Domestic plan would turn cops into spies


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Another step toward a totalitarian government?

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Domestic plan would turn cops into spies, ACLU says

WASHINGTON — A proposed domestic spying measure, which would make it easier for state and local police to collect intelligence about Americans and share the sensitive data with federal agencies, would "turn police officers into spies on behalf of the federal government," an ACLU official said.

Michael German, a former FBI agent who is the policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said that easing established limits on intelligence-gathering would lead to abuses against peaceful political dissenters.

Civil liberties groups have also warned that forthcoming Justice Department rules for the FBI may permit the use of terrorist profiles that could single out religious or ethnic groups such as Muslims or Arabs for investigation.

The proposal, unveiled quietly last month by the Justice Department, would revise the federal government’s rules for police intelligence-gathering for the first time since 1993 and would apply to any of the 18,000 state and local police agencies that receive roughly $1.6 billion each year in federal grants.

It is part of a flurry of domestic intelligence changes issued and planned by the Bush administration in its waning months.

Taken together, critics in Congress and elsewhere say, the moves are intended to lock in policies for Bush’s successor and to enshrine controversial post-Sept. 11 approaches to surveillance.

Liberties protected?

Supporters say the measures simply codify existing counterterrorism practices and policies.

They say the measures preserve civil liberties and are subject to internal oversight.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the administration agrees that it needs to do everything possible to prevent unwarranted encroachments on civil liberties.

Under the Justice Department proposal for state and local police, published for public comment July 31, law enforcement agencies would be allowed to target groups as well as individuals and to launch an investigation based on the suspicion that a target is engaged in terrorism or is providing material support to terrorists.

Results could be shared with federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Criminal intelligence data starts with sources as basic as public records and the Internet, but also includes law enforcement databases, confidential and undercover sources, and active surveillance.

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