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Sunday, July 24, 2011

FBI Keeping Files on Regular Americans

This really isn't news to those of us in the know...but the authorship by Rutgers-Newark Law School professor Frank Askin (whom I met as a young lawyer on behalf of a political client in the late 1990s) caught my eye.

The article raises anew the specter (the reality of which you can be sure) of regular Americans having their activities monitored and becoming, and remaining, subjects of federal law enforcement surveillance.  What is troubling is the common perception that subjects of surveillance have done something to earn that surveillance, and the suspected stigmatization of those among us upon whom "files are kept."  

Perhaps most troubling, as revealed in the opinion piece, is the difficulty in getting routine information about why surveillance, monitoring and other tracking activities were engaged in to begin with.  A Freedom of Information Act request can and often does hit a brick wall, courtesy of the exemptions for "ongoing investigations."  In other words, the FBI -- or other government executive branch agencies -- can preserve secrets on the basis of self-serving declarations invoking the national interest, investigations or other legitimate-sounding purposes.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer who merely assumes -- honestly -- that he might be under surveillance.  Mr. Dixon's tongue-in-cheek analysis has previously been found to be less than amusing to its targets.
 

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