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.

Two documents [PDF 1, PDF 2] obtained by The Intercept show the reach of the FBI's "HUMINT" (Human Intelligence) efforts. One thing the FBI wants is a vast army of informants.

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.




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  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 9 Nov 2016 @ 9:42am

    Put them on a diet, don't over feed them

    Could they do any worse? Oh, of course, they could fail to share intel with themselves.

    On the other hand, feeding the ego's of any agency by adding to their power is probably not a good idea. They (all of them) invest themselves with far more power than they actually have, now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Nov 2016 @ 9:49am

      Re: Put them on a diet, don't over feed them

      Could they do any worse? Oh, of course, they could fail to share intel with themselves.

      Any agency, or corporation for that matter, is so large that internal politics ensures that that will happen. This is compounded people telling those above them what they want to hear. As the saying goes, the system lies to itself.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 9 Nov 2016 @ 10:07am

    FBI > SS = Godwin's law invoked.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Christenson, 9 Nov 2016 @ 10:23am

    Lessons of History...

    Does FBI director Comey remember that the triumph of captalism over communism was largely ensured by the KGB making sure that almost no one in the Soviet Union DARED to be an innovator?

    Sorry, it's clear the 4th amendment should apply worldwide, and the FBI forced to get a warrant for *every* bit of data it gathers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Nov 2016 @ 10:58am

      Re: Lessons of History...

      Hello possible fellow citizen.

      The 4th Amendment, in fact the entire US Constitution, does apply worldwide. There is no codification that citizens suddenly lose constitutional rights when dealing with the American Government just because they are no longer standing on American soil. Despite these things, you do not have to go far to discover that the Constitution has been extensively trashed. Why, because persons like yourself do not know enough about it and therefore offer no resistance when someone in power corrupts or betrays the Constitution.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Nov 2016 @ 1:30pm

        Re: Re: Lessons of History...

        > There is no codification that citizens suddenly lose constitutional rights when dealing with the American Government just because they are no longer standing on American soil.

        The US Government disagrees. Just ask its courts.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Niall (profile), 10 Nov 2016 @ 8:12am

          Re: Re: Re: Lessons of History...

          Considering US territory seems to have been moved 100 miles inland, according to the "4th Amendment-free" zones at the borders...

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Groaker (profile), 9 Nov 2016 @ 10:24am

    First the FBI needs to define intelligence. I somehow doubt that they are capable of doing thatt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 9 Nov 2016 @ 10:35am

    Then again..

    ... if they want to go overseas, I'll help them pack...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 9 Nov 2016 @ 11:13am

    This means

    This means we have about 15,000 more fabricated terrorist plots to look forward to.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 9 Nov 2016 @ 11:42am

    Information Overload

    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.

    US intelligence gathering entities are multiply redundant.

    It is most certainly another case of more not generating better results.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Nov 2016 @ 1:32pm

    Because it's more fun to play like James Bond.

    That other stuff is too much like real work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Harry Tuttle, 14 Nov 2016 @ 6:00am

      Re: Because it's more fun to play like James Bond.

      Exactly so. Cops rarely go outside these days except in patrol cars. Why would they if a camera linked to humongous databases with fining capabilities will do the trick?

      Coming next: fines automatically taken from your bank account, irregardless of balance or credit limits.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whatever, 9 Nov 2016 @ 4:16pm

    The FBI needs to police the world. The fact that criminals like you are still here, free to steal content, proves it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Spodula, 10 Nov 2016 @ 12:18am

    Not that surprising

    This sort of funtional overreach for more cash is not that surprising, after all look at the state of the NSA. or the NYPD.

    Also, certain police forces obviously want to be the Army, and certain police officers want to be John Rambo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2016 @ 6:38am

    Whatever works. Once a decade or so, they should realign to stay healthy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    HegemonicDistortion (profile), 11 Nov 2016 @ 11:58am

    Great piece, but shouldn't you at least link the Intercept article you're quoting from, though?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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