Documents Show The FBI Wishes It Was The CIA, Thinks It Should Take The Lead In Foreign Intelligence Gathering
from the WE-NEVER-GET-TO-DO-ANYTHING-FUN dept
If the FBI seems especially out of control lately, what with Mad Dog Comey constantly on the prowl and his underlings acting like an unofficial wing of Wikileaks, it’s not just you. The FBI’s director is swiftly gaining a reputation for being uncontrollable — the head of a law enforcement agency that has also periodically been viewed as a rogue force.
Of course, it’s hardly just a “law enforcement” agency at this point. It tends to view itself as an intelligence agency first, and its efforts are almost universally focused on expanding these powers and capabilities. To that end, it has turned its investigatory aims on their head, shifting away from digging into suspicious activity to basically looking into anyone it wants simply because it can.
Under Comey and the previous director, Robert Mueller, the bureau has transformed its domestic intelligence operations in the name of fighting terrorism, building up an army of some 15,000 informants and deploying those informants in recent years not only for aggressive sting operations but also to collect intelligence not tied to any particular criminal case.
The FBI has enlisted the help of customs officials and DHS staff to pressure visiting immigrants into becoming intelligence sources, using threats of deportation or entry refusal to obtain their help.
The other aspect of the FBI’s intelligence efforts is at least as disturbing, if not more so. The FBI has long been able to investigate nearly anyone in the US without actually having to justify its reasons for doing so. Right around the time surveillance powers were expanded with the FISA Amendment Act in 2008, the FBI was granted additional investigatory powers by then Attorney General Michael Mukasey.
[M]ukasey issued new guidelines for the FBI, emphasizing gathering, sharing, and retaining information “regardless of whether it furthers investigative objectives in a narrower or more immediate sense.”
The FBI could now gather information just for the purpose of gathering information: “looking busy” but with potential constitutional violations. But that wasn’t the extent of it. Rather than having to justify investigations, the FBI was given a whole new playground for suspicionless information gathering.
Mukasey also gave agents the power to conduct “assessments,” a new category of investigative activity in which agents are allowed to use invasive techniques — including physical surveillance, checking government and public databases, and tasking an informant to gather information — in situations where there was no “particular factual” reason for concern.
The documents contain proposals and recommendations for even greater expansions of suspicionless surveillance and informant utilization. One part of the proposal suggested the FBI be given the freedom to “control” an “operative” without the person even being informed they are being used for intelligence gathering. (The proposal does at least give US citizens pressed into service the promise that they would be notified of their informant status. It doesn’t appear to give anyone the option of refusing.)
What’s still unknown is how many of these recommendations have been implemented. Clearly, the FBI isn’t going to talk about its intelligence gathering operations. There’s been no “neither confirm nor deny” statement from the agency. There’s actually been no comment at all.
It appears from the documents that the FBI was motivated by some really weird professional jealousy. It seems to feel it’s unfair that it has worry about rights violations more than intelligence agencies tasked almost exclusively with obtaining foreign intelligence.
“If the FBI fails to capitalize on this opportunity, it runs the risk the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or another USIC partner, e.g., Department of Homeland Security, requesting the Director of National Intelligence revise the current order to place themselves in the position of primacy with regard to domestic recruitment and [foreign intelligence] collection,” it continues.
The FBI feels it should be able to police the world. This attitude dovetails directly into its Rule 41 aspirations. The removal of jurisdictional limitations means the agency would be free to hack, search, and seize computers located anywhere in the world — just like the CIA, NSA, and other agencies it clearly aspires to be.