Obtained from whistleblower Edward Snowden, the information on the Glenn Greenwald-founded website revealed that the Obama administration has lowered the legal threshold for warrantless government surveillance of American citizens.
The federal manual explains the standard of evidence for spying on Americans:
Nominations of U.S. PERSONS shall be made based on information from sources of known reliability or where there exists additional corroboration or context supporting REASONABLE SUSPICION. [Emphasis in original.]
Note that the constitutional standard of “probable cause” does not occur within the context of the evidence standard for adding an American to a no-fly list or targeting that person for surveillance. Also lacking are the Fourth Amendment requirements for a court warrant with a description of what the government is looking for and where they expect to find it.
The mandate for surveillance of Americans by intelligence agencies continues: "Each NOMINATING AGENCY will seek to obtain as much DEROGATORY INFORMATION and identifying information as practicable.” (Emphasis in original.) Details include biometric information such as photos, DNA, retina scans, fingerprints, and the like, as well as ordinary identifiers such as e-mail addresses, phone numbers, etc.
Even remarks on social media can get someone listed on the watch list and constitute the necessary “reasonable suspicion” for surveillance, according to the manual. “Single source information, including but not limited to 'walk-in,' 'write-in,' or postings on social media sites, however, should not automatically be discounted merely because of the manner in which it was received.”
But even the weak and unconstitutional standard of “reasonable suspicion” for surveillance of Americans can be waived under Obama's rules, which stipulate that some cases don't need even “reasonable suspicion” — specifically involving “Individuals Identified Pursuant to Statute or Executive Order.” In other words, if the president or another high-ranking federal official doesn't like you, they can surveil you without a warrant or any evidence whatsoever.
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