In the last weeks of the Bush-Cheney administration, FBI Director Robert Mueller and then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey rushed into law such unbounded expansions of the FBI’s domestic surveillance powers that I was stunned. Years ago, I had often and critically reported on J. Edgar Hoover’s ravenous invasions of Americans’ personal privacy rights, including mine; but these new FBI guidelines, taking effect last Dec. 1, are unsparingly un-American.
As described by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an ever-watchful guardian of the Constitution, these Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations authorize the FBI — without going to a court — “to open investigative ‘assessments’ of any American without any factual predicate or suspicion. Such ‘assessments’ allow the use of intrusive techniques to surreptitiously collect information on people suspected of no wrongdoing and no connection with any foreign entity. These inquiries may include the collection of information from online sources and commercial databases.”
The press has largely been uninterested in this suspension of the Bill of Rights — but we know a lot about David Letterman.
President Barack Obama has expressed no objections to these radical revisions of the Constitution, a founding document he used to educate students about at the University of Chicago. His attorney general, Eric Holder, said calmly during his Senate confirmation hearing: “The guidelines are necessary because the FBI is changing its mission … from a pure investigating agency to one that deals with national security.”
It was the same Eric Holder who said, while George W. Bush was president: “I never thought that I would see the day when a president would act in direct defiance of federal law by authorizing warrantless NSA (National Security Agency) surveillance of American citizens.”
But then-Sen., and now President, Obama approves of the all-seeing NSA — in keeping with his lack of interest in reforming the perilous health of our founding values as they are being systematically infected by the FBI.