Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2008

US may ease rules on domestic spying

August 16, 2008

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— 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.

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.

Supporters say the measures simply codify existing counterterrorism practices and policies endorsed by lawmakers and independent experts such as the 9/11 Commission. They say the measures preserve civil liberties and are subject to internal oversight.

Critics in Congress and elsewhere say the moves are intended to lock in policies for Bush's successor and to enshrine post-Sept. 11 approaches that some say have fed the greatest expansion of executive authority since the Watergate era.

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