Local, state agencies gain spying powers under Bush plan

The U.S. Justice Department is proposing new domestic spying measures that would make it easier for law enforcement officials in Colorado to collect and share intelligence with the federal government.

Under the new proposals, local and state law enforcement agencies would be permitted to target certain individuals and groups for intelligence purposes, along with being allowed to launch criminal intelligence investigations against those who may be suspected of supporting terrorism, according to a Saturday report in The Washington Post:

The proposed changes would revise the federal government’s rules for police intelligence-gathering for the first time since 1993 and would apply to any of the nation’s 18,000 state and local police agencies that receive roughly $1.6 billion each year in federal grants.

Quietly unveiled late last month, the proposal is part of a flurry of domestic intelligence changes issued and planned by the Bush administration in its waning months. They include a recent executive order that guides the reorganization of federal spy agencies and a pending Justice Department overhaul of FBI procedures for gathering intelligence and investigating terrorism cases within U.S. borders.

If the changes are made they would affect the Colorado Information Analysis Center (CIAC), a “fusion” center located in the state that is meant to facilitate intelligence communications of “suspicious activity” among various local, state and federal agencies.

Civil liberties advocates have brought up questions over how the intelligence is collected, and claim that under Justice Department guidelines, “suspicious activity” could be broadly defined as attending a peace rally or taking photographs of areas that may be terrorism targets.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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