks.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:41 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


So expanded surveillance allowances, and reduced investigatory accountability?

We've seen what removing restrictions has done to overly empower local law enforcement to act well beyond their scope, so now, at last, we might finally get to see what bully-cop corruption looks like at the federal level.

Yay.

I've worked with the FBI and the agents I've dealt with have always been exceptionally professional, but I'm generally against expanding the purview of any law enforcement agency without creating a corresponding series of checks and balances. It's too easy, at those levels, to let the little corruptions become the big ones.
posted by quin at 9:41 AM on June 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Agents have asked for that power in part because they want the ability to use information found in a subject’s trash to put pressure on that person to assist the government in the investigation of others.

That's comforting.

Honestly, I would like the government to have some kind of stricture whereby, when a power is abused, it gets taken away for a while. Shortening the amber light time to pump up red light camera revenue? Bang, no red light cameras for you for ten years. Abuse national security letters? They're gone for five years.

Our current setup seems to just go ahead and give them more power when they are caught abusing it.
posted by adipocere at 9:42 AM on June 13, 2011 [10 favorites]


Why not talk to the police #7:

Even if your client is innocent and only tells the truth and does not tell the police anything incriminating and the entire interview is videotaped, his answers can still be used to crucify him if the police have any evidence, even mistaken or unreliable evidence that any of his statements are false.

Are you dealing drugs, citizen?
No officer...
Having money problems, citizen?
No officer...
Well this credit card bill says differently, citizen. Come clean.
posted by Talez at 9:42 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Man, this guy must really be sick, look at all these tissues in the garbage, Frank!"

"Moe, those ain't boogers. I'm so sorry."

"Oh, oh God. Oh God, help me."
posted by Slackermagee at 9:44 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Welp, looks like it's back to urinating in all my trash bags before they go out.

Who am I kidding, I never stopped.
posted by griphus at 9:44 AM on June 13, 2011 [21 favorites]


Makes me sort of sorry to be post -menopausal
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:50 AM on June 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


I thought the police were supposed to investigate crimes, not people.
posted by shothotbot at 9:51 AM on June 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Good thing we voted a civil-rights-minded constitutional scholar into the White House.

What?

Oh, never mind.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:53 AM on June 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


I'm innocent, so I have nothing to worry about. But I'm still going to continue taking my own garbage to he dump each week. Hard for anybody to paw through it when it goes from my garage to the compactor at the landfill under my personal supervision.
posted by COD at 9:53 AM on June 13, 2011


I don't really see the point of all this fourth amendment infringement when everyone's trash is already on Facebook.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:03 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


If anyone wants used cat litter to add to their trash, let me know.

(Although what with the trash separation here - garbage in one bin, recyclables in another, compostables in the third - it's hard to make potentially informative paper trash gross enough to discourage snoopers without incurring fines from the city.)
posted by rtha at 10:03 AM on June 13, 2011


If Frank is doing the investigation, he's working with Norberg or Ed, but certainly not Moe ..
posted by k5.user at 10:10 AM on June 13, 2011


entropicamericana: "We have a Fourth Amendment?"

Of course not, there's only the Second. Now, shhhh. don't ask why it's called the Second... There really is only one. GUNS!
posted by symbioid at 10:15 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


People still use paper?

Also: "The Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents"

Isn't there supposed to be some sort of oversight there? How can the FBI give it's own people more power?
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:17 AM on June 13, 2011


A certain type of people use paper.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:20 AM on June 13, 2011


All within the bounds the Attorney General has set. Right?
posted by blue_beetle at 10:21 AM on June 13, 2011


Isn't there supposed to be some sort of oversight there? How can the FBI give it's own people more power?

The internal regulations were within DOJ limits. They are now a lot closer to the same DOJ limits for a lot more of the time, as the FBI has chosen to use more powers on less serious cases.
posted by jaduncan at 10:22 AM on June 13, 2011


Thanks for clearing that up for me everybody!
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:29 AM on June 13, 2011


I don't think the FBI can grant itself the power to ignore the 4th Amendment (more than they are already ignoring it, I mean).

I'm not paying to read the linked NYT piece, but I don't see anything in the quote in the OP which would constitute a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Searching public databases and social networks? Public by definition. No reasonable expectation of privacy.

Household trash? California v. Greenwood said that was okay back in 1988, just so long as the trash is on the curb. Unless someone can get me a quote from the article saying that the FBI plans on ignoring that limitation, I don't see why this is news.

Really, all this seems to represent is the FBI deciding to use powers it already had more often. It's hard for me to get all that excited about it one way or the other.
posted by valkyryn at 10:29 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


After burning out the motors on two of those crappy shredders you can get at Office Depot, we just burn our private stuff in the fireplace. If the FBI wants to come sift through the ashes, they are welcome to.
posted by emjaybee at 10:41 AM on June 13, 2011


...and the entire interview is videotaped, his answers can still be used to crucify him if the police have any evidence...

Not literally, I hope.
posted by goethean at 10:48 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna go look it up, but back home there was a bit of a scandal about the police searching local activists' trash cans for .. anything.

....then the local independent paper searched the police chief's trash one night and published a list/analysis of the contents.
posted by circle_b at 10:54 AM on June 13, 2011


That's how the FBI hopes to find hippy drug growers. They tend to have 3 bins for the trash:

- Recyclable
- Non-recyclable
- Stuff the Feds can't see, ever, man.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:57 AM on June 13, 2011


If anyone wants used cat litter to add to their trash, let me know.

The hive-mind Protozoan Toxoplasmosis gondii made its decisive strike against the human rulers of the planet in the year 2014, attacking with a mind-controlled army of cats, rats, and armed humans. The tipping point seems to have been the infection of an entire human police system by means unknown; until then, human "cat hoarders" had been individually too weak and addled for T. gondii to assemble a decisive strike force.
posted by benzenedream at 11:11 AM on June 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Really, all this seems to represent is the FBI deciding to use powers it already had more often. It's hard for me to get all that excited about it one way or the other.

I think we could agree that there's a large difference between a society where all legal tools are used against all suspects all the time, large databases regarding citizens are kept and added to as a matter of course and one when these tools are used when investigating the most serious crimes. Just like the use of SWAT, the techniques originally used for serious cases become the accepted way to interact with the general population.

Slowly surveillance becomes more and more intense, and things are closer and closer to a police state. There's a continuum, and the Overton window seems to move inexorably closer pervasive surveillance and huge behaviour files for each human the US comes in contact with.

This isn't a slippery slope argument; the US already admits it attempts to retrieve all the public data it can to create a database of domestic residents and the worldwide population, and maintains lists of their citizens based on perceived risk who are then subject to additional limitations (no-fly, for example), surveillance based purely on that determination of risk without trial.

Surely, at some point, the universal use of such techniques fundamentally alters the power balance between citizen and state.
posted by jaduncan at 11:14 AM on June 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Headline revelations
posted by homunculus at 11:24 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


The hive-mind Protozoan Toxoplasmosis gondii made its decisive strike against the human rulers of the planet in the year 2014, attacking with a mind-controlled army of cats, rats, and armed humans.

I would very much like to read this novel, watch this AMC television series and/or play this video game.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:33 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Me...I see it as a good thing that they have finally won the "right" to go through my garbage.

Watch out during those winter months, accounting and foreign language majors, I sometimes spit my phlegm directly into the garbage!

Anyone want to lobby with me to give them the right to go through an unflushed toilet? There's terrists in there, dontcha know?
posted by hal_c_on at 11:41 AM on June 13, 2011


This isn't a slippery slope argument

Okay, but...

Surely, at some point, the universal use of such techniques fundamentally alters the power balance between citizen and state.

So what is it then? You're basically admitting that they're allowed to do this, don't seem to be asserting that this particular step is inherently problematic, but are nonetheless arguing that they shouldn't because you don't like where it leads.

I'm not sure how that can be construed as anything but a slippery slope argument.

Then again, I've never believed that there has ever been a "power balance" between citizen and state, so its "alteration" fails to bug me.
posted by valkyryn at 11:59 AM on June 13, 2011


I'm not sure how that can be construed as anything but a slippery slope argument.

Because I'm arguing that the point of concern has already been passed, as I thought I made clear by stating the examples that occur now. I'm merely aware that you may wish to state that you do not consider that the point of unacceptability has passed for you.

Then again, I've never believed that there has ever been a "power balance" between citizen and state, so its "alteration" fails to bug me.

Really? There is always a balance of power between the citizen and the state, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. If the state did not have the monopoly on force, law enforcement would be difficult to impossible. Given that we choose to allow law enforcement more rights than the general population, the balance of how those powers are allowed to be used and how they are restrained is important. I would suggest that the balance is currently unhealthy, and the further expansion of FBI surveillance makes it more so.

Of course, much of this non-existent power balance is explicitly addressed by the Bill of Rights.
posted by jaduncan at 12:11 PM on June 13, 2011


Here's a bullet-pointy list for the tl;dr among us.

This isn't about trash, it's mainly about allowing agents to look up people that haven't been associated with a crime without making a record of this action.

So you'd better not date an FBI agent -- just in case things go sour.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:31 PM on June 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


That's it, I'm getting myself one of those industrial shredders from the FPP upstairs. If the FBI want my used shoes, tennis balls, assorted gravel, fiberglass insulation, wilted produce, shitty IKEA furniture, and feminine hygiene products, they're going to have to work for them.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:56 PM on June 13, 2011


Anyone have a serious recommendation for a shredder that lasts more than a year?
posted by Captain Ligntning at 3:47 PM on June 13, 2011


"Ms. Caproni said restrictions on the duration of physical surveillance would still apply, and argued that because of limited resources, supervisors would use the squads only rarely during such a low-level investigation."

Next up: FBI requests more resources, because it doesn't have the manpower to monitor all the people it wants to keep an eye on!

Just going to result in the FBI pulling more crap along these lines, where they just keep watching someone basically interminably until they can get the "assessment" they were looking for.
posted by mstokes650 at 3:51 PM on June 13, 2011


Captain Lightning

Um, yeah!
posted by sfts2 at 4:02 PM on June 13, 2011


Anyone have a serious recommendation for a shredder that lasts more than a year?

I find our fireplace works pretty well and hasn't worn out yet.
posted by hippybear at 4:36 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is nothing to worry about,
trust me.

do not use the fireplace, IMNYPI. To rid yourself of unwanted paper in bulk, an acid vat, crematorium or use the guys-who-let-you-see-the-stuff-obliterated-in-a-big-pile.
posted by clavdivs at 6:34 PM on June 13, 2011


FBI to Expand Domestic Surveillance Powers As Details Emerge of Its Spy Campaign Targeting Activists
posted by homunculus at 9:37 AM on June 14, 2011


With all the talk of urinating / putting used cat litter in your trash ... I provide the following suggestion: bleach.

Even dogs left the trash alone when it was "contaminated" with bleach.
posted by dwbrant at 9:24 AM on June 15, 2011


« Older RIP John Mackenzie, scottish director who was prob...  |  ‘A Frightening Time in America... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments