Democracy Now! / By Amy Goodman December 24, 2010
FBI Expands ProbeÖ
ÖMike German is joining us from Washington, D.C., National Security Policy Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. He was an FBI agent specializing in domestic counterterrorism for many years. Mike, talk about your assessment of this widening dragnet and its consequences.
MIKE GERMAN: Ö itís clear from the materials that are being seized, the materials that are being requested in the search warrant returns that are public, that a lot of this is associational information thatís being requested -- address books, computer records, literature and advocacy materials, First Amendment sort of materials.
AMY GOODMAN: Mike, I wanted to ask youóI donít know if itís exactly related, but new details on how the United States has assembled a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators. Another Washington Post exposť on this, the FBI operating a massive database known as Guardian with the names and personal information of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents who have never committed a crime but were reported to have acted suspiciously by a local police officer or a fellow citizen, the database containing over 160,000 suspicious activity files. Despite the sweeping size of the database, the Washington Post reports, the FBI says itís resulted in only five arrests and no convictions. In addition, the Post reveals the FBI is storing 96 million fingerprints in Clarksburg, West Virginia.
MIKE GERMAN: And the FBI appears to be at the center of one of these expansive collection programs called eGuardian, is the new one. Guardian is one thatís been around for a while. But now thereís a new one, eGuardian, thatís part of a nationwide suspicious activity reporting program that encourages state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as the general public, to report behaviors that they describe as inherently suspicious, and these include things like taking notes or drawing diagrams, taking measurements, taking photographs or video. Ö. this sort of reduction in standards allows the collection of material against people who are not even suspected of being involved in wrongdoing. And that is really an open door to abuse.
Ö. Öthis suspicion-less collection information is a huge and growing problem, and all of this data just is being warehoused, literallyóI mean, thatís what they call it, the Investigative Data Warehouseófor any kind of abuse that might occur later.
Ö. Öafter 9/11, those standards have been diluted significantly to where now the FBI literally requires no factual predicate to start an investigation.
And thatís why we set up a website, the Spy Files website, aclu.org/spyfiles, where weíre collecting a lot of this material. And, you know, itís not just the FBI thatís spying now; itís Department of Homeland Security, itís the Department of Defense, itís state and local law enforcement agencies that are involved in these activities. So, you know, this Washington Post story, I think, will be a big help to let people know that, you know, your innocence doesnít protect you anymore, that they can literally start collecting information on anyone.
Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program, Democracy Now!.