Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Those who say the FBI should not collect information on a person or group unless there is a specific reason to suspect that the target is up to no good seriously miss the mark. The FBI has been told that we need to determine who poses a threat to the national security — not simply to investigate persons who have come onto our radar screen.
James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson. They seriously missed the mark.
While the New York Times Technology section fritters away the paper’s reputation on recycled press releases, Times reporter Charlie Savage posts a real zinger today, uncovering the following:
* The FBI has been conducting surveillance in the United States of persons and groups who are not suspected of committing or planning to commit any crime.
* This surveillance has been often covert and involves undercover infiltration of social milieux and organizations.
* FBI surveillance within the United States can be based on statements of political opinion people have made.
* FBI surveillance within the United States can be based on people’s religious affiliation.
* FBI surveillance within the United States can be based on people’s ethnic origin.
Confronted with documentation of the existence of this program, FBI general counsel Valerie Caprioni became especially anxious. What was she anxious about? Well, as you saw above, she was anxious to identify our Constitution, our Bill of Rights and those who ascribe to them as “seriously off the mark.” We’ve already established that. But Caprioni was also anxious that people would come to the conclusion that an FBI program dedicated to conducting covert surveillance of people and infiltration of groups not suspected of any crime might be thought of as “spying”:
I don’t like to think of us as a spy agency because that makes me really nervous. We don’t want to live in an environment where people in the United States think the government is spying on them. That’s an oppressive environment to live in and we don’t want to live that way.
The FBI’s General Counsel didn’t say that “we don’t want to live in an environment where the government is spying on people in the United States.”
The FBI’s General Counsel said that “we don’t want to live in an environment where people in the United States think the government is spying on them.”
The FBI is spying on American people and organizations — without warrants, without probable cause, without suspicion, covertly. But the FBI asks you, please, don’t think of it that way. It would be best for the FBI if you didn’t think of it at all.