Times Criticizes Obama for Expanding FBI’s Investigative Powers


In an editorial, the New York Times criticizes the Obama administration for allowing changes in FBI policy that will give agents significant new powers to search law enforcement and private databases, go through household trash or deploy surveillance teams, with even fewer checks against abuse. The paper says, “The F.B.I.'s recent history includes the abuse of national security letters to gather information about law-abiding citizens without court orders, and inappropriate investigations of antiwar and environmental activists. That is hardly a foundation for further loosening the rules for conducting investigations or watering down internal record-keeping and oversight.”

It continues, “Everyone wants to keep America safe. But under President Bush and now under President Obama, these changes have occurred without any real discussion about whether the supposed added security is worth the harm to civil liberties. The White House cares so little about providing meaningful oversight that Mr. Obama has yet to nominate a successor for Glenn Fine, the diligent Justice Department inspector general who left in January. Finally, Congress is showing some small sign of interest. Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana, has written to Robert Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, asking that the new policies be scuttled. On Friday afternoon, Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Charles Grassley of Iowa, the chairman and the ranking Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, called on Mr. Mueller to provide an opportunity to review the changes before they are carried out, and to release a public version of the final manual on the F.B.I.'s Web site. Mr. Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. need to listen.”

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