The FBI is planning to revise its manual for agents in some rather frightening ways, officially codify the erosion of some of our privacy rights that have been taking place for years. From the New York Times:
Some of the most notable changes apply to the lowest category of investigations, called an “assessment.” The category, created in December 2008, allows agents to look into people and organizations “proactively” and without firm evidence for suspecting criminal or terrorist activity.
Under current rules, agents must open such an inquiry before they can search for information about a person in a commercial or law enforcement database. Under the new rules, agents will be allowed to search such databases without making a record about their decision.
Mr. German said the change would make it harder to detect and deter inappropriate use of databases for personal purposes. But Ms. Caproni said it was too cumbersome to require agents to open formal inquiries before running quick checks. She also said agents could not put information uncovered from such searches into F.B.I. files unless they later opened an assessment.
This is a nearly text book example of the slippery slope in action.
For years now our law enforcement and intelligence agencies have been steadily pushing the boundaries, bending the rules or outright breaking the rules. All this justified because we are “waging” a war. It is unimportant that these endless “wars” are against amorphous dangers, like drugs or terror, that can never actually be defeated.
Eventually these rule bending practices become standard operating procedure. So some start arguing the logical thing to do isn’t to try to rein everyone to return to previous normals, but simply get rid of the out date old guidelines by replace them with new ones that better reflect current practices.
This course creates new officially expanded boundaries of acceptable behavior that can start being pushed.
Lather, rinse, repeat.