• United States



FBI Dumpster Diving Brigade Coming Soon to Snoop in a Trashcan Near You

Jun 15, 20115 mins
Data and Information SecurityMicrosoftSecurity

The 2011 FBI Domestic Surveillance Manual expands the feds' spying power and will turn 14,000 FBI agents into a free-for-all dumpster diving brigade. Increased FBI snooping rights will require neither probable cause nor the need to be suspected of actual wrongdoing before scrutinizing your life. Other changes to the FBI's freedom to spy include no more paperwork for formal inquiry fishing expeditions as it's considered "too cumbersome" for the feds.

You might think you are interesting, but are you a person of interest? Let’s hope not, since the 2011 edition of the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide invites agents to take up dumpster diving, rummaging full-throttle through your trash while snooping in your life. Charlie Savage of The New York Times reported the new manual gives “significant new powers” to FBI agents, including the right “to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.” Yeppers, that’s right, meaning anyone could be targeted as opposed to people suspected of any actual crime. The idea of probable cause and the Fourth Amendment is again being stomped. In fact, FBI general counsel Valerie E. Caproni “rejected arguments that the FBI should focus only on investigations that begin with a firm reason for suspecting wrongdoing.”

The ACLU said of these new expanded spying powers, that the FBI is “lowering its already rock bottom standards for surveillance soon.” But FBI’s Caproni basically called this minor tweaks instead of major revisions to the domestic surveillance manual. There will no longer be a requirement to make records when searching commercial or law enforcement databases for the scoop-snoop on people, since paperwork for formal inquiry fishing expeditions is considered “too cumbersome” for the feds. No longer will there be a rule saying a target need be suspected of wrongdoing first before spying on them. More changes include relaxing a “restriction on administering lie-detector tests” and infiltrating groups by allowing agents to attend “five meetings of a group before those rules would apply.” Oh, and if you are blogger, you are only considered a legitimate member of the news media if your blog is “prominent” to qualify for “extra protection” or for the investigation to require “extra supervision.”

When the FBI pulled the teeth out of the Carnivore Program, renaming it DCS1000 (digital collection system), did it make it a kinder, gentler snooping system? No. Instead the domestic spying took on full-pipe surveillance capabilities. By 2007, Paul Ohm, a former Justice Department’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section trial lawyer, called it the “vacuum cleaner approach” in which FBI agents hoovered up “the activities of thousands of Internet users at a time into massive databases, according to current and former officials. That database can subsequently be queried for names, e-mail addresses or keywords.”

The 2008 version of the FBI operations manual alarmed privacy advocates due to additional leeway to make “assessments” which permitted agents to infiltrate organizations, and to follow and photograph targets in public. That’s somewhat ironic since photography is often treated like a crime and photographers are frequently treated like terrorists. At that time, FBI’s Caproni said, “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.” DarkGovernment also quoted Caproni as saying, “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.”


But now, regarding the expansion of FBI spying powers, Caproni told the Times that the bureau “had carefully weighed the risks and the benefits of each change.” No surprise here that the additional loss of Americans’ privacy and civil liberties came out on the losing end.

Although we’ve seen plenty of examples of FBI surveillance abuse, by all means, in 2011 let’s turn 14,000 FBI agents into a free-for-all dumpster diving brigade. What’s found in your trash or via a lie detector test might be used to blackmail you into being a snitch for the feds. Caproni ominously added, “information gathered that way could also be useful for other reasons.” It’s almost as if the FBI has officially authorized fed gangs to stalk you if you snag their attention for any reason whatsoever. There are other modifications in the FBI manual as well, but be assured you will be hearing more from me when the privacy-shredding guidelines become public. Meanwhile I highly suggest you click on “notes” and see for yourself some of the last changes to the FBI’s surveillance power.

Like this? Here’s more posts:

Follow me on Twitter @PrivacyFanatic

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.