Men in trash: FBI agents given more power to search your household garbage
By Mark Duell
Last updated at 7:00 PM on 13th June 2011
Even your trash can may not be safe from the government’s eyes.
Around 14,000 agents are getting more powers to search databases, examine household trash and use surveillance teams to scrutinise targets.
But the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s move to give agents more scope to watch people of interest has been criticised by privacy lawyers.
Former FBI agent Michael German, now an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, said it could make it harder to stop inappropriate use.
‘Claiming additional authorities to investigate people only further raises the potential for abuse,’ he told the New York Times.
An inspector general found in 2007 it abused the ‘national security letters’ system that allows the access of personal information with no court order.
But FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni said the problems from 2007 had been fixed and the new guidelines had been carefully considered.
She told the New York Times the alterations to its operations manual were ‘more like fine-tuning than major changes’.
The revised rules will mean agents can look through the trash of a potential informant.
The FBI wants to use information found in trash to pressurise someone to help an investigation or work out whether they might be a threat to agents.
Current rules from 2008 also mean agents must open an inquiry before ‘proactively’ searching for information about someone in a database.
But new guidelines will allow them to search without making a record of it - with the FBI saying it will help speed up operations.
Another new piece of guidance surrounds surveillance squads, who can currently only be used once in an assessment.
But now agents will be able to use them repeatedly – although time limits on physical surveillance will remain, reported the New York Times.
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