The Washington Post reports today:
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.
"So what else is new?" you may ask. After all, the Bush Administration's attack on civil liberties and privacy has been unrelenting since they day took office.
But the next part of the report is what caught my attention:
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.
Why would a lame-duck administration expand spy powers in its waning days if it expects a Democrat to take the White House in November?
It is very hard for me to believe that Bush and Cheney are rushing to increase the executive's ability to snoop on American citizens and opposition groups just to hand it all over to Barack Obama in January.
Michael German, policy counsel for the ACLU and a former FBI agent, sees plenty of opportunity for the new rules to be abused:
If police officers no longer see themselves as engaged in protecting their communities from criminals and instead as domestic intelligence agents working on behalf of the CIA, they will be encouraged to collect more information. It turns police officers into spies on behalf of the federal government.
Former Clinton Justice Department lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, notes how the Maryland State Police spied on antiwar and anti death penalty advocates (including Mike Stark) in 2005 and 2006.
Does the Bush Administration really want to augment these powers so that Obama and the Democrats can used them against Republicans and right-wing groups?
Bush and Company are acting more like they believe that a third Bush term is on the way.