ACLU Weighs In On Attempt to Expand Law Enforcement Intelligence Systems

August 29, 2008 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

ACLU Weighs In On Attempt to Expand Law Enforcement Intelligence SystemsWashington, DC – In response to a proposed rule change by the Justice Department that would greatly expand law enforcement intelligence gathering in the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union submitted comments today strongly urging the department to reject it. The rule would amend 28 Code of Federal Regulations Part 23 to weaken restrictions on state and local police to collect, retain, and disseminate intelligence on Americans. The ACLU is strenuously objecting to the proposed amendment citing Fourth Amendment and privacy concerns.

“This is the Bush administration’s final push to create a de facto secret police force,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Turning our local and state law enforcement officers into domestic intelligence collectors is a recipe for disaster. Not only will police officers be looking for suspicion where there is none, they will be distracted from the business of protecting our communities from real threats. We strongly urge the Justice Department to reject any methods that would imperil the privacy rights of innocent Americans.”

The proposed changes would ease restrictions regarding when state and local law enforcement can collect personal information, and all but remove limitations on when and with whom they can share this intelligence. One proposed amendment would double the amount of time police agencies can keep information without reviewing it for accuracy. Another would allow police to target organizations as well as individuals, which will likely lead to blacklists that smear innocent people and limit Americans’ free association rights. Most troubling, the proposed rule seems to suggest that this “update” to the regulation is necessary because current information sharing initiatives, such as the Information Sharing Environment, the Joint Terrorism Task Forces and intelligence fusion centers may not clearly comply with the current regulation. Indeed, the ACLU noted that the potential abuse of police intelligence activities has already been borne out with numerous stories of police infiltration of advocacy organizations, including the recent case of Maryland law enforcement spying on anti-death penalty and peace groups.

“If the federal government announced tomorrow that it was creating a new domestic intelligence agency of more than 800,000 operatives reporting on even the most mundane everyday activities, Americans would be outraged,” said Michael German, ACLU National Security Policy Counsel and former FBI Agent. “This proposed rule change is the final step in creating an America we no longer recognize – an America where everyone is a suspect. Combined with the breadth of intelligence overhaul we’ve seen in the last seven years, the proposed changes to the law could sound the death knell for Americans’ expectation of privacy. The combination of ambivalent rules and lack of oversight will almost definitely result in misuse and abuse.”

ACLU’s comments to the Justice Department: /safefree/36595leg20080829.html

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

The Latest in National Security

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

Learn More About National Security

National Security issue image

The ACLU’s National Security Project is dedicated to ensuring that U.S. national security policies and practices are consistent with the Constitution, civil liberties, and human rights.