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New York Police Fight With U.S. on Surveillance

20 November, 2008

By DAVID JOHNSTON and WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM

Published: November 19, 2008
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So here’s my question.  Why would the NYC Police Dept. seriously believe it should have the right to use Federal Laws on Terrorism to assist in the city’s surveillece efforts?  There is a sharp distinction between Federal, State, County and City Law; it was put in place for a reason, I believe, and it should stay that way.

I hope the day never comes when each city, state, municipality will be allowed to eavesdrop, track phone calls, trail its local residents.  I uderstand that NY was the target of the most massive terrorist attack in our history, but the thought of spreading the surveillence tactics around scares me.  It should scare you too.
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WASHINGTON — An effort by the New York Police Department to get broader latitude to eavesdrop on terrorism suspects has run into sharp resistance from the Justice Department in a bitter struggle that has left the police commissioner and the attorney general accusing each other of putting the public at risk.

The Police Department, with the largest municipal counterterrorism operation in the country (emphasis mine) wants the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to loosen their approach to the federal law that governs electronic surveillance. But federal officials have refused to relax the standards, and have said requests submitted by the department could actually jeopardize surveillance efforts by casting doubt on their legality.

Under the law, the government must in most cases obtain a warrant from the special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before it can begin electronic monitoring of people suspected of spying or terrorism. The requests are subjected to sharp scrutiny, first by lawyers at the F.B.I., then by lawyers at the Justice Department, and finally by the court itself.

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We already know that the Federal Government has eased the law regarding warrants.  There is no reason to believe that NYC or any other city would not try to do the same if they were granted this request,   And why isn’t the country’s largest municipal organization effective anyway?

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The Police Department, with the largest municipal counterterrorism operation in the country, wants the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to loosen their approach to the federal law that governs electronic surveillance. But federal officials have refused to relax the standards, and have said requests submitted by the department could actually jeopardize surveillance efforts by casting doubt on their legality.

Under the law, the government must in most cases obtain a warrant from the special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before it can begin electronic monitoring of people suspected of spying or terrorism. The requests are subjected to sharp scrutiny, first by lawyers at the F.B.I., then by lawyers at the Justice Department, and finally by the court itself.

New York’s department, as a local police force, cannot apply directly, but must seek warrants through the F.B.I. and the Justice Department. The police want those agencies to expedite their requests, and say that the federal agencies unfairly blocked the city’s applications for surveillance warrants, first in June and then in September. The disagreement, in which the Bush Justice Department has taken a more cautious approach than police officials, is something of an unexpected twist for an administration that has more often seemed willing to stretch legal boundaries to fight terrorism.

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Please read that last sentence again,  Our government actually doing what it should have been doing for the last four years, looking out for the rights of its citizens against the encroachment of our privacy and civil rights.  Or, maybe more realistically, just protecting its own turf.  (Sigh)
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read the rest of the story here:
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