I was finishing up a self-imposed vacation this weekend when I made the mistake of reading a paper and found this.
The Justice Department has proposed a new domestic spying measure that would make it easier for state and local police to collect intelligence about Americans, share the sensitive data with federal agencies and retain it for at least 10 years.
The proposed changes would revise the federal government's rules for police intelligence-gathering for the first time since 1993 and would apply to any of the nation's 18,000 state and local police agencies that receive roughly $1.6 billion each year in federal grants.
Quietly unveiled late last month, the proposal is part of a flurry of domestic intelligence changes issued and planned by the Bush administration in its waning months. They include a recent executive order that guides the reorganization of federal spy agencies and a pending Justice Department overhaul of FBI procedures for gathering intelligence and investigating terrorism cases within U.S. borders.
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 that some say have fed the greatest expansion of executive authority since the Watergate era.
This is what FISA was about all along. The immunity issue was a side bennie. The real intent was to create the facilities of a police state in a supposedly limited legal area where they have managed to convince people they're needed, and then spread them to general law enforcement when nobody was looking - thus, the Friday release. bmaz at emptywheel's place explains it about as well as it can be.
The surveillance state we occupy today is the festering, mature result of the acts of cloying politicians and barons of power to serve their own political and financial goals by declaring themselves the protectors of law and order. The daddy state. They spread fear of isolated, and ultimately inconsequential, yet publically hyped acts of crime and terror in order to supplicate the nation at large.
It has been a singularly effective scheme.
So it began with characterization of hideous and substantive Fourth Amendment violations of fundamental search and seizure law as "mere technicalities". Soon judges and prosecutors, being elected or politically appointed officials themselves, started shading their duties, principles and morals under the law to find creative ways around Constitutional protections in order to avoid results that would be unpopular. Then the officials ran again for reelection proudly proclaiming how they protected the "law and order for the citizens" by "clamping down on criminals" and "elimianting the criminal's use of technicalities". The more they talked the talk, the more they walked the walk. Down the slippery slope.
And that is where we find ourselves today.
But if that had been all it was, I probably would have made a remark, sent you to bmaz, and let it go at that. But that isn't all there is. Walter Pincus is reporting in today's WaPo that the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) has just created a new counterintelligence sub-agency called the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (which will almost certainly be known in the trade as Dee-Chick). DCHIC's mandate is both covert and operational - the first time, as far as we know, that DIA has had an operational arm.
The Defense Intelligence Agency's newly created Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center is going to have an office authorized for the first time to carry out "strategic offensive counterintelligence operations," according to Mike Pick, who will direct the program.
Such covert offensive operations are carried out at home and abroad against people known or suspected to be foreign intelligence officers or connected to foreign intelligence or international terrorist activities -- but not against U.S. citizens, said Toby Sullivan, director of counterintelligence for James R. Clapper Jr., the undersecretary of defense for intelligence.
"Not against US citizens". Forgive my skepticism but this all fits much too neatly into the package. Anybody remember what happened with the NSL's (National Security Letters) that the FBI was only supposed to use on foreign terrorist suspects? They grabbed them and sent out 5000 of them on cases as different as corporate corruption and Mafia activities. They were allowed to use non-domestic surveillance techniques domestically and it was 3 years before anybody even said, "Huh? You wanna do what?"
So let's just look at this: Friday, the Bush Admin announces it's setting up new facilities for law enforcement departments to share info and start doing their own domestic spying with no accountability to speak of, and on Monday we get a facility that is tailor-made to become a bridge between the intel services (DIA hosts a govt intel steering committee as well that brings together most of the IC [intelligence community] to swap stories) and the nation's police departments.
Is it any wonder I've got BIG red flags going up all across the territory of my brain? This is the connecting portion of what bmaz called "the surveillance state", bringing domestic and supposedly non-domestic spying agencies into contact with each other when they are - or were before FISA - supposed to be on strictly separate turfs. It has been a law enforcement wetdream for decades which was stymied year after year by privacy concerns. Now it's about to become a reality, or at least the first few steps are.
Today we are even more perilously close to crossing the boundary between a "surveillance state" and a "police state" than we were on Friday, but then they have to move fast or the Emperor will be gone before they can set it up. The point is obviously to present Obama with a fait accomplis, much harder to take apart once it's going than before it's been set up.
Thanks, Congressional Democrats. You've helped them screw us again. Proud, are you?