Foreign Surveillance: Now Near You

The New York Times reports the C.I.A. and Pentagon have been issuing “national security letters” to obtain banking and credit records of hundreds of US citizens and others suspected of terrorism or espionage. The letters, which augment thousands of national security letters issued by the FBI since Sept. 11,  are seen as part of an aggressive expansion by the military into domestic intelligence gathering. The NYT quotes John Radsan, a former assistant general counsel at the C.I.A., who said, “The C.I.A. is not supposed to have any law enforcement powers, or internal security functions, so if they’ve been issuing their own national security letters, they better be able to explain how they don’t cross the line.”  Meanwhile, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales provided little new information on Thursday, testifying before a Senate committee about the Bush administration’s sudden revelation that it would seek court approval for its domestic eavesdropping activities. Gonzales said he could reveal only that the orders “meet the legal requirements” under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The broader problem illuminated by these revelations is the “importing” of foreign surveillance powers into the domestic sphere as a result of the collapse of the U.S.S.R. and the escalating war on terrorism. During the Cold War, the enemy was on the “outside”, allowing the FBI to concentrate on domestic law enforcement and the Pentagon/C.I.A. to deal with foreign surveillance. Now the enemy is within, blurring the lines between law enforcement and counter-terrorism, in arenas such as money laundering, data retention and data mining.

2 Responses to “Foreign Surveillance: Now Near You”

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