Citizen’s Trash is Federal Treasure

The Federal Government has once again stomped on the Constitution. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are now allowed to search through the trash of citizens in America – without a warrant.

So basically, the FBI will now become dumpster divers and trash pickers – so don’t be surprised to find a man in a suit standing outside searching through trash cans that just so happen to contain mass amounts of cat litter and food wrappers. Could these items found be used as evidence if there is a lost cat in the area? Could the food wrappers be evidence if a local grocery store was recently robbed?

The FBI will now replace Oscar The Grouch of Sesame Street and spend time going through bags that most likely contain used tampons, condoms, baby diapers, soda cans and perhaps even some plastic utensils. Could the FBI arrest the citizen for not recycling those soda cans?

The New York Times reports the following:

The new rules will also relax a restriction on administering lie-detector tests and searching people’s trash. Under current rules, agents cannot use such techniques until they open a “preliminary investigation,” which — unlike an assessment — requires a factual basis for suspecting someone of wrongdoing. But soon agents will be allowed to use those techniques for one kind of assessment, too: when they are evaluating a target as a potential informant.

Agents have asked for that power in part because they want the ability to use information found in a subject’s trash to put pressure on that person to assist the government in the investigation of others. But Ms. Caproni said information gathered that way could also be useful for other reasons, like determining whether the subject might pose a threat to agents.

CBS News uses a witty headline to grab attention: Coming soon to a trash bin near you: The FBI This includes:

FBIUnder the FBI’s rules, agents are allowed to retain personal information obtained about a subject even if no evidence turns up of any wrongdoing. Agents were also authorized to “proactively” begin investigations (the lowest level of which is termed an “assessment”) on potential targets, even without specific justification; and restrictions on the use of intrusive techniques (such as infiltrating organizations, use of informants, or photographing subjects) were loosened.
Harvey A. Silvergate, a writer, a criminal defense and civil liberties lawyer, and author of “Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent.” of Cambridge, Massachusetts wrote a letter to the Editor of the New York Times. He included many examples of how this could lead to increased government surveillance:

“The average law-abiding person probably engages in some act during the course of a typical day that an inventive agent or prosecutor can use as the basis for threatening a prosecution in the absence of “cooperation.” And once the citizen’s decision is made to cooperate, the feds excel at teaching their cooperators to become witnesses who know not only how to sing but also how to compose.”

So, it will be fun to see how this plays out.

Nikky Raney wrote this with contributions from Dennis Rose.

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